Illegal (1932)

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Are there no bounds to a mother’s love?
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UK / 71 minutes / bw / Warner Bros. First National Dir: William McGann Pr & Story: Irving Asher Scr: Roland Pertwee Cine: Willard Van Enger Cast: Isobel Elsom, Ivor Barnard, D.E. Clarke-Smith (i.e., D.A. Clarke-Smith), Margot Grahame, Moira Lynd, Edgar Norfolk, Wally Patch, Margaret Damer, Joy Chatwin, Victor Fairley, Arthur Goullet, J. Lauriston, H. Heath, Hamilton Keene, Leo Raine.

Evelyn Dean (Elsom) has two small daughters, Ann and Dorothy (both uncredited), from her first marriage and a second husband, Franklyn (Clarke-Smith), who knocks her around and has spent all her savings on booze and the geegees. Now, emboldened by her loyal friend and neighbor Albert (Barnard), a waiter at a nearby nightclub, Evelyn has decided it’s time to throw Franklyn out—and throw him out she does, even giving him a one-way ticket she’s bought him for Cape Town:

Evelyn: “I haven’t much pride left, but I’d rather my children didn’t have the disgrace of a stepfather in jail.”

So off he goes.

Evelyn (Isobel Elsom) explains her problems to Albert (Ivor Barnard).

A few hours earlier, though, she paid off Franklyn’s bookie (Patch) with the last of her money, and the good-natured fellow told her he’d put the money on a horse, Scarecrow, running that day; any winnings beyond what Franklyn owed would be hers. And, sure enough, Scarecrow wins—and so does she: to the princely tune of £180!

Evelyn’s two daughters (both uncredited), for whom she’d sacrifice everything.

That’s enough for her to buy and renovate the niterie where Albert has been working but which has now closed down—because, Albert avers, its damnfool owners stuck to the law on gambling and after-hours drinking. Soon The Scarecrow, as Evelyn renames the club, is Continue reading

Shadows on the Stairs (1941)

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So many seedy secrets behind a boarding house’s doors!
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vt Murder on the Second Floor
US / 62 minutes / bw / Warner–First National Dir: D. Ross Lederman Pr: Bryan Foy Scr: Anthony Coldeway Story: Murder on the Second Floor (1929 play) by Frank Vosper Cine: Allen G. Siegler Cast: Frieda Inescort, Paul Cavanagh, Heather Angel, Bruce Lester, Miles Mander, Lumsden Hare, Turhan Bey, Charles Irwin, Phyllis Barry, Mary Field, Paul Renay.

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London, 1937, and on the surface Mrs. Armitage’s boarding house appears tranquil enough. But, as we soon find out, not all is as it seems . . .

The movie opens at the docks. One of Mrs. Armitage’s lodgers, Joe Reynolds (Cavanagh), observes as another, Ram Singh (Bey), helps smuggle a small trunk onto the dock and away. Back at the boarding house next morning, it’s clear that the two are in uneasy, mutually suspicious cahoots.

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Ram Singh (Turhan Bey) awaits the arrival of the smuggled box.

Not all is well among the building’s other occupants. Startled while clearing away the breakfast things, the maid, Lucy Timpson (Barry), drops a tray of dirty dishes and is promptly and viciously fired by the landlady, ex-actress Stella Armitage (Inescort). Joe has been carrying on a long-term affair with Stella—in fact, it was he who bought the boarding house for her to run ten years ago when her acting days were over. Stella’s chess-fiend husband Tom (Mander), likewise an ex-actor—he boasts he once played the aunt in Charley’s Aunt—is oblivious to the pair’s shenanigans even after a decade. On the other hand, Stella is equally oblivious to the fact that her lover Joe has been canoodling on the side with Lucy.

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Lucy (Phyllis Barry) is startled by various goings-on.

Also living in the house are Miss Phoebe Marcia St. John Snell (Field)—“I usually leave out the Marcia”—a spinster who sublimates her unmentionable yearnings by reading an endless string of fevered romance novels; and a young, would-be playwright, Hugh Bromilow (Lester). Hugh is carrying on with Stella’s daughter Sylvia (Angel), but at least for the moment in what we might call Continue reading