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

Passport to Hell, A (1932)

vt Burnt Offering
US / 76 minutes / bw / Fox Dir: Frank Lloyd Scr: Bradley King, Leon Gordon Story: “Burnt Offering” (seemingly unpublished) by Harry Hervey Cine: John Seitz Cast: Elissa Landi, Paul Lukas, Warner Oland, Alexander Kirkland, Donald Crisp, Yola d’Avril, Ivan Simpson, Eva Dennison, Anders Van Hayden, John Lester Johnson, Vera Morrison.

Passport to Hell - 0 opener

On the eve of WWI, Myra Carson (Landi) is deported from Akkra/Accra, in British West Africa, to Duala/Douala, in the Kamerun/Cameroon—part of German West Africa. A gambling-addicted UK national has apparently committed suicide over her, the last straw for the straitlaced UK military authorities, who’ve been itching for an excuse to expel her—after all, was she not named as co-respondent in a London scandal, and has she not been bouncing from one country to another ever since, giving her occupation always as “oh, just traveling”? The officer (uncredited) in charge of kicking her out clearly relishes his task; the young man who supervises her departure, Lieutenant Enright (uncredited), equally clearly reckons she’s been given a bum deal—although it’s hard for us to work out quite what he means by a remark to the effect that she’s been kind to a lot of the lads.

Once Myra’s ship arrives off Duala, there’s passport authorization to go through. Baron von Sydow (Oland), Commander of the German Colonial Military Police, has decreed that Continue reading