Miss Fane’s Baby is Stolen (1934)

US / 68 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Alexander Hall Pr: Bayard Veiller Scr: Adela Rogers St. Johns Story: “Kidnapt” (1933 Hearst’s International–Cosmopolitan) by Rupert Hughes Cine: Alfred Gilks Cast: Dorothea Wieck, Alice Brady, Baby Le Roy, William Frawley, George Barbier, Alan Hale, Jack La Rue, Dorothy Burgess, Florence Roberts, Marcelle Corday, Irving Bacon, “Spanky” McFarland, Carmencita Johnson, Cullen Johnson

A movie supposedly based loosely on the real-life 1932 case of the Lindbergh kidnapping, although I can find no firm evidence to support this claim. Aside from the obvious—rich baby is kidnapped—the only real resemblance in the movie to the real case occurs in an odd little sidebar that could almost have been tacked on afterward in order to cash in on the similarity of theme: As the cops search the house and grounds for any trace of missing baby Michael they find a rig leading up to the child’s bedroom window, as was the case in the Lindbergh abduction. Otherwise, though, I think this is just an instance of a movie’s publicists being rather yuckily opportunistic.

Dorothea Wieck as Madeline Fane

In the movie, Madeline Fane (Wieck) is a famous movie star, tragically widowed a year ago, who’s bringing up her 18-month-old son Michael (Le Roy) with the help of Continue reading

Swamp Woman (1941)

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A jailbird on the run and a burlesque dancer meet treachery in the swampy vastness!

US / 68 minutes / bw / PRC Dir: Elmer Clifton Pr: George R. Batcheller, Max Alexander, George M. Merrick Scr: Arthur G. Durlam Story: Fred McConnell Cine: Eddie Linden Cast: Ann Corio, Jack La Rue, Mary Hull, Ian MacDonald, Jay Novello, Richard Deane, Lois Austin, Earl Gunn, Guy Wilkerson, Jimmy Aubrey, Carlin Sturdevant, Ernie Adams, Frank Hagney.

Swamp Woman - 0 opener

Our tale begins with a preamble that sets the scene:

“Nearly three hundred years ago, a proud and self-reliant people founded a community within the swampy vastness of the deep south. Today, the descendants of the founders maintain traditional independence, many even choosing to ignore the world beyond their barricade of swamp waters.”

Heading into this swampy vastness is a runaway convict, Jeff Carter (Deane), hotly pursued by a rifle-toting Detective-Lieutenant Rance (MacDonald), who wears a marshal’s star for reasons I can’t quite fathom, plus an unnamed guard (Hagney) and a pack of dogs that (presumably for budgetary reasons) we never see but just hear plaintively howling. Says Rance:

“There may be a hundred villages yonder, but if it takes from now ’til doomsday I’ll search them all to find Jeff Carter, and unless he makes a foolish move I’ll bring him in alive . . . but, dead or alive, I’ll bring him in.”

Swamp Woman - 1 Rance tells the guard that 'dead or alive, I'll bring him in'

Detective-Lieutenant Rance (Ian MacDonald) tells the guard (Frank Hagney) that “dead or alive, I’ll bring him in”!

Jeff runs many a mile, swims a river, struggles through undergrowth and is just about dead on his feet when he at last reaches some human habitation, the cabin of sparky young bride-to-be Elizabeth “Lizbet” Tollington (Hull). She’s been told by local wise-woman Granny Grundy (Sturdevant) of a superstition that, Continue reading

It Couldn’t Have Happened (But It Did) (1936)

US / 70 minutes / bw / Invincible, Chesterfield, First Division Dir: Phil Rosen Pr: Maury M. Cohen Scr: Arthur T. Horman Cine: M.A. Andersen Cast: Reginald Denny, Evelyn Brent, Jack La Rue, Inez Courtney, John Marlowe (i.e., Hugh Marlowe), Claude King, Bryant Washburn, Robert Homans, Crauford Kent, Robert Frazer, Miki Morita, Emily La Rue.

It Couldn't Have Happened - 0 opener

Rehearsals are underway for the new play by Gregory Stone (Denny), a mystery called The Pointing Finger with fabled Beverley Drake (Brent) in the leading role. Beverley is married to the much older Ellis Holden (King), half of Holden–Carter Productions, which is producing the play—the other half being Norman Carter (Washburn), with whom Beverley’s having an affair. This is no great triumph for Carter to chalk up, because Beverley’s having an affair also with young actor Edward Forrest (Marlowe), another cast member, and the list very likely doesn’t stop there.

It Couldn't Have Happened - 1 Bev and Edwards

Beverley (Evelyn Brent) makes googoo eyes at Edward (Hugh Marlowe).

Local gangster Smiley Clark (Jack La Rue) is keen that Holden hire his latest babe, Lisa De Lane (Emily La Rue, about whom I’ve been able to find out nothing), in a starring role. The two producers try to fob him off but, Continue reading

Spanish Cape Mystery, The (1935)

US / 74 minutes / bw / Liberty, Republic Dir: Lewis D. Collins Pr: M.H. Hoffman Scr: Albert DeMond Story: The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935) by Ellery Queen Cine: Gilbert Warrenton Cast: Helen Twelvetrees, Donald Cook, Berton Churchill, Frank Sheridan, Harry Stubbs, Guy Usher, Huntly Gordon, Jack La Rue, Betty Blythe, Olaf Hytten, Ruth Gillette, Frank Leigh, Barbara Bedford, George Baxter, Katherine Morrow, Arnold Gray, Donald Kerr, Lee Prather, George Cleveland, Arthur Aylesworth, Richard Cramer.

Spanish Cape Mystery - 0 opener

This first screen outing for the doyen of US detectives, Ellery Queen, is better than what I’ve seen of the Ralph Bellamy-starring series that followed a few years later—and one of which, Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring (1941), I describe here—but this doesn’t constitute the highest of praise. It’s a fairly standard B detective mystery of its day, although with the advantage that the screenwriters saw fit not to give us a detective oozing with quirk; the Ellery portrayed here is if anything less quirky than the Ellery depicted in the original novel, who was more along Philo Vance lines. It’s almost as if Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee, the two cousins who together wrote under the Queen byline, took a tip from this movie, because, as the print Ellery evolved, he became more like this one.

Ellery (Cook) and his much older good friend Judge Macklin (Churchill) decide to take a vacation together in California—on Spanish Cape, to be precise, where Macklin has Continue reading

Girl in 419, The (1933)

US / 66 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Alexander Hall, George Somnes Pr: B.P. Schulberg Scr: P.J. Wolfson, Allen Rivkin, Manuel Seff Story: Jules Furthman Cine: Karl Struss Cast: James Dunn, Gloria Stuart, Shirley Grey, David Manners, William Harrigan, Vince Barnett, Johnny Hines, Jack La Rue, Kitty Kelly, Edward Gargan, James Burke, Clarence Wilson, Gertrude Short, Effie Ellsler, Hal Price.

Girl in 419 - 0 opener

Dr. Daniel “Dan” French (Dunn) spends his leisure time cutting a swath through the nurses of the police hospital of which he is head. His current paramour, Nurse Irene Blaine (Grey), is less than amused when he falls and falls hard for a young woman brought in delirious and on the point of death after a savage beating, Mary Dolan (Stuart).

Dan throws all his medical skills and many sleepless hours into the effort to keep Mary alive and effect a full recovery. Naturally he succeeds, and the two fall in love—much to Irene’s chagrin. She responds by reporting to the Superintendent of Hospitals, Walter C. Horton (Wilson), that Mary is well enough to leave and is being kept longer in the hospital solely because she’s Dan’s fancy lady . . .

. . . which is of course largely true. What Irene doesn’t know is that Dan’s other motive is to protect Mary from the hoodlum who Continue reading

Dangerous Passage (1944)

US / 61 minutes / bw / Paramount, Specialty Dir: William Berke Scr: Geoffrey Homes Cine: Fred Jackman Jr. Cast: Robert Lowery, Phyllis Brooks, Charles Arnt, Jack La Rue, John Eldredge, Victor Kilian, Alec Craig, William Edmunds.

Crooked attorney Daniel Bergstrom (Arnt), working from the South American port of St. Angel, tracks Joe Beck (Lowery), who for six years has been working for oil companies in the British Honduras, to tell him he’s inherited $200,000 from his grandmother; he should take the Southern Queen to Galveston to claim his fortune.

After leaving Bergstrom’s office, Joe’s attacked by a knife-wielding mugger, whom he soundly beats; believing he may have killed the man, he instead ships out aboard the tramp steamer Merman. The steward, Dawson (Craig), proves in due course to be an undercover insurance investigator hoping to expose the Merman‘s Captain Saul (Edmunds) and First Mate Buck Harris (Kilian), who, in league with shipping company executive Vaughn (Eldredge), have been scuttling the line’s ships for the insurance money. Also aboard is chanteuse Nita Paxton (Brooks), who’s fleeing the lowlife and is in cahoots with Dawson. Soon Joe and Nita are in love.

After Dawson has been murdered and a clumsy attempt made to frame Joe for the crime, Bergstrom joins the ship along with the St. Angel mugger, Mike Zomano (La Rue), whom Bergstrom plans to pass off in Galveston as Joe in order to steal the money. The agendas of the two sets of crooks collide when the mariners deliberately run the ship onto rocks and leave the rest to face a watery fate . . .

As one would expect from Homes, this tight little noirish thriller is more than competently scripted. Lowery and Brooks work well together, managing to ensure that even the potentially schmaltziest lines come over as quite fresh. Craig does well in his small part as the diffident steward/investigator. Of the rest of the cast, none make much impact except Arnt, who does an excellent Sydney Greenstreet impersonation despite the physical dissimilarity.

A few years after this, Lowery would take the lead in Batman and Robin (1949 serial), the second actor to take this role (after Lewis Wilson in Batman [1943 serial]). Brooks was later married to Congressman Torbert Macdonald, a close friend of John F. Kennedy, who was godfather of their eldest son.

On Amazon.com: Dangerous Passage