The Beloved Brat (1938)

vt Girls on Probation; vt A Dangerous Age
US / 62 minutes / bw / First National, Warner Dir: Arthur Lubin Scr: Lawrence Kimble Story: Jean Negulesco Cine: George Barnes Cast: Bonita Granville, Dolores Costello, Donald Crisp, Natalie Moorhead, Lucille Gleason, Donald Briggs, Emmett Vogan, Loia Cheaney, Leo Gorcey, Ellen Lowe, Mary Doyle, Paul Everton, Bernice Pilot, Stymie Beard, Meredith White, Gloria Fischer

On the face of it, this looks to be yet another comedy of rebellious youth—and with an appropriately lightweight star to reinforce that impression—but in reality there’s a whole lot more going on in The Beloved Brat than you might expect. And Bonita Granville, while hardly reaching Shakespearian heights, demonstrates that she was a weightier actress than her reputation might suggest.

On the eve of her thirteenth birthday, Roberta Morgan (Granville) is the epitome of the spoiled brat. And it’s hardly any wonder: Daddy, Henry Morgan (Crisp)—whom the screenplay bizarrely rechristens John Morgan later on when another character called Henry turns up—is totally absorbed in his business of making oodles of money, and regards the raising of Roberta as the domain of his wife Evelyn (Moorhead). Trouble is, Evelyn is entirely self-absorbed, devoting all her time to her social life and to fashionable charities that are in reality self-serving; she has no interest in her daughter, and is prone to fits of the vapors whenever thwarted.

Bonita Granville as Roberta

The only person in the household who seems to care much about Roberta is Continue reading

Crack-Up (1936)

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Peter Lorre and Brian Donlevy, top secret plans and espionage!
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US / 71 minutes / bw / TCF Dir: Malcolm St. Clair Scr: Charles Kenyon, Sam Mintz Story: John Goodrich Cine: Barney McGill Cast: Peter Lorre, Brian Donlevy, Helen Wood, Ralph Morgan, Thomas Beck, Kay Linaker, Lester Matthews, Earle Foxe, J. Carroll Naish (i.e., J. Carrol Naish), Gloria Roy, Oscar Apfel, Paul Stanton, Howard Hickman, Robert Homans, Sam Hayes.

An odd little pre-war espionage movie whose downbeat ending and occasional callousness toward human life—plus the presence of Lorre—give it something of a noirish credential.

The Fleming–Grant aircraft factory, owned by mainspring John P. Fleming (Morgan) and his partner Sidney Grant (Matthews), has completed construction of a new plane, the Wild Goose, which has the extraordinary ability to transport a consignment of passengers across the Atlantic. (This was, you’ll remember, 1936.) Fleming plans to take it on its maiden flight from the US East Coast to Berlin, with pilot Ace Martin (Donlevy) and mechanic Joe Randall (Beck). The naming ceremony, emceed by broadcaster Sam Hayes (himself) and with Fleming’s wife, Lois (Linaker), doing the stuff with the bottle of bubbly, is attended also by Continue reading

Villiers Diamond, The (1938)

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An early, scream-free role for scream queen Evelyn Ankers!
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UK / 50 minutes / bw / Fox–British, Exclusive Dir: Bernerd Mainwaring (i.e., Bernard Mainwaring) Pr: John Findlay Scr: David Evans, Ernest Dudley Story: F. Wyndham Mallock Cine: Stanley Grant Cast: Edward Ashley, Evelyn Ankers, Frank Birch, Liam Gaffney, Leslie Harcourt, Julie Suedo, Sybil Brooke, Bill Shine, Margaret Davidge, Anita Sharp-Bolster.

You don’t expect much from a movie whose opening credits spell the director’s name wrong, and in this instance not much is what you get. It does, however, feature an early leading role for an actress who’d later become one of the more celebrated Scream Queens at Universal, Evelyn Ankers.

Villiers Diamond - 3 The lovely Joan

The lovely Joan (Evelyn Ankers).

Habitual crook Henry Barker (Harcourt), a suspect in the theft of the never-recovered Villiers Diamond, is released from his latest two-year holiday at His Majesty’s expense and makes a beeline for the home in Shropshire of the faux-respectable “gem collector” who paid him to steal the stone, Silas Wade (Birch). To say that Wade isn’t glad to see him would be an understatement; he’s even less delighted when Barker demands the 150 smackers he should have been paid for the job. (Just £150 for stealing the diamond? Either Barker has the worst business sense of any professional burglar or it’s a far smaller stone than we’ve been led to believe.)

Wade claims he doesn’t have the money, so Continue reading