Murder in the Blue Room (1944)

US / 60 minutes / bw / Universal Dir: Leslie Goodwins Assoc Pr: Frank Gross Scr: I.A.L. Diamond, Stanley Davis Story: Geheimnis des Blauen Zimmers (1932 screenplay) by Erich Philippi Cine: George Robinson Cast: Anne Gwynne, Donald Cook, John Litel, Grace McDonald, Betty Kean, June Preisser, Regis Toomey, Nella Walker, Andrew Tombes, Ian Wolfe, Emmett Vogan, Bill MacWilliams (i.e., Bill Williams), Frank Marlowe.

The third Hollywood remake of a German movie, Geheimnis des Blauen Zimmers (1932), its two predecessors being Secret of the Blue Room (1933) and The Missing Guest (1938); I haven’t seen the latter.

This time the story—including its mystery elements—has been reworked quite extensively to make the movie something akin to a musical comedy.

The Three Jazzybelles: left to right, June Preisser as Jerry, Betty Kean as Betty, and Grace McDonald as Peggy.

The remake was initially meant as a Ritz Brothers vehicle, but fortunately that fell through. In their place we have The Three Jazzybelles (geddit?), a seemingly nonce team-up of Grace McDonald, Betty Kean and June Preisser. This trio offer enough fun and talent that I had a quick look around to see if there were perhaps more Three Jazzybelles movies. Continue reading

Wiretapper (1955)

US / 86 minutes / bw / Great Commission, Continental Dir: Dick Ross Scr: John O’Dea Story: Why I Quit Syndicated Crime (1951 autobiography) by James A. Vaus Jr. Cine: Ralph Woolsey Cast: Bill Williams, Georgia Lee, Douglas Kennedy, Richard Benedict, Stanley Clements, Paul Picerni, Ric Roman, Steve Conte, Phil Tead, Howard Wendell, Melinda Plowman, Dorothy Kennedy, Art Gilmore, Barbara Hudson, Evangeline Carmichael, Howard Wendell, Billy Graham.

Wiretapper 1955 - 0 opener

Although this movie is a biopic (and despite the intrusive moralizing), it stands also as quite a good noir: its central character—not so much a bad man as a weak one who’s a captive of his ingenuity—wades into the noir quicksand and discovers it’s far less easy than he thought to escape from it. The movie even begins with the noirish message that “For understandable reasons certain names and events have been altered to protect the lives and careers of actual persons.”

It’s toward the end of WWII and improbably pretty young Alice Park (Lee) is being kept alive by regular letters from her absent beau, a genius electrical engineer who’s working all over the country on assignments for the military; it must be because his service to the country is so invaluable that he seems never to be granted a furlough. In fact, as we immediately discover, the reason Jim hasn’t been coming home is that Continue reading

Woman’s Secret, A (1949)

US / 85 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: Nicholas Ray Pr & Scr: Herman J. Mankiewicz Story: Verpfändetes Leben (1946; vt Mortgage on Life) by Vicki Baum Cine: George Diskant Cast: Maureen O’Hara, Melvyn Douglas, Gloria Grahame, Bill Williams, Victor Jory, Mary Philips, Jay C. Flippen, Robert Warwick, Curt Conway, Ann Shoemaker, Virginia Farmer, Ellen Corby, Emory Parnell.

One of Ray’s earliest movies, after THEY LIVE BY NIGHT (1948) and KNOCK ON ANY DOOR (1949), this is often listed as a film noir. At best it’s a borderline case; really it’s more like one of the interminable strings of quickie mysteries produced as fillers by the Poverty Row studios such as Monogram and PRC, but with significantly higher production standards, a much more polished screenplay (but see below) and, of course, a far higher-profile cast. Unfortunately, a few of the flaws of those Monogram/PRC cheapies seem evident too.

After finishing her radio broadcast one night, the popular singer Estrellita, aka Susan Caldwell (Grahame), arrives home and flies straight into a noisy argument with her mentor, Marian Washburn (O’Hara): despite all that Marian has done for her, Susan wants to abandon her career and go back to her podunk hometown of Azusa, California, where the most she ever had to cope with were the hands of married men. Susan storms up to her room with Marian following; moments later the maid Mollie (Farmer) hears the sound of a gunshot and discovers Marian standing over a seemingly dead Susan. On the arrival of the cops, Marian insists that she’s guilty of the crime.

Woman's Secret - Marian stands over Susan's bodyMarian (Maureen O’Hara) stands over the body of her protegee Susan (Gloria Grahame).

Her old friend, accompanist Luke Jordan (Douglas), frankly disbelieves her. He hires as her defense attorney Brook Matthews (Jory), who for a time was Susan’s lover. Together they bend the ear of Assistant DA Roberts (Warwick) and the cop in charge of the case, Inspector Jim Fowler (Flippen). With Continue reading