snapshot: Murder in a Small Town (1999 TVM)

US / 92 minutes / color with some bw / A&E, Granada, Fred Berner, Crystal Sky Dir: Joyce Chopra Pr: Fred Berner, Craig McNeil, Steven Paul Scr: Gilbert Pearlman, Gene Wilder Cine: Bruce Surtees Cast: Gene Wilder, Mike Starr, Cherry Jones, Frances Conroy, Deirdre O’Connell, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Elisabeth Rosen, Matthew Edison, Carlo Rota, Terri Hawkes, David Fox, Ben Bass, Terry O’Quinn, Kate Hennig, Sten Eirik, Fulvio Cecere.

It’s 1938 in Stanford, Connecticut, and the new movie you’ve just got to see is ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938) dir Michael Curtiz, and starring James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Pat O’Brien, Ann Sheridan and the Dead End Kids. (We see a brief clip from this movie.)

Gene Wilder as Cash Carter.

Until nine years ago, when his wife was murdered in NYC, Lawrence Carter (Wilder) was a hugely successful Broadway producer—hence his nickname of “Cash”; now he’s living in relative seclusion as director of the Stanford Repertory Theater. When a rich, antisemitic, homophobic local businessman, Sidney Lassiter (O’Quinn), is gunned down one night, no one sheds too many tears. As the victim’s unloved, unrespected wife Martha (Conroy) coldly remarks, Continue reading

Carrotblanca (1995)

|
“Attention! Ah say Attention! German scientist knocked unconscious by large frying pan! Important document stolen!”
|

US / 8 minutes / color / Warner Bros. Animation Dir: Douglas McCarthy Pr & Scr: Timothy Cahill, Julie McNally, Kathleen Helppie-Shipley Voice cast: Joe Alaskey, Bob Bergen, Greg Burson, Maurice La Marche, Tress MacNeille.

A riff (obviously) on CASABLANCA (1942), with the central characters of that movie played here by our favorite Warner Bros. animated characters: Bugs Bunny in the Humphrey Bogart role (Humphrey Bugsart?), Tweety Bird in the Peter Lorre role, Pepe le Pew in the Claude Rains role, Daffy Duck in the Dooley Wilson role, Penelope in the Ingrid Bergman role, Sylvester in the Paul Henreid role, etc. (There’s even, in the background, Porky Pig in the Sydney Greenstreet role.) What could possibly go wrong?

Tweety Bird as Peter Lorre. Continue reading

The Bad Sister (1931)

|
Well, baddish . . .
|

US / 65 minutes / bw / Universal Dir: Hobart Henley Pr: Carl Laemmle Jr Scr: Edwin Knopf, Tom Reed, Raymond L. Schrock Story: The Flirt (1913) by Booth Tarkington Cine: Karl Freund Cast: Conrad Nagel, Sidney Fox, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Charles Winninger, Emma Dunn, ZaSu Pitts, “Slim” Summerville, Bert Roach, David Durand, Helene Chadwick.

This was the third time Booth Tarkington’s novel The Flirt had been brought to the screen—the precursors had been

  • The Flirt (1916) dir Phillips Smalley, with Lois Weber, Marie Walcamp, Grace Benham and Juan de la Cruz, and
  • The Flirt (1922) dir Hobart Henley (who also directed The Bad Sister), with Eileen Percy, Helen Jerome Eddy and Lloyd Whitlock.

The movie has many great strengths and a few weaknesses, but really The Bad Sister is one of those pieces whose significance goes far beyond the artistic creation itself. Here we have the first screen role for Bette Davis and an early screen role for Humphrey Bogart, and it could so easily have been the last screen role for both. It was also the first screen role for poor Sidney Fox, the Star Who Never Was.

Sidney Fox as Marianne.

In Council City, Ohio, realtor John Madison (Winninger) is respected throughout the community as a man of utmost probity. With his wife (Dunn) he has raised three daughters: Amy (Chadwick), now married to plumber Sam (Summerville), vivacious, “highly strung” Marianne (Fox) and the drabber Laura (Davis). Much younger is son Hedrick (Durand). Rounding out the household is the long-suffering maid, Minnie (Pitts).

Although her parents cannot see this, Marianne is a Continue reading

Crown v. Stevens (1936)

|
“Ten million people in London, and it had to be you.”
|

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)

|

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