Hollywood Mystery (1934)

US / 54 minutes / bw / Fanchon Royer, Regal Dir: Breezy Eason Pr: Fanchon Royer Scr: John Thomas Neville Story: William Bloecher Cine: Ernest Miller Cast: June Clyde, Frank Albertson, José Crespo, Tenen Holtz, John Davidson, Stanley Price, Cyril Ring, Edith Terry Preuss, Frances Morris, William H. O’Brien.

Hollywood Mystery 0 opener

Daniel Patrick Ryan (Albertson), usually known as “Dan” or “Danny”, is in charge of PR for Poverty Row studio Supreme Pictures. His boss, Benjamin “Benny” Vogel (Holtz), is in the habit of firing and then rehiring him. The reason he’s being fired today is that he has committed the studio to making a movie called The Racketeer, when everyone knows the public’s tired of gangster movies. Worse still, the director he has lined up for it is the foreign auteur he insisted the studio hire a year ago and who’s done nothing ever since, Siegfried Sonoff (Davidson). It’s a match made in hell. (Why a PR guy should have been doing such things is a bit of a puzzler, but this is a Poverty Row production itself.)

Hollywood Mystery 1 Danny makes his case to Benny

Danny (Frank Albertson) makes his case to Benny.

Dan has an inspiration, and he sells the idea to Sonoff. What about casting a real gangster in the lead role? Sonoff, master of European realism, adores the idea. Benny Continue reading

Behind the Green Lights (1935)

US / 69 minutes / bw / Mascot Dir: Christy Cabanne Pr: Nat Levine, Colbert Clark Scr: James Gruen, Colbert Clark Story (supposedly): Behind the Green Lights (1931 memoir) by Captain Cornelius W. Willemse Cine: Ernest Miller, Jack Marta Cast: Norman Foster, Judith Allen, Purnell Pratt, Sidney Blackmer, Theodore von Eltz, Kenneth Thomson, Edward Gargan, Ford Sterling, John Davidson, Jane Meredith, J. Carrol Naish, John Ince.

This movie owes virtually nothing to its stated source, the memoir of NYPD cop Willemse, in which he happily justified the use by the department of techniques such as torture (“the third degree”) to extract confessions from suspects; he argued that this was reasonable procedure because it was only rarely that the innocent suffered. Torquemada used a similar line of reasoning.

The subtext of the movie is that, while 95% of lawyers are just fine, upstanding citizens, the rest are a bunch of shysters. Of one of these NYPD Lieutenant Jim Kennedy (Pratt) tells his lawyer daughter Mary (Allen) at a late stage in the movie, “He’s worse than a murderer, for he springs open the cage that lets these vultures loose on the world.” Unfortunately, the shyster Jim’s talking about is Raymond Cortell (Blackmer), who just happens to be Mary’s boss.

Behind the Green Lights

“I’ll marry you any time,” Mary tells Dave, but they reckon without her shyster boss.

The story seems often to have been written by a 12-year-old. Top-hatted louche Charles T. “Ritzy” Conrad (Thomaon) is brought into the precinct on a drunk and disorderly charge. Gem dealer John C. Owen (von Eltz) arrives on the scene to bail his supposed employee out. As this is happening, Detective Dave Britten (Foster) is, in another part of town, interviewing rich saucy widow Mrs. Gorham (Meredith) about an attempted robbery of her jewelry by a man she picked up, who hit her over the head with a quart whiskey bottle and made his escape. Dave realizes how well the description matches Conrad, a known thief whose m.o. includes the trick of creating a false alibi by getting picked up by the cops on a minor charge.

So far so good, as far as the plotting’s concerned, but this audience euphoria won’t last long. Smarmy shyster Raymond Cortell takes on the defense and Continue reading