snapshot: Half Past Midnight (1948)

US / 69 minutes / bw / Sol M. Wurtzel, Twentieth Century–Fox Dir: William F. Claxton Pr: Sol M. Wurtzel Scr: Arnold Belgard Cine: Benjamin Kline Cast: Kent Taylor, Peggy Knudsen, Joe Sawyer, Walter Sande, Martin Kosleck, Mabel Paige, Gil Stratton Jr., Jean Wong, Jane Everett, Damian O’Flynn, Richard Loo, Tom Dugan, Jean De Briac, Willie Best, Victor Sen Yung, “Beetlepuss” Lewis, Max Wagner.

Peggy Knudsen as Sally.

Rich war hero, inveterate womanizer and general pain in the ass Wade Hamilton (Taylor) has come back to Los Angeles for a few days, and that’s regarded as bad news by his old childhood friend, now a detective lieutenant with the LAPD, Joe Nash (Sawyer). Joe tries to put his ol’ buddy under room arrest at the Ambassador Hotel, but reckons without the fact that a bellhop there, Chick Patrick (Stratton), was Wade’s tail-gunner over the Pacific during the war.

Freed, Wade goes to a niterie, Pierre’s, in search of a good time. He thinks he’s found it when he hooks up with the initially reluctant Sally Parker (Knudsen), who seems to be doing her best to be mistaken in a dim light for Lizabeth Scott.

Joe Sawyer (left) as Joe Nash and Walter Sande as MacDonald.

But then the niterie’s star act, Carlotta (Everett), who’s been blackmailing Sally over some letters—“written by my sister,” Sally unconvincingly claims—is gunned down, and Sally, Continue reading

The Christmas Caper (1952 TVM)

US / 26 minutes / bw / Showcase, CBS Dir: Erle C. Kenton Pr: Hal Roach Jr, Carroll Case Scr: Arthur Orloff Cine: Norbert Brodine Cast: Reed Hadley, Lloyd Corrigan, John L. Coogan (i.e., Jackie Coogan), Alan Dexter, John Phillips, Willie Best, Louis Lettieri, Jeri Lou James, Paul Keast, Argentina Brunetti, Frances Drew, William Fawcett.

Produced at the Hal Roach studios and (alas) sponsored by tobacco giant Philip Morris Inc., Racket Squad ran for a total of 98 episodes between 1951 and 1953. (The Christmas Caper, series 3 episode 15, was first aired on December 25 1952.) As its series hero, Captain John Braddock (Reed Hadley), explained at the outset of each episode,

What you are about to see is a real-life story taken from the files of the police racket and bunko squad, the business protective associations and similar sources all over the country. It is intended to expose the confidence game, the carefully worked-out frauds by which confidence men take more money each year from the American public than the bank robbers and thugs with their violence.

Reed Hadley as Captain John Braddock.

In this particular instance:

Tonight I’m going to tell you a story that’s a little different from the ones you’ve been seeing. It exposes a racket just as the others have done, and it’s a nasty racket that takes hard-earned money from honest people and puts it into the pockets of thieves. But still it’s a different story, first because it’s a Christmas story and second because it put me on a spot I never want to be put on again: I had to arrest Santa Claus . . .

In a poor quarter of the large city where Braddock’s Racket Squad operates, elderly Charlie Dooley (Corrigan) lives alone with his dog Monster. Alone? Well, not so much. All the kids 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