Behind the Mask (1946)

US / 68 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Phil Karlson, possibly augmented on bad days by William Beaudine Pr: Joe Kaufmann Scr: George Callahan Story: Arthur Hoerl, based on characters created by Walter B. Gibson and stories in Shadow Magazine Cine: William Sickner Cast: Kane Richmond, Barbara Reed (i.e., Barbara Read), George Chandler, Dorothea Kent, Joseph Crehan, Pierre Watkin, Robert Shayne, June Clyde, James Cardwell, Marjorie Hoshelle, Joyce Compton, Ed Gargan, Lou Crosby, Bill Christy, Nancy Brinckman, Dewey Robinson, Jean Carlin, Laura Stevens.

Kane Richmond as Lamont and Barbara Read as Margo

In the second of Monogram’s three installments of Shadow chronicles—the first was The Shadow Returns (1946)—the “humor” has been allowed to swallow up entirely any elements of suspense that might have been there.

On the eve of the marriage between Lamont (Richmond) and his secretary, Margo (Read), someone impersonating The Shadow knocks off blackmailing journalist Jeff “Man About Town” Mann of the Daily Bulletin (Cardwell) and—for no apparent reason—a Continue reading

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Exposed (1947)

US / 59 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: George Blair Assoc Pr: William J. O’Sullivan Scr: Royal K. Cole, Charles Moran Story: Charles Moran Cine: William Bradford Cast: Adele Mara, Robert Scott (i.e., Mark Roberts), Adrian Booth (i.e., Lorna Gray), Robert Armstrong, William Haade, Bob Steele, Harry Shannon, Charles Evans, Joyce Compton, Russell Hicks, Paul E. Burns, Colin Campbell, Edward Gargan, Mary Gordon, Patricia Knox.

Adele Mara as Belinda.

Not long after a goon called Chicago (Steele) tries to abduct her from her normal lunchtime eaterie, PI Belinda Prentice (Mara) is hired by a businessman, Colonel William K. Bentry (Hicks), to investigate his stepson and heir, William “Bill” Foresman III (Scott), who has been behaving unusually—notably by making unexplained withdrawals from company funds.

William Haade as Iggy.

Before Belinda—aided by hunky sidekick Iggy (Haade)—has properly gotten her investigation underway, the Colonel is found dead with a letter opener stuck in his chest. It’s soon revealed that the letter opener is a red herring: he was in the habit of Continue reading

Unholy Love (1932)

vt Deceit
US / 75 minutes / bw / Albert Ray, Allied Dir: Albert Ray Pr: M.H. Hoffman Scr: Frances Hyland Story: Madame Bovary (1856) by Gustave Flaubert Cine: Harry Neumann, Tom Galligan Cast: H.B. Warner, Lila Lee, Joyce Compton, Ivan Lebedeff, Beryl Mercer, Jason Robards Sr., Lysle Talbot (i.e., Lyle Talbot), Kathlyn Williams, Richard Carlyle, Frances Rich.

Unholy Love - 0 opener

Late one night, stately old Dr. Daniel “Dan” Gregory (Warner) arrives at the cottage where elderly gardener A. “Brownie” Bailey (Carlyle) is dying. Brownie is really the patient of Dan’s doctor son Jerome Preston “Jerry” Gregory (Talbot), but Jerry has for some reason chickened out on treating him, instead concentrating on comforting Brownie’s lovely daughter Sheila (Compton). Brownie soon dies and, before Dan leaves, Jerry drops a bombshell: he and Sheila have secretly married.

Unholy Love - 1 Jerry and Dan argue about Jerry's marriage to Sheila

 Jerry (Lyle Talbot) and Dan (H.B. Warner) argue about Jerry’s marriage to Sheila.

Unholy Love - 2 Sheila shows little distress over her father's death

Sheila (Joyce Compton) shows little distress over her father’s death.

Dan goes straight to the home of his old friend Mrs. Mary Bradford (Williams) and breaks to her the news of Jerry’s marriage. The two elderly people are distressed together, because it’s long been assumed that Jerry will marry Mary’s daughter Jane (Lee), who loves him dearly. The worst of it, they agree, is that Continue reading

Blues in the Night (1941)

US / 88 minutes / bw / Warner–First National Dir: Anatole Litvak Scr: Robert Rossen, Elia Kazan (uncredited) Story: Hot Nocturne (unproduced play) by Edwin Gilbert Cine: Ernie Haller Cast: Priscilla Lane, Betty Field, Richard Whorf, Lloyd Nolan, Jack Carson, Wally Ford, Elia Kazan, Peter Whitney, Billy Halop, Howard Da Silva, Joyce Compton, Herbert Heywood, George Lloyd, Charles Wilson, Matt McHugh, William Gillespie, Jimmie Lunceford and His Band, Will Osborne and His Band, Mabel Todd, Ernest Whitman, Napoleon Simpson, Dudley Dickerson.

Blues in the Night - 0 Ernest Whitman & Napoleon Simpson

Ernest Whitman and Napoleon Simpson.

Brilliant jazz pianist Jigger Pine (Whorf) and drummer Peppi (Halop) are rocking the joint at the St. Louis Cafe, egged on by their clarinetist fan and would-be band member Nickie Haroyan (Kazan). Jigger gets into a fight with an obstreperous drunk (McHugh) and the trio end up in a cell for a few hours while Nickie’s mom arranges bail. There they meet Jigger’s old bassist pal Pete Bossett (Whitney) and Jigger spells out his vision to the other three:

“You think I never thought about starting a band before? I thought about it lots of times. I’m always thinking about it. But it’s got to be our kind of music. Our kind of band. The songs we’ve heard when we’ve been knocking around this country. Blues, real blues, the kind that come out of people, real people, their hopes and their dreams, what they’ve got and what they want, the whole USA in one chorus. . . . And that band ain’t just kinda blowin’ and poundin’ and scrapin’. That’s five guys, no more, who feel, play, live, even think the same way. That ain’t a band, it’s a unit. It’s one guy multiplied five times. It’s a unit that even breathes on the same beat. It’s gonna kick on its own in a style that’s theirs and nobody else’s. It’s like a hand in a glove, five fingers, each to fit quick and slick.”

Blues in the Night - 1 Nickie calls Mom to bail them out

Nickie (Elia Kazan) calls Mom to bail out him and his pals (Whorf and Halop).

And there are quirks in the reification of this dream, at least as portrayed in this movie. The four in that jail cell form Jigger’s “unit” all right—adding trumpeter Leo Powell (Carson) and his wife, singer Ginger “Character” Powell (Lane), along the way—but Continue reading

HALLOWEEN DOUBLE BILL: Who Killed Aunt Maggie? (1940) and The Girl who Dared (1944)

These two Old Dark House melodramas were based on novels by Medora Field, a novelist of whom I knew nothing until recently, when Curtis Evans of The Passing Tramp posted an essay about her. She was a friend of Margaret Mitchell (who encouraged her to write) and produced just the two novels. Before the end of this year (2014) the two are to be reissued as a double volume by Coachwhip, with an introduction by Evans. For more, see his piece at The Passing Tramp.

UPDATE: Evans has just announced that the two novels are now indeed back in print — as individual volumes, it appears, rather than a double volume. Go check out the covers and other details Right Now.

Aunt Maggie - 0 opener

Who Killed Aunt Maggie? (1940)

US / 70(?) minutes / bw / Republic Dir: Arthur Lubin Scr: Stuart Palmer, Frank Gill Jr, Hal Fimberg Story: Who Killed Aunt Maggie? (1939) by Medora Field Cine: Reggie Lanning Cast: John Hubbard, Wendy Barrie, Edgar Kennedy, Elizabeth Patterson, Onslow Stevens, Joyce Compton, Walter Abel, Mona Barrie, Willie Best, Daisy Lee Mothershed, Milton Parsons.

Kirk Pierce (Hubbard) runs a company that produces radio shows for advertisers to endorse. The latest demo he’s listening to is The House with the Secret Room by Sally Ambler (Wendy Barrie), and Continue reading