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

Slander House (1938)

US / 66 minutes / bw / Progressive Dir: Charles Lamont Pr: B.N. Judell Scr: Gertrude Orr, John W. Krafft Story: Scandal House (1933) by Madeline Woods Cine: M.A. Andersen Cast: Adrianne Ames (i.e., Adrienne Ames), Craig Reynolds, Esther Ralston, George Meeker, Pert Kelton, William Newell, Dorothy Vaughn, Edward Keane, Vivien Oakland, Ruth Gillette, Mary Field, Robert Homans, Blanche Payson.

Once upon a tine she was plain Helen Smith from NYC’s 10th Avenue, but now she’s Madame Helene (Ames), proprietrix of the swanky Helene’s Rejuvenating Salon on Park Avenue. She’s comfortably engaged to prominent society physician Herbert Stallings (Meeker), and she looks set to ascend to the ranks of the glitterati.

But then fast-talking cad-about-town Pat Fenton (Reynolds) walks into her salon and her life, and from there on things can never be the same for her.

Adrienne Ames as Madame Helene.

Progressive Pictures was a Poverty Row studio whose business model was to release B-features with salacious titles yet relatively innocuous contents. This one’s not just SFW but safe for screening to the average pre-school group, although they might find it a trifle boring. (Except for the bit with the monkey. The bit with the monkey is more or less guaranteed to set pre-school kids and Three Stooges fans a-chuckle.) A slight puzzle here is that Continue reading

Fig Leaf for Eve, A (1944)

|
Her “exotic dancing” led her to ignominy and then to a fortune—but can she keep the latter?
|

vt Desirable Lady; vt Flaming Girls; vt Hollywood Nights; vt Not Enough Clothes; vt Reckless Youth; vt Room for Love; vt Strips and Blondes
US / 69 minutes / bw / Carry Westen, Monogram Dir: Donald Brodie Pr: J. Richard Westen Scr: Elizabeth Hayter Story: Harry O. Hoyt Cine: Marcel Le Picard Cast: Jan Wiley, Phil Warren, Eddie Dunn, Janet Scott, Emmett Vogan, Betty Blythe, Edward Keane, Marilyn McConnell, Dick Rush, Selika Pettiford, Cheerio Meredith, Eleanor Freeman.

fig-leaf-for-eve-0-opener

You’d guess from the string of subtitles that this was an exploitationer, and in a way I suppose it is—or as near to an exploitationer as the Production Code would allow in 1944. It’s implied that the central character is an exotic dancer, but the clientele of the NYC club where she dances, the Club Cézanne (oooh, a French painter! how provocative! how highbrow!), seems made up to a great extent of Continue reading

Rogues Gallery (1944)

|
The sassy crime reporter, her sidekick photographer
. . . and murder! Have we been here before?
|

vt Here We Go Again
US / 57 minutes / bw / American Productions, PRC Dir: Albert Herman Pr: Donald C. McKean, Albert Herman Scr: John T. Neville Cine: Ira Morgan Cast: Frank Jenks, Robin Raymond, H.B. Warner, Ray Walker, Davison Clark, Bob Homans, Frank McGlynn, Pat Gleason, Edward Keane, Earle Dewey, Milton Kibbee, Gene Stutenoth, George Kirby, Norval Mitchell, John Valentine, Jack Raymond, Parker Gee.

Rogues Gallery - 0

One of the countless comedy mysteries that were churned out as B-movies in the 1930s and 1940s, this features a familiar pair of protagonists: the smartass reporter and her photographer sidekick.

Reporter Patsy Clark (Robin Raymond) and photographer Eddie Jones (Jenks)—not Eddie Parker, as sometimes listed—work for the Daily Express. Just to avoid confusion, this isn’t the London Daily Express but a newspaper—a newspaper seemingly somewhere in California, presumably not too far from the PRC lot. Their editor, Gentry (Keane), sends them out to cover the story of a new invention devised by one Professor Reynolds (Warner) under the auspices of the Emerson Foundation, whose head is John Foster (Clark). Even though Foster’s nephew Jimmie (Walker) is a journalist, Foster and his companions on the Emerson Foundation board don’t much hold with the breed, and so Foster’s butler Duckworth (Kirby) throws Patsy and Eddie out on their ears when they try to get in for an interview.

Rogues Gallery - 1 Patsy and Eddie try to put a bold face on their latest failure

Patsy (Robin Raymond) and Eddie (Frank Jenks) try to put a bold face on their latest failure. That thing on Patsy’s head is a hat, and it’s apparently glued there.

Their next attempt is to go to the Emerson Foundation labs hoping to Continue reading

Drag-Net, The (1936)

US / 62 minutes / bw / Burroughs–Tarzan Dir: Vin Moore Pr: W.N. Selig Scr: J. Mulhauser (i.e., James Mulhauser) Story: play by Willard Mack Cine: Edward Kull Cast: Rod La Rocque, Marian Nixon, Betty Compson, Jack Adair, John Dilson, Edward Keane, Donald Kerr, Joseph W. Girard, John Bantry, Ed LeSaint, Allen Mathews, Sid Payne.

The Drag-Net - hardworking social report Kit Van Buren (Nixon)

Hard-working, hard-partying social reporter Kit Van Buren (Marian Nixon).

Ne’er-do-well playboy Lawrence “Larry” Thomas Jr. (La Rocque) is turfed out of the family legal practice by his father (LeSaint) for his idleness and decadent habits. Instead he must take a job as assistant to DA Thomas J. Harrison (Girard). The night before joining the DA’s office Larry takes his society-reporter girlfriend Katherine “Kit” Van Buren (Nixon) to a dancing/gambling niterie called The Dover Club, run by notorious hoodlum Joe Ross (Adair):

Larry: Tonight we celebrate.
Kit: Celebrate? But that’s what we do five nights in a week, isn’t it?

The Drag-Net - Mollie (Compson) arrives at the Dover Club

Mollie (Betty Compson) arrives at the Dover Club.

That evening Mollie Cole (Compson) arrives to see Ross. Her husband Fred (Bantry) is doing eight years for a crime he committed with Ross and crooked shyster Arnold Crane (Dilson); Crane promised he’d Continue reading