Millie (1931)

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Helen Twelvetrees in a melodrama for the ages!
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US / 85 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: John Francis Dillon Pr: Chas. R. Rogers Scr: Chas. Kenyon, Ralph Murphy (i.e., Ralph Morgan) Story: Millie (1930) by Donald Henderson Clarke Cine: Ernest Haller Cast: Helen Twelvetrees, Lilyan Tashman, Robert Ames, James Hall, John Halliday, Joan Blondell, Anita Louise, Edmund Breese, Frank McHugh, Charlotte Walker, Franklin Parker, Charles Delaney, Harry Stubbs, Louise Beavers, Harvey Clark, Aggie Herring, Geneva Mitchell, Hooper Atchley, Lillian Harmer.

Willows University student Jack Maitland (Hall) captures the heart of poor but lovely redhead Millicent “Millie” Blake (Twelvetrees) and persuades her to elope with him. Three years later they’re installed in a luxury New York apartment with Jack’s mother (Walker) and the couple’s infant daughter Connie (uncredited). In theory Millie should be content that she has all the good things in life, but in reality Jack is neglecting her—being frequently away “on business”—and she’s much of the time forced to relinquish her child to the cares of a governess (Harmer). So she’s delighted when one day, out of the blue, she gets a phone call from her childhood friend Angie Wickerstaff (Blondell).

Angie (Joan Blondell) and Helen (Lilyan Tashman) are cutting corners.

Angie has come to NYC to live with her pal Helen Reilly (Tashman), and suggests the three of them meet up at a local café; what she doesn’t mention on the phone is that Continue reading

Mr. Wong, Detective (1938)

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Boris Karloff stars in a triple locked-room mystery!
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US / 69 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: William Nigh Assoc pr: William Lackey Scr: Houston Branch Based on: characters created by Hugh Wiley in 12 stories published 1934–38 in Colliers Magazine Cine: Harry Neumann Cast: Boris Karloff, Grant Withers, Maxine Jennings, Evelyn Brent, George Lloyd, Lucien Prival, John St. Polis, William Gould, Hooper Atchley, John Hamilton, Wilbur Mack, Lee Tong Foo, Lynton Brent, Grace Wood, Frank Bruno, Wheaton Chambers.

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The first of a series of six movies about the San Francisco PI James Lee Wong, created in print by Hugh Wiley; the first five movies starred Boris Karloff as Wong, while the sixth starred an actual Chinese-American in the role, Keye Luke. Depressingly, that sixth movie, Phantom of Chinatown (1940), flopped and so the series came to abrupt end. (When I get a chance, I’ll add it to this site. But it seemed silly to start watching a series with its final entry.)

I confess that for years I’ve avoided the Mr. Wong movies—as I generally do the Charlie Chan ones—because I find it just as creepy to watch a white actor play what I suppose we have to call Yellow Face as I do watching white actors play Black Face. I have to report, though, that the experience wasn’t as grueling as I’d expected. There is no mockery at all of Chinese culture or mannerisms. To the contrary, Wong is the most respected character in the movie; at one point the romantic lead compares the elderly Wong so favorably to her police-detective boyfriend—“Mr. Wong, it’s been such a pleasure meeting a detective with such charming manners”—that the cop’s eyes narrow in jealousy.

The Dayton Chemical Co. is planning to ship a consignment of toxic chemicals to Europe aboard the good ship Orinoco. The operation is spied upon by Lescardi (Bruno), an enforcer working for a pair of activists embedded in European politics, Anton Mohl (Prival), who goes by the name Baron von Krantz, and Olga Petroff (Evelyn Brent), who goes by the name Countess Dubois. They’re eager to divert Continue reading

Crime Patrol, The (1936)

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To box in the ring or to bag criminals? A simple Joe must choose!
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US / 59 minutes / bw / Mayfair, Empire Dir: Eugene Cummings Pr: Harry S. Knight Scr: Betty Burbridge Story: Arthur T. Horman Cine: Bert Longenecker Cast: Ray Walker, Geneva Mitchell, Herbert Corthell, Hooper Atchley, Wilbur Mack, Russ Clark, Max Wagner, Virginia True Boardman, Henry Roquemore, Snub Pollard, Kernan Cripps.

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Bob Neal (Walker) is an up-and-coming boxer who, despite being the genial type and fundamentally honest, sees no harm in hanging out with some pretty nasty lowlifes. One of these, Vic Santell (Mack), tells him he must throw his next fight, against a cop called Morley (uncredited), in the fourth round. Although it goes against the grain, Bob does his best to obey, but mistimes his “knockout” so that he’s saved by the bell for the end of the round. In the fifth, Morley taunts him and Bob, his dander up, delivers a knockout blow that Continue reading

Haunted House (1940)

US / 69 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Robert McGowan Scr: Dorothy Reid (i.e., Dorothy Davenport) Story: Jack Leonard, Monty Collins Cine: Harry Neumann Cast: Marcia Mae Jones, Jackie Moran, George Cleveland, Christian Rub, Henry Hall, John St. Polis, Clarence Wilson, Mary Carr, Jessie Arnold, Hooper Atchley, Marcelle Ray, Buddy Swann, Henry Roquemore, Robert Dudley.

Haunted House 0 opener

Jimmie Atkins (Moran) is office boy at the Brownsville Bugle. All Brownsville—evidently a small town in the middle of nowhere—is agog over the trial of Olaf Jensen (Rub) for the murder of his employer, farmer Mary Blake. Jimmie, though, is a friend of Olaf’s and decides to prove the man didn’t do it. In this he’s assisted by pretty Mildred “Millie” Henshaw (Jones), visiting niece of Continue reading

Midnight Warning (1932)

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US / 63 minutes / bw / Mayfair Dir: Spencer Gordon Bennett (i.e., Spencer Gordon Bennet) Pr: George W. Weeks Scr: John Thomas Neville Story: Norman Battle Cine: Jules Cronjager Cast: William Boyd, Claudia Dell, Huntley Gordon, John Harron, Hooper Atchley, Lloyd Whitlock, Phillips Smalley, Lloyd Ingraham, Henry Hall, Lon Poff.

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In town for a medical convention, prominent New York nerve specialist Dr. Steven “Steve” Walcott (Atchley) stays at the Clarendon Arms. He’s visited in Apartment A there by his old friend William “Bill” Cornish (Boyd), a senior investigator in some official capacity (it’s never spelled out exactly what). Cornish has discovered a charred human earbone in the room’s fireplace. While they’re chatting about this curio and other matters, Walcott stands at the window trying out a pair of astonishing spectacles Cornish owns ‑‑ these optical marvels have the power of binoculars!

Suddenly he collapses in a heap. Cornish phones for the hotel management, who Continue reading

Hell’s House (1932)

US / 72 minutes / bw / Astor Dir & Story: Howard Higgin Scr: Paul Gangelin, B. Harrison Orkow Cine: Allen G. Siegler Cast: Bette Davis, Pat O’Brien, Junior Dirkin (i.e., Junior Durkin), Junior Coughlin (i.e., Frank Coghlan Jr), Emma Dunn, Charles Grapewin, Morgan Wallace, Hooper Atchley, Wallace Clark, James Marcus, Mary Alden.

Hell's House - 1 Young Jimmy helps with the laundry

Young Jimmy (Junior Durkin) helps Mom with the laundry.

After seeing his widowed mother Lucy (Alden) die in a hit-and-run, 14-year-old country boy Jimmy Mason (Dirkin) comes to the big city to throw himself on the mercy of his aunt and uncle, Emma (Dunn) and Henry Clark (Grapewin). They goodheartedly take him in, but Henry has just that morning lost his job so things look grim. However, the Clarks’ fast-talking lodger Matt Kelly (O’Brien) takes the boy under his wing, even offering him a job at $25 a week just to answer the phone at Kelly’s scabby center of operations. Unknown to Jimmy and the Clarks, Kelly’s business is as a Continue reading