The Crime of Helen Stanley (1934)

US / 60 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: D. Ross Lederman Scr: Harold Shumate Story: Charles R. Condon Cine: Al Seigler (i.e., Allen G. Siegler) Cast: Ralph Bellamy, Shirley Grey, Gail Patrick, Kane Richmond, Bradley Page, Vincent Sherman, Clifford Jones (i.e., Phillip Trent), Arthur Rankin, Lucien Prival, Ward Bond, Helen Eby-Rock, Stephen Chase, Edward Keane.

While most audiences’ default attitude toward the offerings of Poverty Row studios like Monogram and PRC is one of mockery, however often we might find ourselves pleasantly surprised by the actuality, it’s worth recalling that some of the contemporaneous B-feature output from the major studios wasn’t so very much better.

Ralph Bellamy as Trent; might this be his last case?

An instance in point is The Crime of Helen Stanley, where it’s visible on-screen that the production had a far bigger budget to play with than might a Monogram or PRC equivalent yet the churned-out nature of the resulting movie is practically palpable. There’s no sense at any point that anyone involved in this production had any love for or pride in what they were doing, with the possible exception of Phillip Trent as studio gofer Larry King—and, ironically, Trent chose to appear here under a pseudonym, Clifford Jones.

Gail Patrick as Helen

Plenty of people have good reason to loathe Hollywood star Helen Stanley (Patrick), so when she’s gunned down on set Continue reading

Enemy Agent (1940)

US / 61 minutes / bw / Universal Dir: Lew Landers Assoc Pr: Ben Pivar Scr: Sam Robins, Edmund L. Hartmann Story: Sam Robins Cine: Jerome Ash Cast: Richard Cromwell, Helen Vinson, Robert Armstrong, Marjorie Reynolds, Jack Arnold (i.e., Vinton Hayworth), Russell Hicks, Philip Dorn, Jack LaRue, Bradley Page, Abner Biberman, Luis Alberni, Jack Carson, Milburn Stone.

A fast-moving little B-movie that capitalized on the fact that the US was becoming paranoid about fascist conquests of democracy in Europe while at the same time Corporate America, Hollywood included, was nervous about adversely affecting business through upsetting the Nazis. So we’re given no clue here as to who the jackbooted, sauerkraut-scarfing foreign power is that seeks the secrets of the new flying fortress aircraft and its fiendishly accurate bombsight.

Richard Cromwell as Jimmy.

The plans are being worked on at the Fulton Aircraft Co. by draftsman Jimmy Saunders (Cromwell), and he becomes first suspect of the FBI’s Agent Gordon (Armstrong) after their original suspect, Evans (uncredited), is gunned down. We know, however, that the Fulton employee who’s really the spy is Jimmy’s colleague Lester “Les” Taylor (Arnold).

Robert Armstrong as Agent Gordon.

Taylor is working for espionage kingpin Dr. Jeffry (sic) Arnold (Dorn), whose goons Alex (LaRue) and Baronoff (Biberman) were the ones who Continue reading

Isle of Missing Men (1942)

US / 66 minutes / bw / Monogram, Associated Artists Dir & Pr: Richard Oswald Scr: Richard Oswald, Robert Chapin, Edward Eliscu Story: White Lady (c1940 play) by Gina Kauss and Ladislaus Fodor (i.e., Gina Kaus and Ladislas Fodor) Cine: Paul Ivano Cast: John Howard, Helen Gilbert, Gilbert Roland, Alan Mowbray, Bradley Page, George Chandler, Ernie Adams, Geraldine Gray, Egon Brecher, Kitty O’Neil, Kenneth Duncan, Charles Williams, Dewey Robinson, Alex Havier, George Eldredge.

Isle of Missing Men - 0 opener

En route to Australia during the early years of WWII, the SS Bombay is to stop at the prison island of Caruba in order to let the prison’s governor, Merrill Hammond (Howard), disembark. Among the other passengers aboard are:

  • Sally (Gray) (of whom Merrill informs us, “She certainly keeps her chin up. You know, she was in Rangoon when the Japs bombed it flat”),
  • the writer Richard Heller (Brecher), a Jewish refugee from Hitler’s concentration camps to whom Merrill offers a home on the island, and
  • a mystery blonde bombshell, Diana Bryce (Gilbert), who is improbably persuaded by a smitten Merrill to stop off at Caruba for a week’s holiday before proceeding to Melbourne. “You want to lose a memory,” he diagnoses.

Isle of Missing Men - 1 Merrill offers Heller a home on Caruba

Merrill (John Howard) offers Heller (Egon Brecher) a home on Caruba.

That night the ship is attacked by a Japanese bomber but 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

Shadow of Doubt (1935)

US / 75 minutes / bw / MGM Dir: George B. Seitz Pr: Lucien Hubbard Scr: Wells Root Story: Arthur Somers Roche Cine: Charles Clarke Cast: Ricardo Cortez, Virginia Bruce, Constance Collier, Isabel Jewell, Arthur Byron, Betty Furness, Regis Toomey, Ivan Simpson, Bradley Page, Edward Brophy, Samuel S. Hinds, Richard Tucker, Bernard Siegel, Paul Hurst.

Shadow of Doubt 1935 - 0 opener

Good-hearted NYC advertising salesman and playboy Simeon “Sim” Sturdevant (Cortez) loves his dear old aunt, Melissa Pilsen (Collier), and she loves him back . . . even though she does her best to present herself to the world as a grim, hatchet-faced old boot. But he has also come to love movie actress Trenna Plaice (Bruce), and wants her to marry him. Aunt Melissa, who has refused to leave her house for over two decades since a tragedy of the heart in her youth, assumes Trenna is planning to marry Sim in hopes of getting her claws on her (Aunt Melissa’s) fortune.

Shadow of Doubt 1935 - 1 Virginia Bruce in sultry mode as Trenna

Virginia Bruce in sultry mode as Trenna.

In reality, after he’s had a fit of nauseatingly patronizing chauvinism (along the lines of “Oh, darling, I’ve always said you’re too beautiful to have any sense”), Trenna tells him to put his head where the sun don’t shine, and Continue reading