Affairs of a Gentleman (1934)

US / 65 minutes / bw / Universal Dir: Edwin L. Marin Pr: Carl Laemmle Jr Scr: Cyril Hume, Peter Ruric, Milton Krims Story: Women (1928 play; vt The Women in His Life) by Edith & Edward Ellis Cine: John J. Mescall Cast: Paul Lukas, Leila Hyams, Patricia Ellis, Phillip Reed, Dorothy Burgess, Onslow Stevens, Murray Kinnell, Lilian Bond, Joyce Compton, Sara Haden, Dorothy Libaire, Richard Carle, Charles Wilson, Wilfred Hari, Gregory Gaye, Marcia Remy

An interesting Pre-Code B-feature that’s often listed as a comedy mystery even though it isn’t: it has a few humorous moments, mainly thanks to snappy dialogue inherited from its stage original, but the overwhelming mood is one of impending tragedy.

Victor Gresham (Lukas) is a bestselling novelist and an obsessive roue. It’s not hard to work out where he gets the inspiration for each new smutty novel, as his publisher, Paul Q. Bindar (Carle), explains to the sales reps:

“You must continue to play on Gresham’s personal life to the press. Victor Gresham, one of his own heroes. Every book represents a woman in his past, and every woman in his present means a book in his future.”

(With over eighty books to my own credit, Continue reading

Witness Chair, The (1936)

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Inverted twist!
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US / 64 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: George Nicholls Jr Scr: Rian James, Gertrude Purcell Story: Rita Weiman Cine: Robert de Grasse Cast: Ann Harding, Walter Abel, Douglass Dumbrille, Frances Sage, Moroni Olsen, Margaret Hamilton, Maxine Jennings, William Benedict, Paul Harvey, Murray Kinnell, Charles Arnt, Frank Jenks, Hilda Vaughn, Barlowe Borland, Fred Kelsey, Edward LeSaint.

There’s no way to discuss this very interesting B-movie intelligently without committing a major spoiler, so, if you’re one of those for whom spoilers are anathema, stop reading now.

Do be aware, though, that knowledge of the plot isn’t going to undermine your enjoyment of the movie in any way. While The Witness Chair is presented to us as a murder mystery/courtroom drama, in a sense it doesn’t really fit the bill as either. The movie has sufficient riches Continue reading

Secret Six, The (1931)

US / 83 minutes / bw / George Hill–Cosmopolitan, MGM Dir & Pr: George Hill Scr: Frances Marion Cine: Harold Wenstrom Cast: Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone, John Mack Brown, Jean Harlow, Marjorie Rambeau, Paul Hurst, Clark Gable, Ralph Bellamy, John Miljan, DeWitt Jennings, Murray Kinnell, Fletcher Norton, Louis Natheaux, Frank McGlynn, Theodore von Eltz, Oscar Rudolph.

It’s the Prohibition era in the city of Centro. Meat worker Louis/Louie “Slaughterhouse” Scorpio (Beery) is tempted by his friends Johnny Franks (Bellamy) and Nick “The Gouger” Mizoski (Hurst) to join them in a minor crime for bootlegger and shyster Richard “Newt” Newton (Stone). Soon Scorpio is a regular fixture in the gang. When an attempt to start muscling in on the turf of bootlegger Smiling Joe Colimo (Miljan) turns into a gunfight between Newton’s men and a bunch of Colimo’s thugs, led by Eddie (Natheaux), Franks unwittingly shoots dead Colimo’s baby-faced kid brother Ivan (Rudolph) and, when Colimo comes seeking revenge, blames Scorpio. Colimo’s goons go after Scorpio, but he’s not seriously injured and, intuiting that Franks set him up, murders him. Newton, seeing promise in Scorpio’s brutality and stupidity, gets him acquitted of the crime and sets him up as a front man.

Secret Six - see caption 1

Reporters Hank Rogers (John Mack Brown, right) & Carl Luckner (Clark Gable) phone in stories of Franks’s death.

Scorpio manages to have The Gouger elected mayor of Centro, then has his henchman “Dummy” Metz (Kinnell)—so nicknamed because he’s a mute—murder Colimo and a couple of his sidekicks using Scorpio’s very own rod; Scorpio does, however, recruit Colimo’s enforcer Eddie to his cause.

Secret Six - Anne [Jean Harlow]

Jean Harlow as the floozy-with-a-heart-of-gold Anne Courtland.

All this while two rival journalists, Carl Luckner (Gable) and Hank Rogers (Brown), have been circling Scorpio’s mob. Scorpio has persuaded floozy Anne Courtland (Harlow) into using her feminine wiles to persuade Hank to Continue reading