9 July 2005 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Never trust a belle named Beulah.
Earlier this week, I had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. To take my mind off what happened, I've dug out the notes I took several years ago when screening some old movies, intending to transfer those notes into IMDb postings. Lo and behold, the first set of notes I grabbed were for 'Friday the 13th' ... appropriate for the bad luck I've had lately.
'Friday the 13th' was based on a novel by a successful stockbroker, who claimed he knew a sure-fire method by which anyone could cause the stock exchange to crash. Little did he know that it could crash just fine by itself. This drama benefits from its realistic depiction of brokerage transactions. Nothing else here is very realistic, though.
Peter Brownley is a hugely successful Wall Street stockbroker. Although he's technically not dishonest, he's utterly ruthless and unscrupulous with it. His machinations cause the financial ruin of Judge Sands. The judge's daughter Beulah, a southern belle, travels to the big city with the specific intention of getting revenge against Brownley. Nothing so simple as murder, mind you: she wants to destroy his business and his reputation. She gets a job in Brownley's brokerage without revealing her true identity.
One of Brownley's brokers is his handsome son Robert, who of course is utterly honest. He and Beulah fall in love, but Beulah carries on regardless by phoning insider information to her father. A big trading deal is coming up on Friday, the thirteenth of the month. At the worst possible moment, Robert discovers what Beulah's doing ... and he assumes that her affections for him were merely part of her scheme to get into the brokerage firm's good graces.
The climax of the film features a panic on the trading floor, which Robert must quell. As the younger Brownley, Robert Warwick plays his role in conventional leading-man mode, so it's interesting to see a stockbroker depicted as a he-man hero. Still, much of what happens here was done much better a few years later in 'The Saphead': a comedy that covered the same territory much more effectively than this earnest drama. This movie ends the way you'd expect it to, and there are no real surprises along the way. I'll rate 'Friday the 13th' just 4 out of 10.