The Decision of Christopher Blake (1948)

US / 75 minutes / bw / Warner Bros. Dir: Peter Godfrey Pr & Scr: Ranald MacDougall Story: Christopher Blake (1946 play) by Moss Hart Cine: Karl Freund Cast: Alexis Smith, Robert Douglas, Cecil Kellaway, Ted Donaldson, John Hoyt, Harry Davenport, Mary Wickes, Art Baker, Lois Maxwell, Peter Godfrey, Charles Middleton.

A B-feature of curious ingenuity. Part of me says it’s in no conceivable way noirish; another part of me suggests that, because of the ingenuity I mentioned, it’s of at least borderline interest to the genre. My mental jury is still out.

Ted Donaldson as Chris.

Young Christopher Blake (Donaldson) arrives home from summer camp to discover, even though they try to hide it from him, that parents Ken (Douglas) and Evelyn (Smith) are separating and intend to divorce. Ken does try to explain matters to his son, but . . .

Chris: “I hope you’re not going to tell me about babies, Dad. I took a course on that in school.”
Ken: “You did? I mean, uh, you did. Oh, ah, that’s fine, fine.”
Chris: “Anyhow, I don’t believe it.”

In the end the person who inadvertently breaks the news to Chris is a stranger, Evelyn’s lawyer’s secretary, Miss McIntyre (Maxwell).

Lois Maxwell as Miss McIntyre.

Chris doesn’t take the news well. Living at home with Continue reading

Merton of the Movies (1947)

US / 82 minutes / bw / MGM Dir: Robert Alton Pr: Albert Lewis Scr: George Wells, Lou Breslow Story: Merton of the Movies (1919) by Harry Leon Wilson, and Merton of the Movies (1922 play) by George S. Kaufman, Marc Connelly Cine: Paul C. Vogel Cast: Red Skelton, Virginia O’Brien, Gloria Grahame, Leon Ames, Alan Mowbray, Charles D. Brown, Hugo Haas, Harry Hayden, Tom Trout, Douglas Fowley, Dick Wessel, Helen Eby-Rock.

This was the third movie version of Wilson’s novel and the hit Broadway play based on it. The earlier versions were Merton of the Movies (1924) dir James Cruze, with Glenn Hunter, Charles Sellon, Sadie Gordon and Gale Henry, and Make Me a Star (1932) dir William Beaudine, with Joan Blondell, Stuart Erwin, Zasu Pitts, Ben Turpin and Charles Sellon, the latter reprising his role as Pete Gashwiler. There was also a Kraft Theatre version: Merton of the Movies (1947 TVM) with Eddie Mayehoff and Patricia Englund. Cruze’s 1924 silent has been lost, and the same may be true of the TVM.

Merton of the Movies - Gloria Grahame

Beulah Baxter (Gloria Grahame), having just told the press she does all her own stunts, prepares to let stuntgirl Phyllis Montague (Virginia O’Brien) do the dangerous bit.

A satire of the movie business, this has no real noir relevance save for the presence in its cast of noir goddess Gloria Grahame (I’ve been working on a piece about Grahame for something else, which is what brought me to this movie), not to mention actor/producer/director Hugo Haas, whose enjoyably dire shoestring noirs have a minor cult following today. There are also some regular noir supports like Ames and Fowley.

It’s 1915 and Merton Gill (Skelton) is a cinema usher in Tinkerton, Kansas, and mad about the movies; his favorite stars are Lawrence “Larry” Rupert (Ames), famed for his detective roles, and the lovely Beulah Baxter (Grahame), famed for Continue reading