The Bad Sister (1931)

Well, baddish . . .

US / 65 minutes / bw / Universal Dir: Hobart Henley Pr: Carl Laemmle Jr Scr: Edwin Knopf, Tom Reed, Raymond L. Schrock Story: The Flirt (1913) by Booth Tarkington Cine: Karl Freund Cast: Conrad Nagel, Sidney Fox, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Charles Winninger, Emma Dunn, ZaSu Pitts, “Slim” Summerville, Bert Roach, David Durand, Helene Chadwick.

This was the third time Booth Tarkington’s novel The Flirt had been brought to the screen—the precursors had been

  • The Flirt (1916) dir Phillips Smalley, with Lois Weber, Marie Walcamp, Grace Benham and Juan de la Cruz, and
  • The Flirt (1922) dir Hobart Henley (who also directed The Bad Sister), with Eileen Percy, Helen Jerome Eddy and Lloyd Whitlock.

The movie has many great strengths and a few weaknesses, but really The Bad Sister is one of those pieces whose significance goes far beyond the artistic creation itself. Here we have the first screen role for Bette Davis and an early screen role for Humphrey Bogart, and it could so easily have been the last screen role for both. It was also the first screen role for poor Sidney Fox, the Star Who Never Was.

Sidney Fox as Marianne.

In Council City, Ohio, realtor John Madison (Winninger) is respected throughout the community as a man of utmost probity. With his wife (Dunn) he has raised three daughters: Amy (Chadwick), now married to plumber Sam (Summerville), vivacious, “highly strung” Marianne (Fox) and the drabber Laura (Davis). Much younger is son Hedrick (Durand). Rounding out the household is the long-suffering maid, Minnie (Pitts).

Although her parents cannot see this, Marianne is a Continue reading

Miss V from Moscow (1942)

US / 66 minutes / bw / M&H, PRC Dir: Albert Herman Pr: George Merrick Scr: Arthur St. Clair, Sherman Lowe Cine: Marcel Le Picard Cast: Lola Lane, Noel Madison, Howard Banks, Paul Weigle (i.e., Paul Weigel), John Vosper, Anna Demetrio, William Vaughn (i.e., Wilhelm von Brincken), Juan de la Cruz, Kathryn Sheldon, Victor Kendell, Richard Kipling.

A wartime propaganda piece, its screenplay clumsily thrown together even by PRC standards, aiming to demonstrate that, although our Red allies might have the nasty habit of calling us lickspittle running-dog lackeys of imperialism, they’re good guys (and gals) really.

Prominent Nazi operative Greta Hiller has come to an untimely end, a fact not yet generally known. Comrade Vera Morova (Lane) of Soviet counterespionage, who bears a strong resemblance to the deceased, is sent by a commissar (uncredited)—whose Russian accent battles unsuccessfully with a New Joisey substrate—to take Hiller’s place and worm secrets out of the Nazi hierarchy in occupied France. To aid her in establishing her credentials among other secret Soviet operatives and the French underground, she’s given a rigged two-franc coin whose two halves can be screwed open to reveal a secret message within.

Nazi fervor as Cap Heinrick (John Vosper) and “Greta Hiller” (Lola Lane) watch der Fuehrer rant.

Her first contact in Paris, the elderly painter Devallier (Weigel), gives her a cigarette case and then promptly betrays her to the Nazis—or does he? She’s marched into Continue reading