Night to Remember, A (1942)

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Loretta Young and Brian Aherne crack a murder case and some not very good jokes!
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vt Number Thirteen Gay Street; vt The Frightened Stiff
US / 88 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: Richard Wallace Pr: Samuel Bischoff Scr: Richard Flournoy, Jack Henley Story: The Frightened Stiff (1942) by Kelley Roos Cine: Joseph Walker Cast: Loretta Young, Brian Aherne, Jeff Donnell, William Wright, Sidney Toler, Gale Sondergaard, Donald MacBride, Lee Patrick, Don Costello, Richard Gaines, Blanche Yurka, James Burke, Harry Harvey, Cy Kendall, George Lloyd, George Chandler.

There’s a very famous movie called A Night to Remember. Directed by Roy Ward Baker in 1958, with a screenplay by Eric Ambler, it stars Kenneth More with Geoffrey Bayldon, Honor Blackman, Anthony Bushell, John Cairney, Sean Connery, Kenneth Griffith, Andrew Keir, Frank Lawton, David McCallum, Alec McCowen, Laurence Naismith, Russell Napier, Harold Siddons, Jack Watling and a horde of others, and is regarded as the best extant movie tracing the final hours of the “unsinkable” Titanic, which sank in April 1912 after hitting an iceberg.

This is not that movie.

Nor is it the inauguration of a comedy-crime series to rival the THIN MAN, although there are sufficient resemblances in the setup to make one speculate that this was the intention; here, though, Continue reading

Ticket to a Crime (1934)

US / 66 minutes / bw / Beacon Dir: Lewis D. Collins Pr: Max Alexander Scr: Charles A. Logue, Jack Neville Story: Carroll John Daly Cine: Gilbert Warrenton Cast: Ralph Graves, Lois Wilson, Lola Lane, James Burke, Charles Ray, Edward Earle, Hy Hoover, John Elliott, John Webb Dillon.

Ticket to a Crime - 0 opener

A minor, moderately entertaining comedy mystery of the kind that the Poverty Row studios churned out seemingly by the dozen during this era, this is saved from complete mediocrity by the appeal of its two leading ladies, who seem somehow a cut above their male counterparts.

A jeweler named Davidson (Elliott) has discovered that his books have been doctored to the tune of $50,000, and assumes the guilty party must be his former son-in-law, Courtney Mallory (Ray, the only one of the male cast to bring much nuance to his role). The matter comes to the attention of the cops when Davidson tries to use the Van Dyne pearls, which have been placed in his care, as security for a short-term bank loan. The banker, Miller (uncredited), declines the loan and informs the cops. Inspector Tyler (Dillon) puts gormless Det.-Lt. John Aloysius McGinnis (Burke) onto the case.

Ticket to a Crime - 1 Repressed secy Peggy C

PI Clay Holt’s repressed secretary Peggy Cummings (Lola Lane).

Davidson himself contacts down-at-heel PI Clay Holt (Graves), gives him a $500 retainer and a couple of tickets to a party at the Lido Country Club that night, and tells him he’d like to 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

Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring (1941)

US / 69 minutes / bw / Darmour, Columbia Dir: James Hogan Pr: Larry Darmour Scr: Eric Taylor, Gertrude Purcell Story: Ellery Queen Cine: James S. Brown Jr. Cast: Ralph Bellamy, Margaret Lindsay, Charley Grapewin, Mona Barrie, Paul Hurst, James Burke, Leon Ames, George Zucco, Blanche Yurka, Charlotte Wynters, Tom Dugan, Olin Howlin, Dennis Moore, Jean Fenwick, Pierre Watkin.

Many of the detectives of classic mystery fiction are in essence mildly comic figures—Lord Peter Wimsey, Hercule Poirot, Albert Campion, Ellery Queen—yet their creators manage to imbue them with some necessary gravitas to match the seriousness of the crimes they solve. Modern screen adaptations of the relevant tales generally try to perform the same trick—just think of the long TV series of Poirot adventures starring David Suchet. Here, though, the moviemakers took the rather fey, cerebral Ellery Queen, turned him into a lunk, and put him at the heart of a clumsy comedy. This was the fourth and last of the Columbia series in which a hopelessly miscast Bellamy played the detective; William Gargan took over the role for three further movies and then, mercifully, the series ended.

Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring - 1 Augusta Stack

The testy matriarch Augusta Stack (Blanche Yurka).

Wealthy widow Augusta Stack (Yurka) calls in the cops because she’s concerned there might be a conspiracy of malpractice going on at the hospital she owns, the Stack Memorial Hospital. To keep the matter quiet, Inspector Richard Queen (Grapewin) sends his novelist/detective son Ellery (Bellamy) to investigate undercover. Claiming to have lost his voice, Ellery is examined by the hospital’s chief physician, Edward F. Janney (Zucco), who diagnoses the problem as psychological and admits Ellery to the hospital. Ellery calls his secretary, Nikki Porter (Lindsay), to join him as his “private nurse”.

Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring - 3 Nikki

Nikki Porter (Margaret Lindsay) in her guise as nurse.

Meanwhile, Continue reading

Mystery Man, The (1935)

US / 62 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Raymond McCarey Pr: George Yohalem Scr: John Krafft, Rollo Lloyd, Wm. A. Johnston Story: Tate Finn Cine: Harry Neumann Cast: Robert Armstrong, Maxine Doyle, Henry Kolker, James Burke, Guy Usher, LeRoy Mason, Dell Henderson, Monte Collins, Norman Houston, James Burtis, Otto Fries, Sam Lufkin, Lee Shumway, Sam Flint.

Having solved the Upshaw murder case, investigative crime reporter Larry Doyle (Armstrong) of the Chicago Record—or Chicago World News (the movie offers both names)—is presented by a grateful police commission with a police-issue .45 revolver and by his managing editor, Elwyn (or Ellwyn) A. “Jo-Jo” Jonas (Kolker), with $50 from the newspaper’s owners. Larry uses part of the $50 to go out and get hammered with his reporting colleagues Dunn (Collins), Whalen (Burtis) and Weeks (Lufkin). When Jo-Jo finds them, Larry insults him, is fired on the spot and, next he knows, is arriving on the train in St. Louis with a hangover and barely a dollar to his name.

At the rail station he runs into pretty Ann Ogilvie (Doyle), who’s even broker than he is. Despite token resistance from her, he talks their way into the honeymoon suite of the swanky Commodore Hotel, whose manager, Clark (Henderson), believes they’re rich. Larry wires Jo-Jo for money and is given the brush-off; when he applies for a job at the St. Louis Daily News, Jo-Jo tells the city editor, Marvin (Burke), that Larry’s a faker, and Larry’s thrown out. In desperation, Larry and Ann take Larry’s presentation .45 to a pawnshop, whose owner, Nate (Fries), promptly sells it on to The Eel (Mason), a gangster who has been terrorizing the city and, after each new crime, phoning the authorities and the newspapers to taunt them.

That night Larry and Ann take the money from the pawn to the Trocadero Club in hopes of gambling it up to riches. As they leave, having failed in that, they find themselves caught up in The Eel’s latest robbery. Just before The Eel emerges from the club, his getaway man and a cop kill each other in a shootout. Larry takes refuge in the car; The Eel, not realizing his driver’s dead, kills a plainclothes cop, gives Larry the loot, and saunters back into the club, all innocent-like.

Mystery Man - the getaway man (uncredited) starts the gunplay

A getaway man and a cop (both uncredited) kill each other in a shootout outside the Trocadero Club.

Marvin, galvanized by the possibility of the scoop of the age, hires Larry. However, it proves The Eel was Continue reading