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

Secret of the Blue Room (1933)

US / 66 minutes / bw / Universal Dir: Kurt Neumann Pr: Carl Laemmle Jr. Scr: William Hurlbut Story: Geheimnis des Blauen Zimmers (1932 screenplay) by Erich Philippi Cine: Charles Stumar Cast: Lionel Atwill, Gloria Stuart, Paul Lukas, Edward Arnold, Onslow Stevens, William Janney, Robert Barrat, Muriel Kirkland, Russell Hopton, Elizabeth Patterson, Anders Van Haden, James Durkin.

The first of three Hollywood remakes of a German movie, Geheimnis des Blauen Zimmers (1932), its two successors being The Missing Guest (1938) and Murder in the Blue Room (1944), ‎ this is introduced by the haunting sounds of Tchaikovsky’s main theme from Swan Lake.

Gloria Stuart as Irene.

In a stately pile somewhere, Irene von Helldorf (Stuart) is sitting up late to celebrate the first few hours of her 21st birthday with father Robert (Atwill) and the three men who seek her hand. Conversation turns to the mansion’s quondam guest room, the Blue Room, no longer used since, twenty years ago, three people died in it in (a) quick succession and (b) inexplicable circumstances, the door being locked from the inside.

Lionel Atwill as paterfamilias Robert.

To impress Irene with his manly courage and belie his extraordinary drippiness Continue reading

All That I Have (1951)

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Courtroom drama as an elderly doctor goes on trial for generosity!
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US / 62 minutes / bw / Family, Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), Presbyterian Church in the USA Dir: William F. Claxton Scr: Charles Francis Royal, Herman W. Gockel Idea: Leete Renick Brown Cine: Joseph Biroc Cast: Houseley Stevenson Sr., Donald Woods, Onslow Stevens, Robert Stevenson, John Eldredge, Tom Neal, Paul Cavanaugh, Russell Hicks, Alan Bridges, Effie Laird, Joe Devlin, Esther Howard, Houseley Stevenson Jr., Chester Clute, Tim Ryan, James Lloyd, Emory Parnell, Franklin Parker, James Guilfoyle, Clark Howat, George Pembroke, Lee Phelps.

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A genuine curio: a courtroom drama made by and for the Presbyterian Church in the USA. Even more curious, there’s quite a lot to like about it. Unfortunately, most of those likeable bits happen in the first half, with the second half being more of a challenge (at least to this incorrigible rationalist).

The premise is that genial elderly Dr. Charles “Charlie” Grayson (Houseley Stevenson Sr.) decided a while ago to start giving some of his accumulated wealth to people in need and to the church. His nephews Bert (Neal) and Ken (Houseley Stevenson Jr.) have brought a court case on the grounds that he must be mentally incompetent, and should be 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.

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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