Crime Nobody Saw, The (1937)

US / 62 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Charles Barton Pr: Adolph Zukor Scr: Bertram Millhauser Story: Danger, Men Working (1935 play) by Ellery Queen, Lowell Brentano Cine: Harry Fischbeck Cast: Lew Ayres, Ruth Coleman, Eugene Pallette, Benny Baker, Vivienne Osborne, Colin Tapley, Howard C. Hickman, Robert Emmet O’Connor, Jed Prouty, Hattie McDaniel, Ferdinand Gottschalk, Terry Ray (i.e., Ellen Drew).

Crime Nobody Saw - 2 The deed is done

The dastardly deed is done.

Despite being able to list Ellery Queen (i.e., Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee) as co-author, the stage play upon which this slight filler was based was a flop. Watching the movie, it’s not hard to see why. The plot’s very self-referential—it’s about these three guys, you see, trying to write a mystery play. The intention is obviously comic, yet gags are thin on the ground and the only cast member really capable of raising a smile is the redoubtable Hattie McDaniel; it’s wryly amusing that although, because of the conventions of the time, she had to Continue reading

Big Street, The (1942)

US / 88 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: Irving Reis Pr: Damon Runyon Scr: Leonard Spigelgass Story: “Little Pinks” (1940; Collier’s Magazine) by Damon Runyon Cine: Russell Metty Cast: Henry Fonda, Lucille Ball, Barton MacLane, Eugene Pallette, Agnes Moorehead, Sam Levene, Ray Collins, Marion Martin, William Orr, George Cleveland, Vera Gordon, Louise Beavers, Juan Varro, Art Hamburger, Ozzie Nelson and his Orchestra.

Runyon’s tales are, of course, not noir, and yet they share noir’s milieu so knowingly that it can be hard to ignore their claims. In the case of MIDNIGHT ALIBI (1935) I was sufficiently persuaded of those claims to include an entry in the Encyclopedia; The Big Street might also have been a candidate, had I had the space.

The movie opens with scrolled text beginning:

Loser’s Lane—the sidewalk in front of Mindy’s Restaurant on Broadway—is not as high-toned a trading center as Wall Street, but the brokers are a lot more colorful.

 Generally they prefer to put their money on a prizefight or horserace, but when the action slows, anything can happen and it usually does. . . .

What’s happening today in Mindy’s is the Eating Championship of the World, organized by the merry lowlifes Professor B. (Collins) and Horsethief (Levene), the dueling trenchermen being Mr. Nicely Nicely Johnson (Pallette) and Mr. Joel Duffle (fittingly played by Hamburger); the hoodlum Case Ables (MacLane) has a hefty stake in Nicely Nicely winning. However, Nicely Nicely has fallen ill with dyspepsia, owing to unwise snacking. The Mindy’s busboy Little Pinks (Fonda)—more fully Augustus Pinkerton II—offers the services in Nicely Nicely’s place of his lodging-house co-boarder Violette Shumberger (Moorehead), but she proves inadequate to the task and the vicious Ables loses his stash.

Lucille Ball as a chanteuse facing an uncertain future.

The event’s the opportunity for Pinks to meet Ables’s chanteuse moll Gloria Lyons (Ball), whose yappy little dog Baby Continue reading