Another Face (1935)

vt It Happened in Hollywood
US / 69 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: Christy Cabanne Assoc Pr: Cliff Reid Scr: Garrett Graham, John Twist Story: Thomas Dugan, Ray Mayer Cine: Jack MacKenzie Cast: Wallace Ford, Brian Donlevy, Phyllis Brooks, Erik Rhodes, Molly Lamont, Alan Hale, Addison Randall, Paul Stanton, Hattie McDaniel, Inez Courtney, Oscar Apfel, Frank Mills, Si Jenks.

“Broken Nose” Dawson (Donlevy) is a murderous gangster recognizable in at least fifty states because of the monstrous schnozzle referred to in his nickname. Accordingly, he gets plastic surgery from illicit physician Dr. H.J. Buler (Apfel) to straighten the nose. Afterwards, as protection, he gets his henchman Muggsie Brown (Mills) to murder the surgeon . . . then narks Muggsie out to the cops so he dies in the proverbial hail of bullets.

Brian Donlevy as Dawson — pre-operation and Oscar Apfel as Dr. Buler

What Dawson doesn’t know is that Muggsie failed to eliminate the nurse who attended on his operation, Mary McCall (Lamont). This will have implications further down the line . . .

Molly Lamont as Nurse Mary McCall

Armed (so to speak) with his new nose, Dawson heads (so to speak) out to Hollywood, where he talks his way into the Zenith Film Studios lot and gets a job on the new movie starring Sheila Barry (Brooks, channeling Bette Davis). It’s obvious Continue reading

Man who Walked Alone, The (1945)

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Snobbery ahoy!
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US / 71 minutes / bw / PRC Dir & Story: Christy Cabanne Pr: Leon Fromkess Scr: Robert Lee Johnson Cine: James Brown Cast: Dave O’Brien, Kay Aldridge, Walter Catlett, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams, Isabel Randolph, Smith Ballew, Nancy June Robinson, Ruth Lee, Chester Clute, Vivien Oakland, Vicki Saunders, William B. Davidson, Tom Dugan, Eddy Waller, Don Brodie, Dick Elliott, Jack Raymond, Jack Mulhall, Lloyd Ingraham.

I have to admit it. The title, the packaging, the summary that I glanced at far too quickly—all of them conspired to make me think this movie was far more noirish than it actually is. To say it’s even of associational interest is to stretch matters a little. So, if it’s grim nihilism, thrills, suspense, psychological unraveling or any of that other good stuff that you’re after, look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you can tolerate a gentle romantic comedy, with echoes (no more) of the screwball and a subtext of social commentary, bear with me while I briefly (I promise!) talk about The Man who Walked Alone.

Dave O’Brien as Marion Scott and Eddy Waller as the old codger who taunts him as he tries to hitch a ride.

When we first meet Corporal Marion Scott (O’Brien) he’s on a dusty country road trying to Continue reading

Sensation Hunters (1933)

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Unsuitable liaisons?
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US / 73 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Charles Vidor Pr: Robert Welsh Scr: Paul Schofield, Albert E. DeMond Story: “Cabaret” (original story) by Whitman Chambers Cine: Sid Hickox Cast: Arline Judge, Preston Foster, Marion Burns, Kenneth McKenna (i.e., Kenneth MacKenna), Juanita Hansen, Creighton Hale, Cyril Chadwick, Nella Walker, Harold Minjir, Finis Barton, Zoila Conan, Sam Flint, Walter Brennan.

This bears no relation to Sensation Hunters (1945) dir Christy Cabanne, with Robert Lowery, Doris Merrick, Eddie Quillan, Constance Worth, Isabel Jewell, Wanda McKay and Nestor Paiva. Where the later movie is a good minor film noir, this one is a pre-Code romantic melodrama punctuated by a couple of musical interludes.

On a ship bound for Panama from San Francisco, pausing at Los Angeles, demure Dale Jordan (Burns) attracts the attention of the male passengers, such as the exaggeratedly English uppercrust blowhard Upson (Chadwick) and the snobbish Hal Grayson (Minjir), who’s traveling with his even more snobbish sister (Barton) and his quite terminally snobbish mother (Walker).

Cyril Chadwick as Upson.

When the Graysons discover Dale is to join the troupe of cabaret artistes that’s joining the ship at Los Angeles, the two women drop her like a hot potato and Hal, after unsuccessfully trying his luck—because “everyone knows” cabaret girls are easy— Continue reading

Sensation Hunters (1945)

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The price of rebellion!
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vt Club Paradise
US / 62 minutes / bw / Monogram, Associated Artists Dir: Christy Cabanne Pr: Joseph Kaufman Scr: Dennis Cooper Story: John Faxon Cine: Ira Morgan Cast: Robert Lowery, Doris Merrick, Eddie Quillan, Constance Worth, Isabel Jewell, Wanda McKay, Nestor Paiva, Byron Foulger, Vince Barnett, Minerva Urecal, Janet Shaw, Maurice Murphy, Billy Nelson, John Hamilton, The Rubenettes, The Johnson Brothers.

Every now and then Poverty Row studio Monogram got it just right and produced a splendid minor noir, and this was one of those times. Despite the coincidence of title, it bears no relation to the earlier Sensation Hunters (1933) dir Charles Vidor, with Arline Judge, Marion Burns and Preston Foster, a far inferior movie that I plan to cover here next week.

In the opening moments we see a man arrive at a darkened frontage and ring the doorbell. A negligée-clad woman appears at a balcony overhead, and summons him upstairs. Moments later, three shots ring out . . .

The rest of the movie is one long flashback leading us up to this scene. We’re soon pretty sure who the woman was (will be?), but who was the man? And who shot whom? And why? Continue reading

Convicted (1931)

US / 63 minutes / bw / Supreme, Weiss Brothers Artclass Pictures Dir: Christy Cabanne Pr: Louis Weiss Scr: Jo Van Ronkel, Barry Barringer Story: Ed Barry Cine: Sidney Hickox Cast: Aileen Pringle, Jameson Thomas, Dorothy Christy, Richard Tucker, Harry Myers, Niles Welch, John Vosburgh (i.e., John Vosper), Jack Mower, Wilfred Lucas.

Convicted 1931 - 1 mood view

Theatrical “angel” Tony Blair (Tucker) has been pestering the star of a play he backed, Claire Norvelle (Pringle), to the point that his wife has divorced him. Now Claire finds that “just by coincidence” he’s aboard a liner on which she’s traveling to LA—indeed, “just by coincidence” he’s gotten himself a connecting cabin with hers; she has the purser move her elsewhere.

Also aboard “just by coincidence” is Blair’s current floozy Constance Forbes (Christy), who’s by no means happy to be treated like a doormat while he pursues the actress. Other passengers include cardsharp Roy Fenton (Welch), his sidekick Sturgeon (Myers)—who’s the movie’s dreary “humor” component because perpetually drunk—another cardsharp, Henderson (Mower), who happens to be Constance’s brother, and Bruce Allan (Thomas), a criminologist and crime reporter for the New York Times.

Bruce and Claire, evidently old friends, soon take a renewed shine to each other, their overtures interrupted by Blair yet again boorishly attempting to force his attentions on Claire. Bruce pulls him off, and there’s not quite a fight.

Fenton has been hoping to snag Blair into a poker game, and succeeds. He sends Sturgeon to find someone to make up a four, and Sturgeon reins in Henderson. Later they’re joined by the ship’s radio operator, Dayton (uncredited). The game breaks up in acrimony, with Blair accusing Henderson and Fenton of cheating; he pays his $1250 losses to the former but declines to pay the $900 he owes the latter.

Convicted 1931 - 2 Henderson, Blair, Fenton, Sturgeon at stud poker

The tense stud poker game: left to right, Henderson (Jack Mower), Tony Blair (Richard Tucker), Roy Fenton (Niles Welch) and Sturgeon (Harry Myers).

Claire discovers that Blair has Continue reading

Behind the Green Lights (1935)

US / 69 minutes / bw / Mascot Dir: Christy Cabanne Pr: Nat Levine, Colbert Clark Scr: James Gruen, Colbert Clark Story (supposedly): Behind the Green Lights (1931 memoir) by Captain Cornelius W. Willemse Cine: Ernest Miller, Jack Marta Cast: Norman Foster, Judith Allen, Purnell Pratt, Sidney Blackmer, Theodore von Eltz, Kenneth Thomson, Edward Gargan, Ford Sterling, John Davidson, Jane Meredith, J. Carrol Naish, John Ince.

This movie owes virtually nothing to its stated source, the memoir of NYPD cop Willemse, in which he happily justified the use by the department of techniques such as torture (“the third degree”) to extract confessions from suspects; he argued that this was reasonable procedure because it was only rarely that the innocent suffered. Torquemada used a similar line of reasoning.

The subtext of the movie is that, while 95% of lawyers are just fine, upstanding citizens, the rest are a bunch of shysters. Of one of these NYPD Lieutenant Jim Kennedy (Pratt) tells his lawyer daughter Mary (Allen) at a late stage in the movie, “He’s worse than a murderer, for he springs open the cage that lets these vultures loose on the world.” Unfortunately, the shyster Jim’s talking about is Raymond Cortell (Blackmer), who just happens to be Mary’s boss.

Behind the Green Lights

“I’ll marry you any time,” Mary tells Dave, but they reckon without her shyster boss.

The story seems often to have been written by a 12-year-old. Top-hatted louche Charles T. “Ritzy” Conrad (Thomaon) is brought into the precinct on a drunk and disorderly charge. Gem dealer John C. Owen (von Eltz) arrives on the scene to bail his supposed employee out. As this is happening, Detective Dave Britten (Foster) is, in another part of town, interviewing rich saucy widow Mrs. Gorham (Meredith) about an attempted robbery of her jewelry by a man she picked up, who hit her over the head with a quart whiskey bottle and made his escape. Dave realizes how well the description matches Conrad, a known thief whose m.o. includes the trick of creating a false alibi by getting picked up by the cops on a minor charge.

So far so good, as far as the plotting’s concerned, but this audience euphoria won’t last long. Smarmy shyster Raymond Cortell takes on the defense and Continue reading