The Dummy Talks (1943)

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Who slew the philandering ventriloquist?
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UK / 82 minutes / bw / British National, Anglo–American Dir: Oswald Mitchell Pr: Wallace Orton Scr: Michael Barringer Story: Con West, Jack Clifford Cine: James Wilson Cast: Jack Warner, Claude Hulbert, G.H. Mulcaster, Beryl Orde, Ivy Benson, John Carol, Evelyn Darvell, Max Earl, Gordon Edwards, Manning Whiley, Charles Carson, Derna Hazell (i.e., Hy Hazell), Eric Mudd, PLUS

  • Ivy Benson’s All-Ladies Orchestra
  • Frederick Sylvester & Nephew
  • Tommy Manley & Florence Austin
  • Cecil Ayres with the Skating Avalons
  • The Five Lai Founs

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A wartime morale-booster set inside a London variety house/music hall (about the same as a US burlesque theater, but without the, er, disrobing) and relying heavily on the BBC radio popularity of three of its major cast: Jack Warner, Claude Hulbert and Beryl Orde. The movie presents itself as a murder mystery with the added elements of some flippant humor and quite a lot of stage presentations. Despite some genuinely clever moments, it seems today—although fans of music hall might disagree—a tad leaden in places.

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Joe (uncredited) knows a thing or two.

Comedian Jack “Blue Pencil” Warner (Warner) and impressionist Beryl Orde (Orde) are the current headliners at the variety theater, drawing the crowds because they’re well known radio personalities, but plenty of other high-profile acts are on the bill: Marvello (Carson) and Maya (Hazell) with their mentalist act; ventriloquist Russell Warren (Whiley); and singer Peggy Royce (Darvell), who performs with the big band Ivy Benson’s All-Ladies Orchestra (one of several genuine variety acts to feature). Behind the scenes we have stage manager Marcus (Edwards); the theater’s managing director, Yates (Earl); Joe (bafflingly uncredited), the stage-door keeper; and a stutteringly unorthodox cop, Victor “Vic” Harbord (Hulbert), who hangs around the theater a lot because he and Peggy are—improbably—enamored.

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Vic (Claude Hulbert) and Beryl (Beryl Orde).

Beryl knows the ventriloquist, Warren, of old, and despises him as a heartless womanizer. She also recalls how one time, when they shared a bill up north, Warren beat to a pulp a husband who objected to Warren’s seduction of the luckless man’s wife. Beryl is thus dismayed to notice that Peggy is seeing rather more than is appropriate of the ventriloquist; Vic may be no Adonis, but he has a good heart and a genuine adoration for the singer. The truth is that Warren has learned that Continue reading

Paper Orchid (1949)

UK / 85 minutes / bw / Ganesh, Columbia Dir: Roy Baker (i.e., Roy Ward Baker) Pr: John R. Sloan Scr: Val Guest, Arthur La Bern Story: Paper Orchid (1948) by Arthur La Bern Cine: Basil Emmott Cast: Hugh Williams, Hy Hazell, Garry Marsh, Sidney James, Ivor Barnard, Andrew Cruickshank, Walter Hudd, Ella Retford, Hughie Green, Vida Hope, Frederick Leister, Vernon Greeves, Patricia Owens, Rolf Lefebvre, Ray Ellington Quartet.

 

Paper Orchid - 0a other opener

Stella Mason (Hazell), whose journalistic credentials are that she’s the daughter of the editor of a provincial newspaper, the Littlehampton Trumpet, bluffs her way into a job at the Daily National on the pretext that she once saw the National’s proprietor, Lord Croup, in Littlehampton with a floozie. Her tale should have gotten her booted out of the National’s offices but, at her interview with widowered Chief Editor Frank “Mac” McSweeney (Williams), it’s evident that she’s caught his eye:

Mac: Tell me, have you had any experience?
Stella: Oh, yes, I’ve had lots of experience.
Mac: Yes, I’m sure you have, but I mean . . . I mean newspaper experience.

Mac takes her on, on probation, for a month, even though he has severe doubts about employing a female journalist: so far as he’s concerned, journalism is a man’s job. The idea that the newspaper industry is infested with this sexist idiocy is reinforced throughout the movie, with even the proprietor’s widow, Lady Croup (Retford), later pronouncing that Continue reading

Franchise Affair, The (1951)

UK / 87 minutes / bw / Associated British Dir: Lawrence Huntington Pr: Robert Hall Scr: Robert Hall, Lawrence Huntington Story: The Franchise Affair (1948) by Josephine Tey Cine: Günther Krampf Cast: Michael Denison, Dulcie Gray, Anthony Nicholls, Marjorie Fielding, Athene Seyler, John Bailey, Hy Hazell, Kenneth More, Avice Landone, Maureen Glynne, Peter Jones, Moultrie Kelsall, Ann Stephens, Martin Boddey, John Forrest, Patrick Troughton, Victor Maddern.

Franchise Affair - 0 opener

Made at Elstree, a good adaptation of Tey’s famous novel about the rapid descent of the apparently amiable inhabitants of a sleepy rural town into lynch-mob, witch-hunting mentality. The movie itself is styled to reflect this theme, outwardly having many of the genial trappings of a “cozy” mystery while having at its heart a very steely message indeed.

Teenaged schoolgirl Betty Kane (Stephens) goes missing after visiting an aunt, and turns up a couple of weeks later at her adoptive parents’ home having clearly been beaten. She claims that she spent the intervening period as prisoner of spinster Marion Sharpe (Gray) and her elderly mother (Fielding) at The Franchise, a gloomy old manor on the outskirts of the small town of Melford, somewhere in the Continue reading