The Beloved Brat (1938)

vt Girls on Probation; vt A Dangerous Age
US / 62 minutes / bw / First National, Warner Dir: Arthur Lubin Scr: Lawrence Kimble Story: Jean Negulesco Cine: George Barnes Cast: Bonita Granville, Dolores Costello, Donald Crisp, Natalie Moorhead, Lucille Gleason, Donald Briggs, Emmett Vogan, Loia Cheaney, Leo Gorcey, Ellen Lowe, Mary Doyle, Paul Everton, Bernice Pilot, Stymie Beard, Meredith White, Gloria Fischer

On the face of it, this looks to be yet another comedy of rebellious youth—and with an appropriately lightweight star to reinforce that impression—but in reality there’s a whole lot more going on in The Beloved Brat than you might expect. And Bonita Granville, while hardly reaching Shakespearian heights, demonstrates that she was a weightier actress than her reputation might suggest.

On the eve of her thirteenth birthday, Roberta Morgan (Granville) is the epitome of the spoiled brat. And it’s hardly any wonder: Daddy, Henry Morgan (Crisp)—whom the screenplay bizarrely rechristens John Morgan later on when another character called Henry turns up—is totally absorbed in his business of making oodles of money, and regards the raising of Roberta as the domain of his wife Evelyn (Moorhead). Trouble is, Evelyn is entirely self-absorbed, devoting all her time to her social life and to fashionable charities that are in reality self-serving; she has no interest in her daughter, and is prone to fits of the vapors whenever thwarted.

Bonita Granville as Roberta

The only person in the household who seems to care much about Roberta is Continue reading

The Shadow Returns (1946)

US / 61 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Phil Rosen Pr: Joe Kaufman Scr: George Callahan Story: Walter B. Gibson for the character and the stories in Shadow Magazine. Cine: William Sickner Cast: Kane Richmond, Barbara Reed (i.e., Barbara Read), Tom Dugan, Joseph Crehan, Pierre Watkin, Robert Emmett Keane, Frank Reicher, Lester Dorr, Rebel Randall, Emmett Vogan, Sherry Hall, Cyril Delevanti.

This was the first of three comedy-crime adaptations to screen of Walter B. Gibson’s famous pulp character that Poverty Row studio Monogram released in 1946. The other two were Behind the Mask and The Missing Lady. This one had Phil Rosen at the helm (although it has been reported that William Beaudine did some filling in); the other two were done by Phil Karlson.

Lamont Cranston (Richmond) is outwardly a respectable young man of business who never seems to do any work; because he’s the cherished nephew of Police Commissioner J.R. Weston (Watkin), he and his secretary/fiancée Margo Lane (Read) are allowed to horn in on police investigations, to the ill concealed fury of Inspector Cardona (Crehan).

But there’s more to Lamont Cranston than meets the eye. His secret persona is as The Shadow, a mysterious vigilante crime-solver who, on donning his special garb—a mask and fedora—slips unobtrusively from Continue reading

Murder in the Blue Room (1944)

US / 60 minutes / bw / Universal Dir: Leslie Goodwins Assoc Pr: Frank Gross Scr: I.A.L. Diamond, Stanley Davis Story: Geheimnis des Blauen Zimmers (1932 screenplay) by Erich Philippi Cine: George Robinson Cast: Anne Gwynne, Donald Cook, John Litel, Grace McDonald, Betty Kean, June Preisser, Regis Toomey, Nella Walker, Andrew Tombes, Ian Wolfe, Emmett Vogan, Bill MacWilliams (i.e., Bill Williams), Frank Marlowe.

The third Hollywood remake of a German movie, Geheimnis des Blauen Zimmers (1932), its two predecessors being Secret of the Blue Room (1933) and The Missing Guest (1938); I haven’t seen the latter.

This time the story—including its mystery elements—has been reworked quite extensively to make the movie something akin to a musical comedy.

The Three Jazzybelles: left to right, June Preisser as Jerry, Betty Kean as Betty, and Grace McDonald as Peggy.

The remake was initially meant as a Ritz Brothers vehicle, but fortunately that fell through. In their place we have The Three Jazzybelles (geddit?), a seemingly nonce team-up of Grace McDonald, Betty Kean and June Preisser. This trio offer enough fun and talent that I had a quick look around to see if there were perhaps more Three Jazzybelles movies. Continue reading

The Strange Mrs. Crane (1948)

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You can’t leave your past behind!
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vt Beyond Reasonable Doubt; vt Guilty Woman
US / 62 minutes / bw / John Sutherland Productions, Pathe, Eagle–Lion Dir: Sherman Scott (i.e., Sam Newfield) Pr: John Sutherland Scr: Al Martin Story: Frank Burt, Robert Libott Cine: Jack Greenhalgh Cast: Marjorie Lord, Robert Shayne, Pierre Watkin, James Seay, Ruthe Brady, Claire Whitney, Mary Gordon, Chester Clute, Dorothy Granger, Charles Williams, Emmett Vogan.

A cracker of a minor film noir that seems to have passed under just about everybody’s radar—mine included, until now.

Jenny Hadley (Lord) used to be in partnership with Floyd Durant (Shayne) in a blackmailing racket: she’d get into compromising positions with married men (like Comstock in Chicago who “fell so hard for her he wouldn’t even go to the police”) while Floyd did the rest. As you’d expect, it wasn’t just in their extortioning game that Jenny and Floyd were partnered.

Marjorie Lord as the very respectable Mrs. Crane . . . but in reality
a femme fatale.

Now, though, Jenny has left her life of crime—and Floyd—behind, and has become ultra-respectable Mrs. Gina Crane, wife of the much older lawyer Clinton Crane (Watkin), who’s the pundits’ favorite to triumph in the upcoming state gubernatorial race.

When Clinton wins his primary, Gina (as we’ll call her for convenience) reminds him of his promise to Continue reading

Fig Leaf for Eve, A (1944)

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