Midnight Intruder (1938)

US / 67 minutes / bw / Universal Dir: Arthur Lubin Scr: George Waggner, Lester Cole Story: Synthetic Gentleman (1934) by Channing Pollock Cine: Milton Krasner Cast: Louis Hayward, Eric Linden, J.C. Nugent, Barbara Read, Irving Bacon, Robert Greig, Pierre Watkin, Sheila Bromley, Paul Everton, Nana Bryant, Joe Crehan, Selmer Jackson, Jan Duggan, Polly Bailey, Aileen Carlyle, Guy Usher, Fay Helm, Eric Wilton, Matty Fain.

Midnight Intruder 1938 - 0 opener

Near-grifters Barry Gilbert (Hayward) and his elderly chum Doc Norton (Nugent), having been cleaned out at the races, hitch a ride to Belmont, New York State, where Barry’s convinced he can get a job, even if it’s only flipping burgers—after all, he’s had jobs before, as a journalist, an actor, a . . . The pair get a lift in the back of a truck, but when the driver turns off they have to climb out—in the middle of both the night and a rainstorm. The dialogue says they’re in Westchester; a bit of documentary evidence onscreen suggests Pleasantville. They creep up to a deserted house, break in, and prepare for a night of comfort before hitting the road again.

Midnight Intruder 1938 - 1 Barry begins to get used to the luxury lifeBarry (Louis Hayward) begins to get used to the life of luxury.

But just then Continue reading

Lady at Midnight (1948)

US / 62 minutes / bw / John Sutherland Dir: Sherman Scott (i.e., Sam Newfield) Pr: John Sutherland Scr: Richard Sale Cine: Jack Greenhalgh Cast: Richard Denning, Frances Rafferty, Lora Lee Michel, Ralph Dunn, Nana Bryant, Jack Searle, Harlan Warde, Claudia Drake, Ben Welden, Sid Melton, Pierre Watkin, William Gould, Rodney Bell.

One night Ellen Eve Wiggins née McPhail (Rafferty) is woken by a neighbor’s dog barking, then hears footsteps in the hall; after some effort she persuades radio newscaster husband Peter (Denning) that they should go check their insufferably cute infant adopted daughter Bettina “Tina” (Michel). Tina tells them she was visited by a sad-looking lady who talked about the fact of Tina’s adoption. The parents think Tina just had a dream.

Next day they’re called to see John Featherstone (Watkin) of the adoption agency, who informs them he suspects the legality of the adoption may be challenged on the grounds that Ellen could possible have been underage when the documents were signed.

After Pete and Ellen discover the mysterious midnight visitor was oil heiress Amanda “Mandy” Forsythe, found murdered the next morning, Pete hires PI Al Garrity (Dunn), an addict of horserace betting, to help sort things out. It proves Tina’s mother was not showgirl Carolyn Sugar (Drake), as stated on the adoption papers, but the murdered Amanda, who changed her will a few days before her death to make Tina her sole beneficiary. It seems the chief architect of the fraudulent attempt to have Tina’s adoption annulled is Amanda’s punk brother Freddy (Searle) . . . except he, though he hardly realizes it, is really the puppet of the shared Wiggins and Forsythe family lawyer Ross Atherton (Warde).

Lady at Midnight 1948 The cops question Peter (Richare Denning) and Ellen Wiggins (Frances Rafferty)

The cops question Peter (Richare Denning) and Ellen Wiggins (Frances Rafferty).

Despite the potentially cloying scenes where moppet Tina and wrinkled Al declare undying love for each other, this is a surprisingly entertaining movie. One oddity is that the adult Wigginses seem prepared to leave Tina unsupervised for considerable periods of time—periods during which she indulges her passion for baking cookies in the family’s gas stove; one can’t help feeling that, if Freddy failed to negate the adoption on his original premise, he might more successfully pursue a charge along the lines of reckless neglect.

Some of the dialogue is underinspired:

Ellen: Is something wrong?
Al: Let’s say something isn’t right.

On Amazon.com: Lady At Midnight