Slander House (1938)

US / 66 minutes / bw / Progressive Dir: Charles Lamont Pr: B.N. Judell Scr: Gertrude Orr, John W. Krafft Story: Scandal House (1933) by Madeline Woods Cine: M.A. Andersen Cast: Adrianne Ames (i.e., Adrienne Ames), Craig Reynolds, Esther Ralston, George Meeker, Pert Kelton, William Newell, Dorothy Vaughn, Edward Keane, Vivien Oakland, Ruth Gillette, Mary Field, Robert Homans, Blanche Payson.

Once upon a tine she was plain Helen Smith from NYC’s 10th Avenue, but now she’s Madame Helene (Ames), proprietrix of the swanky Helene’s Rejuvenating Salon on Park Avenue. She’s comfortably engaged to prominent society physician Herbert Stallings (Meeker), and she looks set to ascend to the ranks of the glitterati.

But then fast-talking cad-about-town Pat Fenton (Reynolds) walks into her salon and her life, and from there on things can never be the same for her.

Adrienne Ames as Madame Helene.

Progressive Pictures was a Poverty Row studio whose business model was to release B-features with salacious titles yet relatively innocuous contents. This one’s not just SFW but safe for screening to the average pre-school group, although they might find it a trifle boring. (Except for the bit with the monkey. The bit with the monkey is more or less guaranteed to set pre-school kids and Three Stooges fans a-chuckle.) A slight puzzle here is that Continue reading

Man who Walked Alone, The (1945)

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Snobbery ahoy!
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US / 71 minutes / bw / PRC Dir & Story: Christy Cabanne Pr: Leon Fromkess Scr: Robert Lee Johnson Cine: James Brown Cast: Dave O’Brien, Kay Aldridge, Walter Catlett, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams, Isabel Randolph, Smith Ballew, Nancy June Robinson, Ruth Lee, Chester Clute, Vivien Oakland, Vicki Saunders, William B. Davidson, Tom Dugan, Eddy Waller, Don Brodie, Dick Elliott, Jack Raymond, Jack Mulhall, Lloyd Ingraham.

I have to admit it. The title, the packaging, the summary that I glanced at far too quickly—all of them conspired to make me think this movie was far more noirish than it actually is. To say it’s even of associational interest is to stretch matters a little. So, if it’s grim nihilism, thrills, suspense, psychological unraveling or any of that other good stuff that you’re after, look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you can tolerate a gentle romantic comedy, with echoes (no more) of the screwball and a subtext of social commentary, bear with me while I briefly (I promise!) talk about The Man who Walked Alone.

Dave O’Brien as Marion Scott and Eddy Waller as the old codger who taunts him as he tries to hitch a ride.

When we first meet Corporal Marion Scott (O’Brien) he’s on a dusty country road trying to Continue reading

HALLOWEEN DOUBLE BILL: Who Killed Aunt Maggie? (1940) and The Girl who Dared (1944)

These two Old Dark House melodramas were based on novels by Medora Field, a novelist of whom I knew nothing until recently, when Curtis Evans of The Passing Tramp posted an essay about her. She was a friend of Margaret Mitchell (who encouraged her to write) and produced just the two novels. Before the end of this year (2014) the two are to be reissued as a double volume by Coachwhip, with an introduction by Evans. For more, see his piece at The Passing Tramp.

UPDATE: Evans has just announced that the two novels are now indeed back in print — as individual volumes, it appears, rather than a double volume. Go check out the covers and other details Right Now.

Aunt Maggie - 0 opener

Who Killed Aunt Maggie? (1940)

US / 70(?) minutes / bw / Republic Dir: Arthur Lubin Scr: Stuart Palmer, Frank Gill Jr, Hal Fimberg Story: Who Killed Aunt Maggie? (1939) by Medora Field Cine: Reggie Lanning Cast: John Hubbard, Wendy Barrie, Edgar Kennedy, Elizabeth Patterson, Onslow Stevens, Joyce Compton, Walter Abel, Mona Barrie, Willie Best, Daisy Lee Mothershed, Milton Parsons.

Kirk Pierce (Hubbard) runs a company that produces radio shows for advertisers to endorse. The latest demo he’s listening to is The House with the Secret Room by Sally Ambler (Wendy Barrie), and Continue reading

Amateur Crook (1937)

vt Crooked but Dumb; vt Jewel Thief

US / 59 minutes / bw / Victory Dir & Pr: Sam Katzman Scr: Basil Dickey Cine: Bill Hyer Cast: Herman Brix (i.e., Bruce Bennett), Joan Barclay, Monte Blue, Jack Mulhall, Fuzzy Knight, Vivien Oakland, Jimmy Aubrey, Henry Rocquemore, Edward Earle, Forrest Taylor, Fern Emmett, Sam Adams, Charles Williams.

Collateral loans agent Jan Jaffin (Mulhall) and his nefarious crony Crone (Blue) plan to bilk explorer Jerry Cummings (Taylor), currently in Mexico, of a $50,000 diamond he left as security with Crone for a $10,000 fixed-term loan. Cummings’s daughter Betsy (Barclay), having suspected Crone, has recently, under the name Mary Layton, taken a job as Jaffin’s secretary. Learning the details of the pair’s scheme, she filches the rock and goes on the lam, running into the block of bachelor apartments run by amorous widow Mrs. Flint (Oakland). Opening a door at random, she finds herself in the studio of unsuccessful painter Jimmy Baxter (Brix).

Minutes before, in fending off Mrs. Flint’s offer to pose for him, Jimmy has unconvincingly explained that he prefers to use as model the dummy currently splayed across his couch, wrapped in a diaphanous scarf and other frills. Now, as Crone and a bumbling cop (Adams) arrive seeking the fugitive Betsy, Jimmy persuades her to dress as the dummy, which latter they hide in the couch. Thanks to Mrs. Flint’s conviction that this is the dummy she saw moments earlier, the ruse works. Unfortunately, Mrs. Flint then rumbles the trick. The pair escape, but not before Betsy has secreted the diamond inside the dummy.

Amateur Crook - Betsy's unusually convincing as an artist's dummy

Betsy (Joan Barclay) is unusually convincing as an artist’s dummy.

They return that night in hopes of retrieving it, only to find that Continue reading