Sensation Hunters (1933)

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Unsuitable liaisons?
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US / 73 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Charles Vidor Pr: Robert Welsh Scr: Paul Schofield, Albert E. DeMond Story: “Cabaret” (original story) by Whitman Chambers Cine: Sid Hickox Cast: Arline Judge, Preston Foster, Marion Burns, Kenneth McKenna (i.e., Kenneth MacKenna), Juanita Hansen, Creighton Hale, Cyril Chadwick, Nella Walker, Harold Minjir, Finis Barton, Zoila Conan, Sam Flint, Walter Brennan.

This bears no relation to Sensation Hunters (1945) dir Christy Cabanne, with Robert Lowery, Doris Merrick, Eddie Quillan, Constance Worth, Isabel Jewell, Wanda McKay and Nestor Paiva. Where the later movie is a good minor film noir, this one is a pre-Code romantic melodrama punctuated by a couple of musical interludes.

On a ship bound for Panama from San Francisco, pausing at Los Angeles, demure Dale Jordan (Burns) attracts the attention of the male passengers, such as the exaggeratedly English uppercrust blowhard Upson (Chadwick) and the snobbish Hal Grayson (Minjir), who’s traveling with his even more snobbish sister (Barton) and his quite terminally snobbish mother (Walker).

Cyril Chadwick as Upson.

When the Graysons discover Dale is to join the troupe of cabaret artistes that’s joining the ship at Los Angeles, the two women drop her like a hot potato and Hal, after unsuccessfully trying his luck—because “everyone knows” cabaret girls are easy— Continue reading

Sensation Hunters (1945)

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The price of rebellion!
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vt Club Paradise
US / 62 minutes / bw / Monogram, Associated Artists Dir: Christy Cabanne Pr: Joseph Kaufman Scr: Dennis Cooper Story: John Faxon Cine: Ira Morgan Cast: Robert Lowery, Doris Merrick, Eddie Quillan, Constance Worth, Isabel Jewell, Wanda McKay, Nestor Paiva, Byron Foulger, Vince Barnett, Minerva Urecal, Janet Shaw, Maurice Murphy, Billy Nelson, John Hamilton, The Rubenettes, The Johnson Brothers.

Every now and then Poverty Row studio Monogram got it just right and produced a splendid minor noir, and this was one of those times. Despite the coincidence of title, it bears no relation to the earlier Sensation Hunters (1933) dir Charles Vidor, with Arline Judge, Marion Burns and Preston Foster, a far inferior movie that I plan to cover here next week.

In the opening moments we see a man arrive at a darkened frontage and ring the doorbell. A negligée-clad woman appears at a balcony overhead, and summons him upstairs. Moments later, three shots ring out . . .

The rest of the movie is one long flashback leading us up to this scene. We’re soon pretty sure who the woman was (will be?), but who was the man? And who shot whom? And why? Continue reading

Shadow of Doubt (1935)

US / 75 minutes / bw / MGM Dir: George B. Seitz Pr: Lucien Hubbard Scr: Wells Root Story: Arthur Somers Roche Cine: Charles Clarke Cast: Ricardo Cortez, Virginia Bruce, Constance Collier, Isabel Jewell, Arthur Byron, Betty Furness, Regis Toomey, Ivan Simpson, Bradley Page, Edward Brophy, Samuel S. Hinds, Richard Tucker, Bernard Siegel, Paul Hurst.

Shadow of Doubt 1935 - 0 opener

Good-hearted NYC advertising salesman and playboy Simeon “Sim” Sturdevant (Cortez) loves his dear old aunt, Melissa Pilsen (Collier), and she loves him back . . . even though she does her best to present herself to the world as a grim, hatchet-faced old boot. But he has also come to love movie actress Trenna Plaice (Bruce), and wants her to marry him. Aunt Melissa, who has refused to leave her house for over two decades since a tragedy of the heart in her youth, assumes Trenna is planning to marry Sim in hopes of getting her claws on her (Aunt Melissa’s) fortune.

Shadow of Doubt 1935 - 1 Virginia Bruce in sultry mode as Trenna

Virginia Bruce in sultry mode as Trenna.

In reality, after he’s had a fit of nauseatingly patronizing chauvinism (along the lines of “Oh, darling, I’ve always said you’re too beautiful to have any sense”), Trenna tells him to put his head where the sun don’t shine, and Continue reading

Evelyn Prentice (1934)

US / 79 minutes / bw / Cosmopolitan, MGM Dir: William K. Howard Pr: John W. Considine Jr. Scr: Lenore Coffee Story: Evelyn Prentice (1933) by W.E. Woodward Cine: Charles G. Clarke Cast: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Una Merkel, Rosalind Russell, Isabel Jewell, Harvey Stephens, Edward Brophy, Henry Wadsworth, Cora Sue Collins, Frank Conroy, Jessie Ralph, Isabelle Keith, Jack Mulhall.

Released just a few months after the epochal Powell–Loy team-up The Thin Man (1934), this is a curious mixture of psychological thriller with Thin Man-style comedy crime, plus some noirish elements such as the innocent woman wrongly accused, the (different) innocent woman falling prey to a blackmailer, and the vampish femme fatale—in this instance, Rosalind Russell in her first big-screen role as widow Nancy Harrison, cleared of manslaughter thanks to the efforts of high-flying defense attorney John Prentice (Powell).

Immediately after the acquittal, John has to travel to Boston; Nancy books herself on his train and does her best to “express her gratitude” to him. Thwarted in this, she plants in his onboard drawing room a watch with an incriminating inscription, which watch the pullman company believes belongs to Mrs. Prentice and so forwards on to John’s wife Evelyn (Loy). Not unnaturally, Evelyn believes this is proof that husband John, who consistently neglects her for his law practice, has been having shenanigans with the lovely widow.

Evelyn Prentice (1934) - a telgram lets the cat out of the bag about John's carryings-on

A telegram lets the cat out of the bag about John’s supposed carryings-on.

But Evelyn’s own conscience is hardly clear: during John’s absence she’s been carrying on a flirtatious relationship with supposed poet and definite lounge lizard/serial blackmailer Lawrence “Larry” Kennard (Stephens). When Larry tries to blackmail Evelyn over innocent-yet-guilty-seeming letters she sent to him, she picks up his gun and . . . and . . . and then we don’t quite know what happens. Certainly Evelyn believes she killed Larry; she says as much to sassy, multiply divorced family friend Amy Drexel (Merkel). Yet the cops pick up Larry’s long-suffering mistress Judith Wilson (Jewell). Ravaged by guilt, Evelyn persuades John to defend Judith . . .

The climax takes the form of a fairly gripping courtroom drama, which comports well enough with the earlier psychological thriller/noirish mode but clashes quite a lot with the comedy-crime mode. There are obvious attempts to link Powell’s character to The Thin Man‘s Nick, notably his love of a cocktail or three; but here he has more gravitas than in the series. Loy, too, for the most part plays her role straight, leaving the comic relief in the quite capable hands of Merkel. Collins, as the Prentices’ daughter Dorothy, exhibits the kind of old-fashioned infant cutery that sends grown men (and women) rushing for the exits.

This was remade as Stronger than Desire (1939).

On Amazon.com: Evelyn Prentice