Crown v. Stevens (1936)

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“Ten million people in London, and it had to be you.”
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UK / 66 minutes / bw / Warner Bros. First National Dir: Michael Powell Scr: Brock Williams Story: Third Time Unlucky (1935) by Laurence Meynell Cine: Basil Emmott Cast: Beatrix Thomson, Patric Knowles, Glennis Lorimer, Reginald Purdell, Allan Jeayes, Frederick Piper, Googie Withers, Mabel Poulton, Billy Watts, Davina Craig, Morris Harvey, Bernard Miles.

The title might make us assume this is a courtroom drama, but in fact this quota quickie—an important stop along the road for director Michael Powell’s early career—is a distinctly noirish piece. In one specific respect it appears to be echoed in Raoul Walsh’s THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940), which had George Raft, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart and the immortal Ida Lupino as its stars.

Molly (Glennis Lorimer) and Chris (Patric Knowles) make a good team.

There are no comparable stars here, with the exceptions of Patric Knowles—who would soon go on to have a prominent Hollywood career, sometimes playing opposite his friend Errol Flynn—and of course Googie Withers (in a small role), plus Glennis Lorimer, whose short acting career (she died far too early) is eclipsed by the fact that she served as the young woman in the mocked-up version of Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait of Sarah Siddons used as an opening-credits logo by Gainsborough Studios.

Mamie (Mabel Poulton) dances close to Chris . . .

. . . but Joe Andrews (Billy Watts) is her true partner.

Naive paint-company clerk Chris Jansen (Knowles) believes himself in love with floozy Mamie (Poulton), and borrows an engagement ring on approval from Continue reading

Gang’s All Here, The (1941)

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Mantan Moreland at his hilarious best in a two-fisted saga of battling truckers!

vt In the Night
US / 61 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Jean Yarbrough Pr: Lindsley Parsons Scr: Edmond Kelso Cine: Mack Stengler Cast: Frankie Darro, Marcia Mae Jones, Jackie Moran, Keye Luke, Mantan Moreland, Robert Homans, Irving Mitchell, Ed Cassidy, Pat Gleason, Jack Kenney, Jack Ingraham, Laurence Criner.

The Gang's All Here - 0 opener

A gang is hijacking the trucks of the Overland Transport Co., very often at the expense of the drivers’ lives. The case is in the hands of insurance officer R.A. Saunders (Mitchell), but we very soon discover that he’s in fact at the heart of the criminal conspiracy, the other two linchpins being Pop Wallace (Homans), manager of Overland, and Jack Norton (Cassidy) of the rival Tri-State Truck Lines. It seems that Wallace is Continue reading

I’d Give My Life (1936)

vt The Noose
US / 80 minutes / bw / Astor, Paramount Dir: Edwin L. Marin Pr: Richard A. Rowland Scr: George O’Neil, Ben Ryan Story: The Noose (1926 play) by H.H. Van Loan and Willard Mack Cine: Ira Morgan Cast: Sir Guy Standing, Frances Drake, Tom Brown, Janet Beecher, Robert Gleckler, Helen Lowell, Paul Hurst, Charles C. Wilson, Charles Richman, Tom Jackson, Charles Judels, Robert Elliott.

I'd Give My Life - 0 opener

This movie is a remake of the silent The Noose (1928) dir John Francis Dillon, with Richard Barthelmess (who received an Oscar nomination for his role), Thelma Todd, Montagu Love and Robert E. O’Connor. Both movies were based on the play The Noose (1926), which was of especial significance in that its Broadway director and co-author Willard Mack took a gamble on casting a young chorus girl called Ruby Stevens in the role of romantic lead. Ruby Stevens soon adopted a new professional name: Barbara Stanwyck.

Orphan Nickie Elkins (Brown) and chanteuse Mary Reyburn (Drake), who both work at the niterie Club Gordon, are very much in love; Nickie hopes to be an airline pilot one day and thereby able to keep Mary in the manner she deserves. A chance encounter at an airport introduces him to Stella Bancroft (Beecher), the wife of the state governor, and the two immediately take a liking to each other—he regarding her as a “swell lady” while clearly sparking off the maternal instinct in her.

I'd Give My Life - 1 Nickie & Mary

Nickie (Tom Brown) and Mary (Frances Drake), very much in love.

Meanwhile, recently elected Governor John Bancroft (Standing)—Stella’s husband—has been telling the press that all his pre-election talk of cleaning up the state and ousting the racketeers has not been just so much hot air: he really intends to come through on his promises. The reporters, as they leave, are disconcerted to recognize Buck Gordon (Gleckler), the dirtiest crook in the state, waiting to meet with the Governor. At that meeting, Continue reading

Black Widow (1954)

US / 95 minutes / color / TCF Dir & Pr & Scr: Nunnally Johnson Story: Black Widow (1952; vt Fatal Woman) by Patrick Quentin Cine: Charles G. Clarke Cast: Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney, George Raft, Peggy Ann Garner, Reginald Gardiner, Virginia Leith, Otto Kruger, Cathleen Nesbitt, Skip Homeier, Hilda Simms, Mabel Albertson, Harry Carter.

Black Widow 1954 - 0 great use of CinemaScope

A review of this movie that I read a little while ago at the The Passing Tramp blog made me go and look up my film noir encyclopedia to see why I’d left it out. I can see that the decision to do so was a conscious one: I give the movie enough of a mention in the entry on The BLACK WIDOW (1951) to remind me that I watched it and decided (rightly) that its noirish interest was too borderline for me to grant it any more of my precious printed space. Here, though, where the space is limitless . . .

Black Widow 1954 - 1 the encounter at Lottie's party

Peter (Van Heflin) encounters Nancy (Peggy Ann Garner) at a neighbor’s party.

Peter Denver (Heflin)—for some reason Johnson changed the name of author Quentin’s series character Peter Duluth—is a successful Broadway producer; his wife Iris (Tierney) is a celebrated Broadway star. Unfortunately she has to go off to New Orleans for a few weeks to tend to her sick mom. At the airport she makes him swear that he’ll go that night to the party being thrown by Lottie Marin (Rogers), their upstairs neighbor and the star of Peter’s latest hit production, Star Rising. Peter obeys the letter of Iris’s law; seconds after arriving at the party, though, Continue reading

Christmas Eve (1947)

vt Sinner’s Holiday

US / 93 minutes / bw / Miracle, UA Dir: Edwin L. Marin Pr: Benedict Bogeaus Scr: Laurence Stallings Story: Laurence Stallings, Richard H. Landau Cine: Gordon Avil Cast: George Raft, George Brent, Randolph Scott, Joan Blondell, Virginia Field, Dolores Moran, Ann Harding, Reginald Denny, Dennis Hoey, Clarence Kolb, Joe Sawyer, John Litel, Konstantin Shayne, Douglass Dumbrille, Carl Harbord, Molly Lamont, Walter Sande, Claire Whitney.

Xmas Eve - 0 Ann Harding excels as Aunt MatildaAnn Harding excels as Aunt Matilda.

Eccentric elderly NYC spinster Matilda Reed (Harding) has permitted some of her estate to be managed by her nephew Philip Hastings (Denny) but has kept control of the main part. Now, horrified by the amounts she’s been giving to charities, Philip has enlisted the aid of Judge Alston (Kolb) in trying to get her declared unfit to handle her own affairs, so that he might take over the entirety of the estate. And indeed, visiting the old woman with psychiatrist Doremus (Harbord) as ballast, the judge has to admit that “Aunt Matilda”—as she’s universally known—is certainly quite dotty: she attracts pigeons into her dining room to feed them, and uses a sophisticated electric train set to serve meals at the dining table.

Aunt Matilda naturally resents the encroachment, and declares that she’d rather her estate were handled by any one of her three adopted sons—all of whom flew the roost to make their own ways in the world but told her that, if ever she needed them, they’d be there for her. Philip, who knows more about the sons than Aunt Matilda thinks, scoffs at the idea. But the judge agrees that, if she can produce all three sons at the house on Christmas Eve, he’ll believe her claims of mental competency.

In turn we see three episodes about the sons, interspersed with scenes of Aunt Matilda, her redoubtable butler Williams (Hoey), and the gumshoe she hires to assist her search, Gimlet (Sawyer).

Xmas Eve - 2 The intriguing shadow of Harriet (Molly Lamont).

The first son up is playboy Michael Brooke (Brent), who’s seeking to solve the problem of his mounting debts by marrying heiress Harriet Rhodes (Lamont). The problem is that Harriet is one of the causes of those mounting debts: he’s been passing off rubber checks all over town to the tune of $75,000 in order to woo her with jewels and raiment. The other problem is that lovely salt-of-the-earth broad Ann Nelson (Blondell) loves him and wants him, and if truth be told he wants her too. Philip finds Continue reading