Grand Central Murder (1942)

US / 74 minutes / bw / MGM Dir: S. Sylvan Simon Pr: B.F. Zeidman Scr: Peter Ruric Story: Grand Central Murder (1939) by Sue MacVeigh Cine: George Folsey Cast: Van Heflin, Patricia Dane, Cecilia Parker, Virginia Grey, Samuel S. Hinds, Sam Levene, Connie Gilchrist, Mark Daniels, Horace McNally (i.e., Stephen McNally), Tom Conway, Betty Wells, George Lynn, Roman Bohnen, Millard Mitchell, Tom Dugan

Mida King (Dane), showgirl star of a string of Broadway hits, is a relentless gold digger: she lures men, milks them dry, then dumps them. One of the luckless men, Turk (McNally), refused to be dumped, and so Mida framed him for murder and watched him get sent up the river.

Patricia Dane as Mida King

But now, en route to New York for a reopening of his trial, Turk escapes the train on which he was being transported and, from the gloomy depths of Grand Central Station, phones Mida’s dressing room at the Harmony Theater on Broadway and informs her sweetly that he’s on his way to kill her.

Virginia Grey as Sue Custer and Van Heflin as Rocky Custer

Not unnaturally sent into a panic, Mida runs out on the second act of her current show and heads for Grand Central and the private railcar owned by her current fiancé, rich smoothie David V. Henderson (Daniels). Not so very long later, David and the longtime fiancée he dumped in Mida’s favor, Constance Furness (Parker), discover Mida’s corpse naked in the bathroom of the railcar.

But the railcar was locked from within.

And even the medical examiner can’t initially establish how Mida was killed.

 

Inspector Gunther (Levene) is soon on the job, and Continue reading

Big Street, The (1942)

US / 88 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: Irving Reis Pr: Damon Runyon Scr: Leonard Spigelgass Story: “Little Pinks” (1940; Collier’s Magazine) by Damon Runyon Cine: Russell Metty Cast: Henry Fonda, Lucille Ball, Barton MacLane, Eugene Pallette, Agnes Moorehead, Sam Levene, Ray Collins, Marion Martin, William Orr, George Cleveland, Vera Gordon, Louise Beavers, Juan Varro, Art Hamburger, Ozzie Nelson and his Orchestra.

Runyon’s tales are, of course, not noir, and yet they share noir’s milieu so knowingly that it can be hard to ignore their claims. In the case of MIDNIGHT ALIBI (1935) I was sufficiently persuaded of those claims to include an entry in the Encyclopedia; The Big Street might also have been a candidate, had I had the space.

The movie opens with scrolled text beginning:

Loser’s Lane—the sidewalk in front of Mindy’s Restaurant on Broadway—is not as high-toned a trading center as Wall Street, but the brokers are a lot more colorful.

 Generally they prefer to put their money on a prizefight or horserace, but when the action slows, anything can happen and it usually does. . . .

What’s happening today in Mindy’s is the Eating Championship of the World, organized by the merry lowlifes Professor B. (Collins) and Horsethief (Levene), the dueling trenchermen being Mr. Nicely Nicely Johnson (Pallette) and Mr. Joel Duffle (fittingly played by Hamburger); the hoodlum Case Ables (MacLane) has a hefty stake in Nicely Nicely winning. However, Nicely Nicely has fallen ill with dyspepsia, owing to unwise snacking. The Mindy’s busboy Little Pinks (Fonda)—more fully Augustus Pinkerton II—offers the services in Nicely Nicely’s place of his lodging-house co-boarder Violette Shumberger (Moorehead), but she proves inadequate to the task and the vicious Ables loses his stash.

Lucille Ball as a chanteuse facing an uncertain future.

The event’s the opportunity for Pinks to meet Ables’s chanteuse moll Gloria Lyons (Ball), whose yappy little dog Baby Continue reading