X Marks the Spot (1931)

Not that you’ve seen this plot before, but a journo has to prove his innocence of . . . murder!!

US / 69 minutes / bw / Tiffany Dir: Erle C. Kenton Pr: Sam Bischoff Scr: Warren Duff, Gordon Kahn Cine: Gilbert Warrenton Cast: Lew Cody, Sally Blane, Wallace Ford, Mary Nolan, Fred Kohler, Charles Middleton, Virginia Lee Corbin, Joyce Coad, Richard Tucker, Clarence Muse, Helen Parrish.

X Marks the Spot 1931 - 0 opener

Back in September 1923, while working on the Bradford Blade, smartass ambulance-chasing reporter Ted Lloyd (Ford) followed a story about a child having been knocked over in the street to discover that the child in question was his kid sister Gloria (Parrish). At the hospital he learned from the surgeon (uncredited) that Gloria would almost certainly never walk again unless Continue reading

Wall Street Mystery, The (1931)

“Well, there’s nothing mysterious about a killing in Wall Street. I know—I made one myself.”

US / 17 minutes / bw / Vitaphone, Warner Dir: Arthur Hurley Scr: Burnet Hershey Story: S.S. Van Dine Cine: E.B. DuPar Cast: Donald Meek, John Hamilton, Frances Dale, Hobart Cavanaugh.

Wall Street Mystery - 1 The cleaner discovers the corpses

Two stockbrokers, Clive West (uncredited) and his junior partner Edwin Homer (uncredited), are found shot dead in their office one morning by the cleaner (uncredited). Inspector Carr (Hamilton), who’s leading the investigation, decides to call in his old pal, criminologist Dr. Amos Crabtree (Meek), to Continue reading

Hollywood Mystery (1934)

US / 54 minutes / bw / Fanchon Royer, Regal Dir: Breezy Eason Pr: Fanchon Royer Scr: John Thomas Neville Story: William Bloecher Cine: Ernest Miller Cast: June Clyde, Frank Albertson, José Crespo, Tenen Holtz, John Davidson, Stanley Price, Cyril Ring, Edith Terry Preuss, Frances Morris, William H. O’Brien.

Hollywood Mystery 0 opener

Daniel Patrick Ryan (Albertson), usually known as “Dan” or “Danny”, is in charge of PR for Poverty Row studio Supreme Pictures. His boss, Benjamin “Benny” Vogel (Holtz), is in the habit of firing and then rehiring him. The reason he’s being fired today is that he has committed the studio to making a movie called The Racketeer, when everyone knows the public’s tired of gangster movies. Worse still, the director he has lined up for it is the foreign auteur he insisted the studio hire a year ago and who’s done nothing ever since, Siegfried Sonoff (Davidson). It’s a match made in hell. (Why a PR guy should have been doing such things is a bit of a puzzler, but this is a Poverty Row production itself.)

Hollywood Mystery 1 Danny makes his case to Benny

Danny (Frank Albertson) makes his case to Benny.

Dan has an inspiration, and he sells the idea to Sonoff. What about casting a real gangster in the lead role? Sonoff, master of European realism, adores the idea. Benny Continue reading

Murder is News (1937)

Canada, US / 55 minutes / bw / Warwick Dir: Leon Barsha Pr: Kenneth J. Bishop Scr: Edgar Edwards Story: Theodore A. Tinsley Cine: George Meehan Cast: John Gallaudet, Iris Meredith, George McKay, Doris Lloyd, John Hamilton, John G. Spacey, Frank C. Wilson, Colin Kenny, William McIntyre, Fred Bass, Doreen MacGregor.

Tony Peyden (Wilson), trumpeter in the resident band at the Club Saratoga, is the stepson of Edgar Drake (McIntyre), millionaire president of Drake Utilities and a man whose meanness is epitomized in the anecdote of his having tipped a porter a dime for carrying a trunk up sixteen floors.

One evening at the club Tony hears the nightly broadcast of yellow journalist Jerry Tracy (Gallaudet) of the Daily Planet. The latest lubricious story is that tonight Drake is going to sail for the UK on the Princess Anne and that Tony’s mother Pauline (Lloyd) is going to wait until her husband is safely mid-Atlantic before suing for divorce, with the intention of marrying the company’s attorney, David Corning (Hamilton).

Murder is News - 1 Doris Lloyd as the soon-to-be divorcee maintaining her dignity

Doris Lloyd as Pauline Drake, the dignified soon-to-be divorcee.

Distressed at the thought of his mother’s name being dragged through the scandal sheets, Tony agrees with the club’s owner, Fred Hammer (Spacey), that he should take a walk to try to get over his upset; in fact, he phones his mother at the family’s Westchester home and arranges Continue reading

Shriek in the Night, A (1933)

US / 67 minutes / bw / M.H. Hoffman, Allied Dir: Albert Ray Scr: Frances Hyland Story: Kurt Kempler Cine: Harry Neumann, Tom Galligan Cast: Ginger Rogers, Lyle Talbot, Harvey Clark, Purnell Pratt, Lillian Harmer, Arthur Hoyt, Louise Beaver (i.e., Louise Beavers), Clarence Wilson, Maurice Black.

A Shriek in the Night is among the countless B-movies Ginger Rogers made before anyone in mainstream Hollywood seemed to notice her indubitable screen charisma and her talent as a comedy actress. Later on she would show she was perfectly fine in noir and other dramatic roles too, as in STORM WARNING (1951), BEAUTIFUL STRANGER (1954), TIGHT SPOT (1955), and the non-noir Black Widow (1954), to name just a few examples.

One night, shrieking as per the movie’s title, philanthropist Adam Harker falls to his death from—apparently—the roof garden of the Harker Apartments. Inspector Russell (Pratt) arrives to investigate with his bumbling, diffident sidekick Wilfred (Hoyt), and interviews the deceased’s secretary Miss Terry (geddit?)—in fact, undercover Morning News reporter Patricia “Pat” Morgan (Rogers)—and housekeeper Augusta (Harmer).

While Russell’s in another room, Pat takes the opportunity to go through purloined papers of Harker’s and finds a card, posted to him 12 hours earlier, decorated with the picture of a hissing snake and bearing the words, cut and pasted from newspapers, “You Will Hear It!”

She phones this information to a rewrite man at her newspaper, plus the facts that (a) two hours before his death Harker received Continue reading

Young Dynamite (1937)

US / 58 minutes / bw / Conn Dir: Leslie Goodwins Pr: Maurice Conn Scr: Joseph O’Donnell, Stanley Roberts, Arthur Duriam Story: “The New Freedom” (1927, Cosmopolitan; vt “For His Money”) by Peter B. Kyne Cine: John Kline Cast: Frankie Darro, Kane Richmond, Charlotte Henry, William Costello, David Sharpe, Carlton Young (i.e., Carleton Young), Pat Gleason, Frank Austin, Frank Sarasino, Earl Dwire.

The government is clamping down on gold hoarding, and the gang ostensibly headed by Flash Slavin (Costello) is using the situation to mount a racket. When Flash’s sidekicks Butch Barker (Gleason) and Spike Dolan (Young) murder a gold smuggler rather than pay his price, the State Troopers are soon on the case.

New to the Troopers that day is Johnny Shields (Sharpe), to the delight of his sister Jane (Henry) and her fiancé Corporal Tom Marlin (Richmond), another Trooper; Johnny’s kid brother Freddie (Darro) feigns ennui, but is soon running a campaign of his own to catch the crooks.

The next victim of Butch and Spike is Johnny . . . a demise that, bizarrely, appears to affect Freddie, Jane and Tom not at all, for that evening they’re clowning and joking just like always! Obviously, Freddie and Tom eventually snare the bad guys, Jane conveniently disappearing (bridge night, perhaps?) when her presence might hamper events.

The intent is clearly to give the character played by ex-child actor, ex-silents star Darro an appealing irrepressible-trickster quality, but he comes across as merely brattish—and also as far older than the teenager he’s supposed to be (he was 20 by now). Story and screenplay tend toward the clichéd—it’s hardly a surprise when the gang’s real boss proves to be the Shields’s purportedly crippled lodger Endebury (Austin). The dialogue has on occasion a certain naive charm, as when Spike tells elderly simpleton farmer Finnegan (Dwire): “Listen, whiskerpuss, don’t move from this spot or I’ll plug ya!” There’s a fairly depressing lack of ambition on display: the moviemakers seem to have aimed only as high as mediocrity and been perfectly content to fall short of that target. For Henry it was a long way down from such roles as Alice in the all-star Alice in Wonderland (1933).

Author Peter B. Kyne was best known for his The Three Godfathers (1913), which has been adapted for the screen a number of times, most famously as 3 Godfathers (1948) dir John Ford, with John Wayne, Pedro Armendáriz and Harry Carey Jr.


On Amazon.com: Young Dynamite