A String of Beads (1954 TVM)

US / 25 minutes / bw / Everest, CBS Dir: William Cameron Menzies Pr: William Frye, Ronald Colman Scr: Don Ettlinger Story: “Pearls” (1927 in Hearst’s International Combined with Cosmopolitan; vt “A String of Beads”) by W. Somerset Maugham Cine: George E. Diskant Cast: Angela Lansbury, Ronald Colman, Brenda Forbes, Ron Randell, Nigel Bruce, George Macready, Sean McClory, Sarah Selby, Ben Wright, Dorothy Green.

Angela Lansbury as Joan.

An unnamed diner (Colman) sees Joan Robinson (Lansbury) arriving at a table on the far side of the restaurant where he’s seated with his lovely companion Laura Green), and takes the opportunity to tell Laura about Joan’s backstory.

Joan was governess to the family of pretentious socialite Edythe Livingstone (Forbes). Invited to one of Edythe’s parties to make up the numbers, Joan wore her string of cultured pearls—worth at most fifteen shillings. Star party guest and renowned gems expert Count Borselli (Macready) for fun told the assembled snobs that the pearls were, in his educated opinion, worth at least £60,000. At once Society, including her employer, assumed Joan was in reality not the working-class orphan she claimed to be but an aristocrat fallen on hard times.

Ronald Colman as the narrator.

When the truth emerges Continue reading

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By Whose Hand? (1932)

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Killer on a train!
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US / 65 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: Ben Stoloff Scr: Isadore Bernstein, Stephen Roe Story: Harry Adler Cine: Teddy Tetzlaff Cast: Ben Lyon, Barbara Weeks, Kenneth Thomson, Ethel Kenyon, William V. Mong, Dolores Rey (i.e., Dolores Ray), Nat Pendleton, Tom Dugan, Dwight Frye, William Halligan, Helene Millard, Lorin Baker, Oscar Smith, Tom McGuire, DeWitt Jennings, Buddy Roosevelt, Polly Walters.

Through the 1930s and 1940s, the bottom half of the cinema bill was thronged with—was almost defined by, if you ignored the oaters—comedy-crime movies like this one. Some of them were pretty good and are fondly remembered. Others, like the godawful BOSTON BLACKIE series starring the godawful Chester Morris—through all of which your correspondent has glumly sat—were, well, you heard it here first: godawful.

By Whose Hand?, which has the probably illusory feel of being a pilot for an unmade series starring ace journalist Jimmy Hawley, Continue reading

Alias Boston Blackie (1942)

US / 67 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: Lew Landers Pr: Wallace MacDonald Scr: Paul Yawitz Cine: Philip Tannura Cast: Chester Morris, Adele Mara, Richard Lane, George E. Stone, Lloyd Corrigan, Walter Sande, Larry Parks, George McKay, Cy Kendall, Paul Fix, Ben Taggart.

Blackie (Chester Morris) and The Runt (George E. Stone) address the Christmas tree.

It’s Christmas Eve and Boston Blackie (Morris)—a sort of Robin Hood figure, a reformed criminal who now helps the downtrodden and solves crimes—has mounted a vaudeville show for the inmates of the state prison. Eve Sanders (Mara), a friend of the famous clown Roggi McKay (McKay), begs to be included in the company so she can have an additional chance to see her brother, Joe Trilby (Parks), who’s doing time for a crime he didn’t commit. During the performance, Joe overpowers Roggi, steals his clown costume, performs his act, and then travels back to the city on the performers’ bus—among his fellow-passengers being Blackie’s old nemesis, Inspector Farraday (Lane).

Joe Trilby (Larry Parks) becomes the fake Roggi.

Joe plans to knock off the two crooks who framed him, Duke Banton—”that tin-horn bookie from Saratoga,” as someone calls him—and Steve Caveroni (Fix), currently working as a cabby. Informed by Continue reading