Enemy Agent (1940)

US / 61 minutes / bw / Universal Dir: Lew Landers Assoc Pr: Ben Pivar Scr: Sam Robins, Edmund L. Hartmann Story: Sam Robins Cine: Jerome Ash Cast: Richard Cromwell, Helen Vinson, Robert Armstrong, Marjorie Reynolds, Jack Arnold (i.e., Vinton Hayworth), Russell Hicks, Philip Dorn, Jack LaRue, Bradley Page, Abner Biberman, Luis Alberni, Jack Carson, Milburn Stone.

A fast-moving little B-movie that capitalized on the fact that the US was becoming paranoid about fascist conquests of democracy in Europe while at the same time Corporate America, Hollywood included, was nervous about adversely affecting business through upsetting the Nazis. So we’re given no clue here as to who the jackbooted, sauerkraut-scarfing foreign power is that seeks the secrets of the new flying fortress aircraft and its fiendishly accurate bombsight.

Richard Cromwell as Jimmy.

The plans are being worked on at the Fulton Aircraft Co. by draftsman Jimmy Saunders (Cromwell), and he becomes first suspect of the FBI’s Agent Gordon (Armstrong) after their original suspect, Evans (uncredited), is gunned down. We know, however, that the Fulton employee who’s really the spy is Jimmy’s colleague Lester “Les” Taylor (Arnold).

Robert Armstrong as Agent Gordon.

Taylor is working for espionage kingpin Dr. Jeffry (sic) Arnold (Dorn), whose goons Alex (LaRue) and Baronoff (Biberman) were the ones who Continue reading

Exposed (1947)

US / 59 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: George Blair Assoc Pr: William J. O’Sullivan Scr: Royal K. Cole, Charles Moran Story: Charles Moran Cine: William Bradford Cast: Adele Mara, Robert Scott (i.e., Mark Roberts), Adrian Booth (i.e., Lorna Gray), Robert Armstrong, William Haade, Bob Steele, Harry Shannon, Charles Evans, Joyce Compton, Russell Hicks, Paul E. Burns, Colin Campbell, Edward Gargan, Mary Gordon, Patricia Knox.

Adele Mara as Belinda.

Not long after a goon called Chicago (Steele) tries to abduct her from her normal lunchtime eaterie, PI Belinda Prentice (Mara) is hired by a businessman, Colonel William K. Bentry (Hicks), to investigate his stepson and heir, William “Bill” Foresman III (Scott), who has been behaving unusually—notably by making unexplained withdrawals from company funds.

William Haade as Iggy.

Before Belinda—aided by hunky sidekick Iggy (Haade)—has properly gotten her investigation underway, the Colonel is found dead with a letter opener stuck in his chest. It’s soon revealed that the letter opener is a red herring: he was in the habit of 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.

All that I Have - 0 opener

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

Special Investigator (1936)

US / 61 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: Louis King Scr: Louis Stevens, Thomas Lennon, Ferdinand Reyher Story: “Fugitive Road” (1935; New York Herald Tribune) by Erle Stanley Gardner Cine: Edward Cronjager Cast: Richard Dix, Margaret Callahan, Erik Rhodes, Owen Davis Jr, Ray Mayer, Harry Jans, Joseph Sawyer, J. Carrol Naish, Sheila Terry, J.M. Kerrigan, Jed Prouty, Russell Hicks, Boothe Howard, Si Jenks.

Special Investigator - 0 opener

Chicago shyster Bill Fenwick (Dix) has just won his latest case, defending mobster Bennie Gray (Rhodes)—a result that brings him both a reproof from the judge for being as bad as the criminals he defends and a fat check from Bennie—when his kid brother George (Davis, whose performance, despite his billing, lasts mere seconds), an investigator for the DoJ, is gunned down by gangster Eddie Selton (Naish). Selton is wounded in the exchange, but escapes.

Grieving, Bill realizes the error of his ways, telling his mercenary fiancée Judy Taylor (Terry): “I’m not a lawyer, Judy. I’m what crooks call a mouthpiece.” To her dismay he refuses the next mobster case lined up for him by the friendly Bennie—the Joe Costello case—and nixes their engagement; she’s none too worried, especially after he gives her Bennie’s $15,000 check as kiss-off . . . and even more so because she’s already seeing more of Bennie than strictly she oughter.

Bill gives Bennie no hint that he’s decided to Continue reading

While the Patient Slept (1935)

US / 66 minutes / bw / Warner, Clue Club, First National, Vitaphone Dir: Ray Enright Scr: Robert N. Lee, Eugene Solow, Brown Holmes Story: While the Patient Slept (1930) by Mignon G. Eberhart Cine: Arthur Edeson Cast: Aline MacMahon, Guy Kibbee, Lyle Talbot, Patricia Ellis, Allen Jenkins, Robert Barrat, Hobart Cavanaugh, Dorothy Tree, Henry O’Neill, Russell Hicks, Helen Flint, Brandon Hurst, Eddie Shubert, Walter Walker, Virginia Howell.

Patriarch Richard Federie (Walker) is elderly and ailing, and the family are gathering at the old ancestral pile—all except reprobate son Charles (Barrat), who’s serving time for manslaughter. On getting a telegram from Charles to say that he too is coming home, Richard has a stroke; family physician Dr. Jay (Hicks) gives an optimistic prognosis, and nurse Sarah Keate (MacMahon) is called to Federie Manor to tend the comatose patient.

That evening, in turn, family lawyer Elihu Dimuck (O’Neill), Richard’s beloved granddaughter March (Ellis), Charles’s twin brother Adolphe (Barrat again), Richard’s niece Mittie (Tree) and unparticularized family member Eustace (Cavanaugh) each requests Sarah that they be the first to be informed should the old man wake.

During the night, as Sarah slumbers on a couch in the room where Richard lies, Adolphe creeps in, takes from the mantelpiece an ornamental green elephant in which, as we later discover, a vital clue is concealed, and then, as he seeks to depart, is gunned down by an unknown figure.

While the Patient Slept (1935) - Sarah (MacMahon) prepares to fire a decoy shot

Sarah (MacMahon) prepares to fire a decoy shot.

The cops arrive in the shape of Sarah’s old acquaintance and romantic aspirant Det.-Lt. Lance O’Leary (Kibbee), his irritatingly loud-mouthed dimwit sidekick Sgt. Jim Jackson (Jenkins, playing exactly the same role he did in many other movies) and Detective Muldoon (Shubert). They and the plot bumble along, O’Leary seeming so clueless that at one point Sarah tells him, “Well, the fact that you suspect me is all the defense I need.” Just as O’Leary’s about to arrest the butler, Grondal (Hurst), who’s discovered to have a police record and an old feud with Adolphe, Grondal is found strangled . . .

Eberhardt’s novel, her second, won the reportedly prestigious Scotland Yard Award, but you sure wouldn’t guess it from this farrago. It’s hard to believe the script wasn’t originally written as a stage play, then lazily filmed without alteration. About the only things the movie has going for it are MacMahon’s performance and the wisecracking chemistry she shares with Kibbee.

By movie’s end, although the mystery is supposedly solved, we’re left with various unanswered questions. For example, did Ross Lonergan (Talbot) arrive at the house because summoned by sweetheart March, as we’re first told, or to try to recover a hefty debt owed to him and his father by Adolphe, as is next spelled out? And, although it seems reasonable that March be Richard’s grandchild, she appears to have no parents: it’s made quite clear that she’s not the offspring of any of the other Federies. Oops.

 

On Amazon.com: While the Patient Slept