Speed Devils (1935)

vt Thru Traffic
US / 60 minutes / bw / Melbert, Perfect Circle, Warner, Hoffberg Dir: Joseph Henabery Scr: Burnet Hershey Cine: E.B. DuPar, Ray Foster Cast: Marguerite Churchill, Paul Kelly, Russell Hardie, Leo Curley, Walter Fenner, Earl Mitchell.

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After a crash at the Madison County Fair Ground, rival racecar drivers Marty Gray (Kelly) and Dan Holden (Hardie) find themselves in adjacent beds in the Harristown Hospital. When Dan’s told his injuries mean he must give up racing for life, Marty, whose injuries are less debilitating but still likely to keep him out of the game for a while, suggests they Continue reading

HALLOWEEN DOUBLE BILL: Who Killed Aunt Maggie? (1940) and The Girl who Dared (1944)

These two Old Dark House melodramas were based on novels by Medora Field, a novelist of whom I knew nothing until recently, when Curtis Evans of The Passing Tramp posted an essay about her. She was a friend of Margaret Mitchell (who encouraged her to write) and produced just the two novels. Before the end of this year (2014) the two are to be reissued as a double volume by Coachwhip, with an introduction by Evans. For more, see his piece at The Passing Tramp.

UPDATE: Evans has just announced that the two novels are now indeed back in print — as individual volumes, it appears, rather than a double volume. Go check out the covers and other details Right Now.

Aunt Maggie - 0 opener

Who Killed Aunt Maggie? (1940)

US / 70(?) minutes / bw / Republic Dir: Arthur Lubin Scr: Stuart Palmer, Frank Gill Jr, Hal Fimberg Story: Who Killed Aunt Maggie? (1939) by Medora Field Cine: Reggie Lanning Cast: John Hubbard, Wendy Barrie, Edgar Kennedy, Elizabeth Patterson, Onslow Stevens, Joyce Compton, Walter Abel, Mona Barrie, Willie Best, Daisy Lee Mothershed, Milton Parsons.

Kirk Pierce (Hubbard) runs a company that produces radio shows for advertisers to endorse. The latest demo he’s listening to is The House with the Secret Room by Sally Ambler (Wendy Barrie), and Continue reading

Irish Luck (1939)

vt Amateur Detective

US / 54 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Howard Bretherton Assoc Pr: Grant Withers Scr: Mary McCarthy Story: “Death Hops the Bells” (seemingly unpublished) by Charles Molyneux Brown Cine: Harry Neumann Cast: Frankie Darro, Dick Purcell, Lillian Elliott, Dennis Moore, James Flavin, Sheila Darcy, Mantan Moreland, Ralph Peters, Donald Kerr, Howard Mitchell.

The first of the eight movies Darro and Moreland made for Poverty Row studio Monogram together; although the name and specifics of Darro’s character might change, these movies essentially form a series of comedy thrillers/mysteries with minimal but not zero noir interest.Irish Luck - Jefferson fakes the 'jumper'

Jefferson (Mantan Moreland) fakes a “jumper” in order to bring the cops to the scene.

It was at Darro’s suggestion that Monogram took Moreland on, and the effectiveness of the Darro/Moreland double act was immediately evident. Although in his earlier scenes Moreland is largely constricted to depicting the kind of weak-minded, cowardly black that the Hollywood of the day regarded as hilarious, the later stages of this movie represent the first black/white double act in US cinema history, even though, to keep Southern cinema managers happy, Moreland appears halfway down the cast list and throughout proceedings was made to address Darro “deferentially”: how woesomely petty and just downright tedious small-minded bigotry can be. The irony is that today, of course, it’s probably Moreland’s presence rather than Darro’s that still draws audiences to these movies. The two men swiftly became fast friends in real life; Darro himself clearly didn’t subscribe to the condescension Hollywood then offered toward people of color.

The others in the series were:

            Chasing Trouble (1940)

           On the Spot (1940)

            Laughing at Danger (1940)

           Up in the Air (1940)

           You’re Out of Luck (1941)

           The Gang’s All Here (1941)

           Let’s Go Collegiate (1941)

All the city’s emergency services are called out when Continue reading

You’re Out of Luck (1941)

JUST A REMINDER THAT ALL MATERIAL ON THIS SITE IS COPYRIGHT

US / 58 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Howard Bretherton Pr: Lindsley Parsons Scr: Edmund Kelso (i.e., Edmond Kelso) Cine: Fred Jackman Jr. Cast: Frankie Darro, Kay Sutton, Mantan Moreland, Vicki Lester (i.e., Vickie Lester), Richard Bond, Janet Shaw, Tristram Coffin, Willie Costello, Alfred Hall, Paul Maxey, Ralph Peters.

The sixth of the eight movies Darro and Moreland made together for Poverty Row studio Monogram; although the name and specifics of Darro’s character might change from one outing to the next, these movies essentially form a series of comedy thrillers/mysteries. They have minimal but not zero noir interest. The others, which I’ll get round to including here in Noirish in due course, were:

Irish Luck (1939)
Chasing Trouble (1940)
On the Spot (1940)
Laughing at Danger (1940)
Up in the Air (1940)
The Gang’s All Here (1941)
Let’s Go Collegiate (1941)

The Daily Star-Tribune—in the ample shape of reporter Pete (Maxey)—is on the necks of the cops because of the latter’s seeming inability to cope with the rising rates of gambling-related crime in the city. When gambler Hal Dayton (uncredited) is gunned down in the parking lot of the Carlton Arms apartment block, the witnesses are elevator boy Frankie O’Reilly (Darro) and his janitor pal Jeff Jefferson (Moreland). The crime’s investigated by Det.-Lt. Tom O’Reilly (Bond), Frankie’s elder brother, who has a thing going with the Arms’s receptionist, Margie Overton (Sutton).

When going through the Rogues’ Gallery at the precinct house, Frankie and Jeff recognize the man who shared the penthouse with Dayton, Dick Whitney (Coffin); in police records he’s named as Roger C. Whitman. The pair follow Whitney/Whitman to the Ringside Club, where he extracts from clubowner Johnnie Burke (Costello) the $60,000 in winnings that Burke owes the dead man. Before being himself murdered, Whitney/Whitman gives the money to Frankie and Jeff to pass on to Dayton’s sister Joyce (Shaw); but Whitney/Whitman’s sultry moll Sonya Varney (Lester) is forced by Burke to pretend to be Joyce . . .

Things go worse for our pals before their inevitable triumph over the bad guys. It’s all fairly amiable, alternating between amusing and tiresome. The racial stereotyping of Moreland’s character, portrayed as capable of being no more than a simpleton because black, grates more than a little; though on the plus side the relationship between Frankie and Jeff is depicted as a genuine friendship and Moreland’s always good value.