Thirteenth Guest, The (1932)

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How many of the long-ago guests is the killer prepared to kill?
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US / 69 minutes / bw / M.H. Hoffman, Monogram Dir: Albert Ray Pr: M.H. Hoffman Scr: Frances Hyland Story: The Thirteenth Guest (1929) by Armitage Trail Cine: Harry Neumann, Tom Galligan Cast: Ginger Rogers, Lyle Talbot, J. Farrell MacDonald, Paul Hurst, Erville Alderson, Ethel Wales, James Eagles, Craufurd Kent (i.e., Crauford Kent), Eddie Phillips, Frances Rich, Phillips Smalley, Harry Tenbrook, Robert Klein, Adrienne Dore, William B. Davidson.

Thirteenth Guest - 0a opener aThirteenth Guest - 0b

Naturally I discussed here on Noirish the remake of this movie—Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943) dir William Beaudine, with Helen Parrish, Dick Purcell, Tim Ryan et al.—before I got round to tackling the original. Ça va.

The plots of the two movies are virtually identical, so I’ll just go for a quick account here.

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On her 21st birthday Marie Morgan (Rogers) arrives at the old Morgan home for an appointment with family lawyer John Barksdale (Klein). Although the place is dilapidated, phone and electricity have been installed. She bears a letter from her long-deceased grandpa containing the enigmatic instruction “13—13—13.” Yes, 13 years ago the family gathered here around a table at which the 13th chair was empty. Soon after, Grandpa died, leaving almost all of his fortune to the eight-year-old Marie. And now she’s due to inherit.

Thirteenth Guest - 6 Ginger Rogers as Marie

Ginger Rogers as Marie.

There’s a noise.

She goes to look.

A shot rings out.

There’s a scream.

Some while later the cops arrive in the form of Continue reading

Strange Adventure, A (1932)

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An old dark house and a hooded figure, oo-er!
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vt The Wayne Murder Case
US / 60 minutes / bw / Chadwick, Monogram Dir: Phil Whitman Pr: I.E. Chadwick Scr: Lee Chadwick, Hampton Del Ruth Story: Arthur Hoerl Cine: Leon Shamroy Cast: Regis Toomey, June Clyde, Lucille La Verne, Jason Robards Sr, William V. Mong, Eddie Phillips, Dwight Frye, Nadine Dore, Alan Roscoe, Isabelle Vecki, Harry Myers, Eddie Chandler, Snowflake.

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Vile old plutocrat Silas Wayne (Mong) is, though still mobile, nearing death. Unmarried, he brings all his nieces and nephews together in his home for a pre-mortem reading of his will. Before the great performance, however, his nephew and secretary Claude Wayne (Phillips) opens the old man’s hidden safe—all the family seems to know where this is, and how to get into it whenever they want to!—and scans the provisions of the will. One of these concerns the housekeeper, Miss Sheen (La Verne):

“To her and her children I leave the Candor diamond, in the hope it will continue to be an evil omen!”

Another relates to his married niece Sarah Boulter (Vecki), who’s to get $100,000 upon the birth of her first child—a prime example of the old man’s psychological sadism because, as we find, he well knew that Continue reading

Woman Unafraid (1934)

US / 58 minutes / bw / Goldsmith Dir: William J. Cowan (i.e., William J. Cowen) Pr: Ken Goldsmith, George E. Kann Scr: Mary E. McCarthy Cine: Gilbert Warrenton Cast: Lucile Gleason, Skeets Gallagher, Lona Andre, Warren Hymer, Barbara Weeks, Laura Treadwell, Ruth Clifford, Eddie Phillips, Jason Robards Sr., Erin La Bissoniere, Franklin Parker, Baby Waring, Richard Elliott, Julie Kingdon, Joyce Coad, Florence Wix, George Guhl, Henry Hall, James T. Mack.

Woman Unafraid - 0 opener

It wasn’t all that often that 1930s crime dramas got the balance between drama and humor right—usually you wish they’d just skipped the cringeworthy humor and had a shorter movie—but sometimes they managed to integrate the two elements perfectly. Some of the lines here are laugh-out-loud funny; elsewhere there are moments of genuine, non-bathetic (well, only a bit bathetic) poignancy; and there’s a likeable, entirely admirable heroine to bind everything together.

Augusta Winthrop (Gleason) is a middle-aged cop with a big heart: she’s a universal aunt. A principal duty of hers is to attend the dancehouse run by Tom Brady (Elliott) to make sure none of the dancers are getting so frisky as to commit public indecency, and also of course to check that none of the taxi dancers are offering more than dances. There are flies in her ointment, not least that Mrs. Eleanor Worthington (Treadwell), the self-appointed President of the Girls’ Protective League, has a habit of calling by on the lookout for “outrages.” Ironically, another problem for Augusta is that Eleanor’s nephew, Anthony Desmond (Gallagher), arrives at the club most nights in a skunklike state—a condition in which his hands become . . . venturesome. As one of the taxi dancers remarks of his latest performance on the dancefloor, “That guy ought to be a chiropractor.”

Tonight Augusta has been Continue reading

Private Scandal, A (1931)

US / 69 minutes / bw / Headline Dir & Pr: Charles Hutchison Scr: John Francis Natteford Cine: Ernest Miller, B.B. Ray Cast: Marian Nixon, Lloyd Hughes, Walter Hiers, Theodore von Eltz, Lucille Powers, Fletcher Norton, Eddie Phillips, Burr McIntosh, George Wells, “Snowflake” (i.e., Fred Toones), Ben Hall.

Somewhere in New England, a gang of New York City-based jewel thieves targets a posh house party to which one of their number, Count Raymond d’Alencourt (Norton, sporting a Franche accong of which Inspecteur Clouseau would be, ‘ow you say, ‘umbly proud), has been invited. The snatch goes wrong; the gang’s leader and mastermind, Daniel “Danny” Treve (Hughes), and his sidekicks escape with the loot but d’Alencourt is seized and in due course convicted.

Danny and right-hand man Honest John (Hiers) reach a small town and, on the principle that the cops would never think of looking for crooks at the courthouse, go there. They find a trial in progress where various civil dignitaries are trying to force orphan Mary Gale (Nixon) to marry her loathed and loathsome fosterbrother (Hall). In a moment of moral generosity, Danny claims to be Mary’s fiancé come to take her away; to the alarm of both of them, the judge (McIntosh) insists on marrying them on the spot.

Private Scandal 1931 - 2 Honest John

“Honest” John (Walter Hiers).

Honest John wants Danny simply to flee as soon as he can, but Danny realizes that, by putting the stolen stones in the innocent Mary’s small suitcase, he can ensure they get to New York even if the cops try to Continue reading