Miss Fane’s Baby is Stolen (1934)

US / 68 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Alexander Hall Pr: Bayard Veiller Scr: Adela Rogers St. Johns Story: “Kidnapt” (1933 Hearst’s International–Cosmopolitan) by Rupert Hughes Cine: Alfred Gilks Cast: Dorothea Wieck, Alice Brady, Baby Le Roy, William Frawley, George Barbier, Alan Hale, Jack La Rue, Dorothy Burgess, Florence Roberts, Marcelle Corday, Irving Bacon, “Spanky” McFarland, Carmencita Johnson, Cullen Johnson

A movie supposedly based loosely on the real-life 1932 case of the Lindbergh kidnapping, although I can find no firm evidence to support this claim. Aside from the obvious—rich baby is kidnapped—the only real resemblance in the movie to the real case occurs in an odd little sidebar that could almost have been tacked on afterward in order to cash in on the similarity of theme: As the cops search the house and grounds for any trace of missing baby Michael they find a rig leading up to the child’s bedroom window, as was the case in the Lindbergh abduction. Otherwise, though, I think this is just an instance of a movie’s publicists being rather yuckily opportunistic.

Dorothea Wieck as Madeline Fane

In the movie, Madeline Fane (Wieck) is a famous movie star, tragically widowed a year ago, who’s bringing up her 18-month-old son Michael (Le Roy) with the help of Continue reading

Girl in 419, The (1933)

US / 66 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Alexander Hall, George Somnes Pr: B.P. Schulberg Scr: P.J. Wolfson, Allen Rivkin, Manuel Seff Story: Jules Furthman Cine: Karl Struss Cast: James Dunn, Gloria Stuart, Shirley Grey, David Manners, William Harrigan, Vince Barnett, Johnny Hines, Jack La Rue, Kitty Kelly, Edward Gargan, James Burke, Clarence Wilson, Gertrude Short, Effie Ellsler, Hal Price.

Girl in 419 - 0 opener

Dr. Daniel “Dan” French (Dunn) spends his leisure time cutting a swath through the nurses of the police hospital of which he is head. His current paramour, Nurse Irene Blaine (Grey), is less than amused when he falls and falls hard for a young woman brought in delirious and on the point of death after a savage beating, Mary Dolan (Stuart).

Dan throws all his medical skills and many sleepless hours into the effort to keep Mary alive and effect a full recovery. Naturally he succeeds, and the two fall in love—much to Irene’s chagrin. She responds by reporting to the Superintendent of Hospitals, Walter C. Horton (Wilson), that Mary is well enough to leave and is being kept longer in the hospital solely because she’s Dan’s fancy lady . . .

. . . which is of course largely true. What Irene doesn’t know is that Dan’s other motive is to protect Mary from the hoodlum who Continue reading

A Quartet of Shorties

Although I’ve been charged with including too many borderline noirs in the Encyclopedia  (odd for an encyclopedia to be accused of encompassing too much rather than too little!), in fact quite a few of the entries I wrote I decided later to reject. Some of those then got stuck back in again. In the absence of the usual collegial team you expect to be able to draw on when constructing an encyclopedia of this size, I had to be, as it were, my own collegiate: I conducted many internal debates over what to keep in and what to kick out, and often there were second thoughts.

The entries here on Noirish are in general far longer than I had space for in the encyclopedia. Here, just for interest, are my original entries for a few movies that got thrown out and stayed out; all the entries are very short because, of course, I already regarded the movies as borderline. That’s not to say these movies, especially The Velvet Touch, may not get fuller coverage here in due course.

The movies concerned are:

Sweet Revenge (1976; vt Dandy, the All American Girl)

There’s Always a Woman (1938)

The Unsaid (2001)

The Velvet Touch (1948)

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Sweet Revenge (1976)

vt Dandy, the All American Girl

US / 89 minutes / color / MGM Dir & Pr: Jerry Schatzberg Scr: Marilyn Goldin, B.J. Perla, Jor [sic] Van Kline Story: B.J. Perla Cine: Vilmos Zsigmond Cast: Stockard Channing, Sam Waterston, Franklyn Ajaye, Richard Daughty, Norman Matlock.

Vurrla Kowsky (Channing) is a career car thief whose primary motive is to make enough money to buy herself a Ferrari. Lawyer Le Clerq (Waterston) believes he’s saving her from herself, but so do the other men in her life and she’s running rings round all of them. Although the movie’s determinedly comedic, its portrayal of the addiction that auto theft can become is (reportedly) very authentic.

On Amazon.com: Sweet Revenge

There’s Always a Woman (1938)

US / 81 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: Alexander Hall Pr: William Perlberg Scr: Gladys Lehman Based on: story by Wilson Collison Cine: Henry Freulich Cast: Joan Blondell, Melvyn Douglas, Mary Astor, Frances Drake, Jerome Cowan, Thurston Hall, Rita Hayworth (uncredited).

Of strictly ancillary interest, There’s Always a Woman (1938) was intended by Columbia as first in a series to rival The THIN MAN. Joan Blondell and Melvyn Douglas star as husband-and-wife sleuths solving a society crime, she trying—and succeeding despite her husband’s sexism—to be a PI, while he acts for the DA’s office. It’s easy to see why the series never took off: while Blondell does wonders for an ordinary script, Douglas is insipid and, among the rest, only an uncredited Tom Dugan as a knucklehead cop stands out.

On Amazon.com: There’s Always a Woman (currently unavailable, but with luck might return soon)

Unsaid, The (2001)

Canada, US / 111 minutes / color / New Legend, Mind’s Eye, CineSon, Eagle Dir: Tom McLoughlin Pr: Tom Berry, Matt Hastings, Kelley Reynolds Scr: Miguel Tejada-Flores, Scott Williams Story: Christopher Murphey Cine: Lloyd Ahern II Cast: Andy Garcia, Vincent Kartheiser, Linda Cardellini, Chelsea Field, Teri Polo, Sam Bottoms, Trevor Blumas.

Psychologist Michael Hunter (Garcia) treats troubled teenager Tommy Caffey (Kartheiser) while haunted by memories of his own teenaged son’s suicide. The son, Kyle (Blumas), killed himself after sexual abuse by a therapist; Tommy was a victim of sexual abuse by his mother and then saw his father, Joseph (Bottoms), beat her to death. When Tommy hooks up with Michael’s daughter Shelly (Cardellini) he learns from her which of Michael’s buttons to press in order to exploit the similarities between the two cases. A trite ending undermines an otherwise interesting, thought-provoking piece.

On Amazon.com: The Unsaid

Velvet Touch, The (1948)

US / 97 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: John Gage Pr: Frederick Brisson Scr: Leo Rosten, Walter Reilly Story: Annabel Ross Cine: Joseph Walker Cast: Rosalind Russell, Leo Genn, Claire Trevor, Sydney Greenstreet, Leon Ames.

Broadway comedienne Valerie Stanton (Russell), during a tussle with producer and dumped lover Gordon Dunning (Ames)—over her desire to take the lead in a revival of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and over her new boyfriend, Michael Morrell (Genn)—hits him with a statuette and inadvertently kills him; the body’s discovered by fellow-actress Marian Webster (Trevor). While the latter’s hospitalized with shock, cop Captain Danbury (Greenstreet) concludes Marian must be the killer, ignoring Valerie as even a suspect; she has, unwittingly, committed the perfect crime. A witty screenplay and fine performances raise this mystery above the average level of the pack.

On Amazon.com: The Velvet Touch [VHS] and The Velvet Touch [Region 2]