The Bad Sister (1931)

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Well, baddish . . .
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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

Suspense (1913)

US / 10 minutes / bw / Rex Dir: Lois Weber, Phillips Smalley Scr: Lois Weber Story: Au Téléphone (1902 play; vt At the Telephone) by André de Lorde Cast: Lois Weber, Valentine Paul, Douglas Gerard, Sam Kaufman, Lule Warrenton.

suspense-1913-0

A short but—just as it says on the label—surprisingly suspenseful silent movie.

Mamie the maid (Warrenton) walks out on her job because she’s fed up of living in the middle of nowhere. She leaves behind her employer, the Wife (Weber), and the Wife’s small baby; the Wife’s Husband (Paul) is at work—at a guess he’s a banker. Finding Mamie gone, the Wife gets a bit nervous, especially when she looks out the window and discovers that a sinister-looking Tramp (Kaufman) has approached the house and seems intent on Continue reading

Thirteenth Guest, The (1932)

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How many of the long-ago guests is the killer prepared to kill?
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US / 69 minutes / bw / M.H. Hoffman, Monogram Dir: Albert Ray Pr: M.H. Hoffman Scr: Frances Hyland Story: The Thirteenth Guest (1929) by Armitage Trail Cine: Harry Neumann, Tom Galligan Cast: Ginger Rogers, Lyle Talbot, J. Farrell MacDonald, Paul Hurst, Erville Alderson, Ethel Wales, James Eagles, Craufurd Kent (i.e., Crauford Kent), Eddie Phillips, Frances Rich, Phillips Smalley, Harry Tenbrook, Robert Klein, Adrienne Dore, William B. Davidson.

Thirteenth Guest - 0a opener aThirteenth Guest - 0b

Naturally I discussed here on Noirish the remake of this movie—Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943) dir William Beaudine, with Helen Parrish, Dick Purcell, Tim Ryan et al.—before I got round to tackling the original. Ça va.

The plots of the two movies are virtually identical, so I’ll just go for a quick account here.

Thirteenth Guest - shadows 3

On her 21st birthday Marie Morgan (Rogers) arrives at the old Morgan home for an appointment with family lawyer John Barksdale (Klein). Although the place is dilapidated, phone and electricity have been installed. She bears a letter from her long-deceased grandpa containing the enigmatic instruction “13—13—13.” Yes, 13 years ago the family gathered here around a table at which the 13th chair was empty. Soon after, Grandpa died, leaving almost all of his fortune to the eight-year-old Marie. And now she’s due to inherit.

Thirteenth Guest - 6 Ginger Rogers as Marie

Ginger Rogers as Marie.

There’s a noise.

She goes to look.

A shot rings out.

There’s a scream.

Some while later the cops arrive in the form of Continue reading

Midnight Warning (1932)

vt Eyes of Mystery
US / 63 minutes / bw / Mayfair Dir: Spencer Gordon Bennett (i.e., Spencer Gordon Bennet) Pr: George W. Weeks Scr: John Thomas Neville Story: Norman Battle Cine: Jules Cronjager Cast: William Boyd, Claudia Dell, Huntley Gordon, John Harron, Hooper Atchley, Lloyd Whitlock, Phillips Smalley, Lloyd Ingraham, Henry Hall, Lon Poff.

Midnight Warning - 0 opener

In town for a medical convention, prominent New York nerve specialist Dr. Steven “Steve” Walcott (Atchley) stays at the Clarendon Arms. He’s visited in Apartment A there by his old friend William “Bill” Cornish (Boyd), a senior investigator in some official capacity (it’s never spelled out exactly what). Cornish has discovered a charred human earbone in the room’s fireplace. While they’re chatting about this curio and other matters, Walcott stands at the window trying out a pair of astonishing spectacles Cornish owns ‑‑ these optical marvels have the power of binoculars!

Suddenly he collapses in a heap. Cornish phones for the hotel management, who Continue reading