snapshot: Half Past Midnight (1948)

US / 69 minutes / bw / Sol M. Wurtzel, Twentieth Century–Fox Dir: William F. Claxton Pr: Sol M. Wurtzel Scr: Arnold Belgard Cine: Benjamin Kline Cast: Kent Taylor, Peggy Knudsen, Joe Sawyer, Walter Sande, Martin Kosleck, Mabel Paige, Gil Stratton Jr., Jean Wong, Jane Everett, Damian O’Flynn, Richard Loo, Tom Dugan, Jean De Briac, Willie Best, Victor Sen Yung, “Beetlepuss” Lewis, Max Wagner.

Peggy Knudsen as Sally.

Rich war hero, inveterate womanizer and general pain in the ass Wade Hamilton (Taylor) has come back to Los Angeles for a few days, and that’s regarded as bad news by his old childhood friend, now a detective lieutenant with the LAPD, Joe Nash (Sawyer). Joe tries to put his ol’ buddy under room arrest at the Ambassador Hotel, but reckons without the fact that a bellhop there, Chick Patrick (Stratton), was Wade’s tail-gunner over the Pacific during the war.

Freed, Wade goes to a niterie, Pierre’s, in search of a good time. He thinks he’s found it when he hooks up with the initially reluctant Sally Parker (Knudsen), who seems to be doing her best to be mistaken in a dim light for Lizabeth Scott.

Joe Sawyer (left) as Joe Nash and Walter Sande as MacDonald.

But then the niterie’s star act, Carlotta (Everett), who’s been blackmailing Sally over some letters—“written by my sister,” Sally unconvincingly claims—is gunned down, and Sally, Continue reading

Christmas Eve (1947)

vt Sinner’s Holiday

US / 93 minutes / bw / Miracle, UA Dir: Edwin L. Marin Pr: Benedict Bogeaus Scr: Laurence Stallings Story: Laurence Stallings, Richard H. Landau Cine: Gordon Avil Cast: George Raft, George Brent, Randolph Scott, Joan Blondell, Virginia Field, Dolores Moran, Ann Harding, Reginald Denny, Dennis Hoey, Clarence Kolb, Joe Sawyer, John Litel, Konstantin Shayne, Douglass Dumbrille, Carl Harbord, Molly Lamont, Walter Sande, Claire Whitney.

Xmas Eve - 0 Ann Harding excels as Aunt MatildaAnn Harding excels as Aunt Matilda.

Eccentric elderly NYC spinster Matilda Reed (Harding) has permitted some of her estate to be managed by her nephew Philip Hastings (Denny) but has kept control of the main part. Now, horrified by the amounts she’s been giving to charities, Philip has enlisted the aid of Judge Alston (Kolb) in trying to get her declared unfit to handle her own affairs, so that he might take over the entirety of the estate. And indeed, visiting the old woman with psychiatrist Doremus (Harbord) as ballast, the judge has to admit that “Aunt Matilda”—as she’s universally known—is certainly quite dotty: she attracts pigeons into her dining room to feed them, and uses a sophisticated electric train set to serve meals at the dining table.

Aunt Matilda naturally resents the encroachment, and declares that she’d rather her estate were handled by any one of her three adopted sons—all of whom flew the roost to make their own ways in the world but told her that, if ever she needed them, they’d be there for her. Philip, who knows more about the sons than Aunt Matilda thinks, scoffs at the idea. But the judge agrees that, if she can produce all three sons at the house on Christmas Eve, he’ll believe her claims of mental competency.

In turn we see three episodes about the sons, interspersed with scenes of Aunt Matilda, her redoubtable butler Williams (Hoey), and the gumshoe she hires to assist her search, Gimlet (Sawyer).

Xmas Eve - 2 The intriguing shadow of Harriet (Molly Lamont).

The first son up is playboy Michael Brooke (Brent), who’s seeking to solve the problem of his mounting debts by marrying heiress Harriet Rhodes (Lamont). The problem is that Harriet is one of the causes of those mounting debts: he’s been passing off rubber checks all over town to the tune of $75,000 in order to woo her with jewels and raiment. The other problem is that lovely salt-of-the-earth broad Ann Nelson (Blondell) loves him and wants him, and if truth be told he wants her too. Philip finds Continue reading