Behind the Mask (1932)

US / 68 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: John Francis Dillon Pr: Harry Cohn Scr: Jo Swerling, Dorothy Howell Story: “In the Secret Service” (unpublished) by Jo Swerling Cine: Teddy Tetzlaff Cast: Jack Holt, Constance Cummings, Boris Karloff, Claude King, Bertha Mann, Edward Van Sloan, Willard Robertson, Tommy Jackson.

A few weeks ago I posted here about the 1946 movie Behind the Mask, which is one of the dire Monogram series featuring the pulps character The Shadow. I thought it might be interesting to check out its 1932 namesake, especially since it doesn’t feature The Shadow (although the arch-villain is at one point referred to as “a phantom, a shadow”!). My interest was further piqued when I was reminded that the cast includes Constance Cummings and Boris Karloff.

Jack Holt as ‘Quinn’ (left) and Boris Karloff as Henderson

The initial premise is familiar to anyone who watches too many old crime movies. A Secret Service agent, Jack Hart (Holt), is incarcerated in Sing Sing under a nom de guerre, Quinn, in order to ingratiate himself with another prisoner, Jim Henderson (Karloff), who’s known to be part of a major drug-running ring. The ruse works: Henderson is keen the two work together after their release and, when Quinn proposes to bust out of jail on his own, gives him an address where he’ll be “looked after.”

Constance Cummings as Julie

So Quinn fakes a breakout and a police chase, and ends up at a house occupied by senior gang member Arnold (King) and Arnold’s unwitting daughter Julie (Cummings), plus a housekeeper/nurse placed there by the gang’s mysterious leader to spy on them, Edwards (Mann). Continue reading

Millie (1931)

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Helen Twelvetrees in a melodrama for the ages!
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US / 85 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: John Francis Dillon Pr: Chas. R. Rogers Scr: Chas. Kenyon, Ralph Murphy (i.e., Ralph Morgan) Story: Millie (1930) by Donald Henderson Clarke Cine: Ernest Haller Cast: Helen Twelvetrees, Lilyan Tashman, Robert Ames, James Hall, John Halliday, Joan Blondell, Anita Louise, Edmund Breese, Frank McHugh, Charlotte Walker, Franklin Parker, Charles Delaney, Harry Stubbs, Louise Beavers, Harvey Clark, Aggie Herring, Geneva Mitchell, Hooper Atchley, Lillian Harmer.

Willows University student Jack Maitland (Hall) captures the heart of poor but lovely redhead Millicent “Millie” Blake (Twelvetrees) and persuades her to elope with him. Three years later they’re installed in a luxury New York apartment with Jack’s mother (Walker) and the couple’s infant daughter Connie (uncredited). In theory Millie should be content that she has all the good things in life, but in reality Jack is neglecting her—being frequently away “on business”—and she’s much of the time forced to relinquish her child to the cares of a governess (Harmer). So she’s delighted when one day, out of the blue, she gets a phone call from her childhood friend Angie Wickerstaff (Blondell).

Angie (Joan Blondell) and Helen (Lilyan Tashman) are cutting corners.

Angie has come to NYC to live with her pal Helen Reilly (Tashman), and suggests the three of them meet up at a local café; what she doesn’t mention on the phone is that Continue reading

I’d Give My Life (1936)

vt The Noose
US / 80 minutes / bw / Astor, Paramount Dir: Edwin L. Marin Pr: Richard A. Rowland Scr: George O’Neil, Ben Ryan Story: The Noose (1926 play) by H.H. Van Loan and Willard Mack Cine: Ira Morgan Cast: Sir Guy Standing, Frances Drake, Tom Brown, Janet Beecher, Robert Gleckler, Helen Lowell, Paul Hurst, Charles C. Wilson, Charles Richman, Tom Jackson, Charles Judels, Robert Elliott.

I'd Give My Life - 0 opener

This movie is a remake of the silent The Noose (1928) dir John Francis Dillon, with Richard Barthelmess (who received an Oscar nomination for his role), Thelma Todd, Montagu Love and Robert E. O’Connor. Both movies were based on the play The Noose (1926), which was of especial significance in that its Broadway director and co-author Willard Mack took a gamble on casting a young chorus girl called Ruby Stevens in the role of romantic lead. Ruby Stevens soon adopted a new professional name: Barbara Stanwyck.

Orphan Nickie Elkins (Brown) and chanteuse Mary Reyburn (Drake), who both work at the niterie Club Gordon, are very much in love; Nickie hopes to be an airline pilot one day and thereby able to keep Mary in the manner she deserves. A chance encounter at an airport introduces him to Stella Bancroft (Beecher), the wife of the state governor, and the two immediately take a liking to each other—he regarding her as a “swell lady” while clearly sparking off the maternal instinct in her.

I'd Give My Life - 1 Nickie & Mary

Nickie (Tom Brown) and Mary (Frances Drake), very much in love.

Meanwhile, recently elected Governor John Bancroft (Standing)—Stella’s husband—has been telling the press that all his pre-election talk of cleaning up the state and ousting the racketeers has not been just so much hot air: he really intends to come through on his promises. The reporters, as they leave, are disconcerted to recognize Buck Gordon (Gleckler), the dirtiest crook in the state, waiting to meet with the Governor. At that meeting, Continue reading