4 July 2010 | kevinolzak
Excellent Hollywood whodunit
I don't know why the 2006 reviewer from New York has never examined his analysis of "The Crime of Helen Stanley," as his depiction is for an entirely different movie (the two more recent reviewers are right on the money). This was the third of four Columbia whodunits starring Ralph Bellamy as Inspector Steve Trent, investigating homicide in a no nonsense fashion that doesn't involve comic relief, a rare approach for the 1930s (again for Columbia, he went on to emphasize the humor playing the cinema's first Ellery Queen in 1940). Gail Patrick plays the title character, a bitchy Hollywood actress who mysteriously fears for her life, protesting when her former lover takes up with her sister (Shirley Grey). Shot dead in front of the camera while twirling the dance floor, the prime suspect turns out to be her former husband, confessing his guilt before committing suicide. Inspector Trent continues his investigation, learning that the answers can all be found in the late actress' diary, which everyone would like to find. This was a Hollywood mystery along the lines of 1932's "The Death Kiss," always enjoyable to see the behind-the-scenes action in a real studio, in this case Columbia. The cast is made up of little known contract players, but there is Ward Bond, another prime suspect, and Bradley Page, always a red herring. Shirley Grey previously played opposite Boris Karloff in 1931's "The Public Defender," and a year later co-starred with Bela Lugosi in "Mystery of the Mary Celeste." Vincent Sherman, as Helen Stanley's bodyguard, later became better known as a director (1939's "The Return of Doctor X"), while Steven Chase, as the suicidal ex, played the doomed doctor devoured by "The Blob" in 1958. The first Trent feature was "Before Midnight" (1933), also just as good, the second, "One is Guilty," rather elusive, the last, "Girl in Danger," a weak finale. Ralph Bellamy's sterling career continued right up until his death in 1991.