Hello Out There (1949)

US / 31 minutes / bw / Huntington Hartford Dir: James Whale Pr: Huntington Hartford Scr: George W. Tobin Story: Hello Out There! (1941 play, staged 1942) by William Saroyan Cine: Karl Struss Cast: Marjorie Steele, Harry Morgan, Lee Patrick, Ray Teal.

Created as a segment of a three-part anthology feature whose other two segments were later paired as the feature Face to Face (1953), Hello Out There is a fairly faithful—perhaps too faithful—adaptation of a William Saroyan one-act play. One odd change (aside from the removal of the exclamation mark from the title) is that the play’s Emily Smith becomes Ethel Smith in the movie.

An itinerant gambler, Photo-Finish (Morgan), is in jail in the small Texas town of Matador, falsely accused of having raped a married woman in the neighboring town of Wheeling. Everyone’s gone home from the jail except the cleaner Ethel Smith (Steele), who cooks for the prisoners whenever there are any. She arrives in response to his incessant calls of “Hello out there!” and an instant bond springs up between the two: “I’m kind of lonesome too,” she says. “Yeah, I’m almost as lonesome as a coyote myself.”

Harry Morgan as Photo-Finish.

Within minutes they’re planning a future life for themselves in San Francisco, where perhaps Photo-Finish’s extended run of rotten luck can end and they’ll find happiness. He explains his moniker:

“Well, every race I bet on turns out to be a photo-finish, and my horse never wins.”

Of course, for their plans to come to fruition, they must get Photo-Finish out of the jail before the anticipated lynch mob arrives . . .

Marjorie Steele as Ethel.

Ray Teal has a small role as Continue reading

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Before Dawn (1933)

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Is a psychic beauty a criminal fraud . . . or for real?
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US / 62 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: Irving Pichel Pr: Merian C. Cooper Scr: Garrett Fort Story: “The Death Watch” (1932; in Sergeant Sir Peter) by Edgar Wallace Cine: Lucien Andriot Cast: Stuart Erwin, Dorothy Wilson, Warner Oland, Dudley Digges, Gertrude W. Hoffman, Oscar Apfel, Frank Reicher, Jane Darwell.

Before Dawn - 0 opener

This movie was reportedly made as a follow-up to cash in on the huge success of King Kong (1933), reuniting as it did Merian C. Cooper and (at least in spirit) Edgar Wallace. Yet it’s a claim that’s hard to believe: King Kong was a big-budget epic, a full 100 minutes long on its release (and nearly half an hour longer in what we’d today call the director’s cut), while Before Dawn is under half the length of the longer of the two versions and decidedly modest aspirations. It reads like a low-budget filler, in other words, and it’s hard to believe it was ever intended to be anything else.

NYPD-affiliated Special Investigator Dwight Wilson (Erwin) is conducting a roundup of phony spirit mediums in the area, and the first he pulls in is the supremely lovely Mlle. Mystera, aka Patricia Merrick (Wilson), plus her father, Horace (Digges). We know, and Wilson soon finds out, that Patricia is in fact a genuine medium; while Horace is in the office of Chief of Detectives John F. O’Hara (Apfel), trying to sell him on the idea of employing Patricia as a psychic detective, Wilson finds a tearful Patricia waiting in the antechamber. Telling him that he cheated in order to entrap her—he never had an Aunty Minnie, so no wonder Patricia couldn’t locate her in the afterlife—she demonstrates her genuine psychic powers. Wilson’s immediately convinced:

“Say, baby, I’m for ya. My face hasn’t been so red since I went to my first burlesque show. . . . I’ll get ya out of this, so help me.”

Before Dawn - 4 Wilson tricks Paricia at her seance

Special Investigator Dwight Wilson (Stuart Erwin) tricks Patricia (Dorothy Wilson) at her seance.

Patricia, given her chance to demonstrate her powers to Chief O’Hara, does not disappoint. Stunned by her first success, he Continue reading