The Decision of Christopher Blake (1948)

US / 75 minutes / bw / Warner Bros. Dir: Peter Godfrey Pr & Scr: Ranald MacDougall Story: Christopher Blake (1946 play) by Moss Hart Cine: Karl Freund Cast: Alexis Smith, Robert Douglas, Cecil Kellaway, Ted Donaldson, John Hoyt, Harry Davenport, Mary Wickes, Art Baker, Lois Maxwell, Peter Godfrey, Charles Middleton.

A B-feature of curious ingenuity. Part of me says it’s in no conceivable way noirish; another part of me suggests that, because of the ingenuity I mentioned, it’s of at least borderline interest to the genre. My mental jury is still out.

Ted Donaldson as Chris.

Young Christopher Blake (Donaldson) arrives home from summer camp to discover, even though they try to hide it from him, that parents Ken (Douglas) and Evelyn (Smith) are separating and intend to divorce. Ken does try to explain matters to his son, but . . .

Chris: “I hope you’re not going to tell me about babies, Dad. I took a course on that in school.”
Ken: “You did? I mean, uh, you did. Oh, ah, that’s fine, fine.”
Chris: “Anyhow, I don’t believe it.”

In the end the person who inadvertently breaks the news to Chris is a stranger, Evelyn’s lawyer’s secretary, Miss McIntyre (Maxwell).

Lois Maxwell as Miss McIntyre.

Chris doesn’t take the news well. Living at home with Continue reading

snapshot: Murder in a Small Town (1999 TVM)

US / 92 minutes / color with some bw / A&E, Granada, Fred Berner, Crystal Sky Dir: Joyce Chopra Pr: Fred Berner, Craig McNeil, Steven Paul Scr: Gilbert Pearlman, Gene Wilder Cine: Bruce Surtees Cast: Gene Wilder, Mike Starr, Cherry Jones, Frances Conroy, Deirdre O’Connell, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Elisabeth Rosen, Matthew Edison, Carlo Rota, Terri Hawkes, David Fox, Ben Bass, Terry O’Quinn, Kate Hennig, Sten Eirik, Fulvio Cecere.

It’s 1938 in Stanford, Connecticut, and the new movie you’ve just got to see is ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938) dir Michael Curtiz, and starring James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Pat O’Brien, Ann Sheridan and the Dead End Kids. (We see a brief clip from this movie.)

Gene Wilder as Cash Carter.

Until nine years ago, when his wife was murdered in NYC, Lawrence Carter (Wilder) was a hugely successful Broadway producer—hence his nickname of “Cash”; now he’s living in relative seclusion as director of the Stanford Repertory Theater. When a rich, antisemitic, homophobic local businessman, Sidney Lassiter (O’Quinn), is gunned down one night, no one sheds too many tears. As the victim’s unloved, unrespected wife Martha (Conroy) coldly remarks, Continue reading

Crown v. Stevens (1936)

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“Ten million people in London, and it had to be you.”
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UK / 66 minutes / bw / Warner Bros. First National Dir: Michael Powell Scr: Brock Williams Story: Third Time Unlucky (1935) by Laurence Meynell Cine: Basil Emmott Cast: Beatrix Thomson, Patric Knowles, Glennis Lorimer, Reginald Purdell, Allan Jeayes, Frederick Piper, Googie Withers, Mabel Poulton, Billy Watts, Davina Craig, Morris Harvey, Bernard Miles.

The title might make us assume this is a courtroom drama, but in fact this quota quickie—an important stop along the road for director Michael Powell’s early career—is a distinctly noirish piece. In one specific respect it appears to be echoed in Raoul Walsh’s THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940), which had George Raft, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart and the immortal Ida Lupino as its stars.

Molly (Glennis Lorimer) and Chris (Patric Knowles) make a good team.

There are no comparable stars here, with the exceptions of Patric Knowles—who would soon go on to have a prominent Hollywood career, sometimes playing opposite his friend Errol Flynn—and of course Googie Withers (in a small role), plus Glennis Lorimer, whose short acting career (she died far too early) is eclipsed by the fact that she served as the young woman in the mocked-up version of Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait of Sarah Siddons used as an opening-credits logo by Gainsborough Studios.

Mamie (Mabel Poulton) dances close to Chris . . .

. . . but Joe Andrews (Billy Watts) is her true partner.

Naive paint-company clerk Chris Jansen (Knowles) believes himself in love with floozy Mamie (Poulton), and borrows an engagement ring on approval from Continue reading

Gang’s All Here, The (1941)

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Mantan Moreland at his hilarious best in a two-fisted saga of battling truckers!

vt In the Night
US / 61 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Jean Yarbrough Pr: Lindsley Parsons Scr: Edmond Kelso Cine: Mack Stengler Cast: Frankie Darro, Marcia Mae Jones, Jackie Moran, Keye Luke, Mantan Moreland, Robert Homans, Irving Mitchell, Ed Cassidy, Pat Gleason, Jack Kenney, Jack Ingraham, Laurence Criner.

The Gang's All Here - 0 opener

A gang is hijacking the trucks of the Overland Transport Co., very often at the expense of the drivers’ lives. The case is in the hands of insurance officer R.A. Saunders (Mitchell), but we very soon discover that he’s in fact at the heart of the criminal conspiracy, the other two linchpins being Pop Wallace (Homans), manager of Overland, and Jack Norton (Cassidy) of the rival Tri-State Truck Lines. It seems that Wallace is Continue reading

Search for Beauty (1934)

US / 79 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Erle C. Kenton Pr: E. Lloyd Sheldon Scr: Frank Butler, Claude Binyon, Sam Hellman Story: David Boehm, Maurine Watkins, based on a possibly unproduced play by Schuyler E. Grey and Paul R. Milton Cine: Harry Fischbeck Cast: Larry “Buster” Crabbe, Ida Lupino, Robert Armstrong, James Gleason, Toby Wing, Gertrude Michael, Bradley Page, Frank McGlynn Sr, Nora Cecil, Virginia Hammond, Eddie Gribbon, “Pop” Kenton, Colin Tapley, Donald Gray, Ann Sheridan.

Search for Beauty 0 opener

Search for Beauty 0a other opener

Fresh out of jail, Jean Strange (Michael) is not interested in hearing any more about the “great ideas” of fellow con artist Larry Williams (Armstrong): after all, it was one of his “great ideas” that got her into the jail in the first place. But he’s persistent:

Larry: “Won’t you please listen to me? This is so honest it’s disgusting. What’s the most sought-after thing in the country today?”
Jean: “A medium-price giraffe.”

As they travel by train to the big city, sharing a sleeping compartment (although not a berth), he keeps up the pressure despite her skepticism. This time his “great idea” can’t—just can’t—get them into trouble with the cops:

Larry: “That’s where we start—Los Angeles, at the Olympic Games. . . . All the countries of the world send their best physical specimens, and we step in and take our pick.”
Jean: “Pick of what? No pockets in running suits, are there?”

Search for Beauty 1 Trainbound Larry talks Jean into idea

Entrained, Larry (Robert Armstrong) talks Jean (Gertrude Michael) into taking part in his latest scam.

The idea is to buy the defunct fitness magazine Health and Exercise, persuade a couple of world-famous athletes to act as its editors, and then relaunch it filled with pictures of Continue reading