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  • Dashing Edmund Lowe plays insurance investigator Tom Fletcher who is hot on the trail of an arsonist. He is helped by his dedicated assistant John Grayson (Onslow Stevens) even though they both suspect each other eventually. Of course they are harassed by authority figures played by great character actors including Edward Van Sloan as the curmudgeonly board of directors and Robert Middlemass as Fire Chief Mulligan. Because Fletcher always demands a huge fee for his services, he finds himself one of the suspects in this latest rash of deliberate fires. A surprise plot-twist puts Fletcher and heroine/suspect Adrienne Martin (Ann Sothern) on the scent of the real firebug. This modest Columbia production was distinguished by several spectacular and real fire scenes that probably came from newsreel footage, all of which quickly found their way into the studio's stock-footage files. Good, tough dialogue and nice pacing by director Kenton.
  • ANN SOTHERN and EDMUND LOWE were teamed earlier in a romantic comedy, but this time it's a suspenseful little programmer about tracking down an arsonist. It's a clever story with some brisk dialog that keeps things going merrily along while the chase for the arsonist consumes most of the plot.

    Lowe is a former tracker of arson fires who is re-hired when a series of fires puts the city out of control in trying to curb the serial man determined to burn down various factories. Lowe suspects it might be ONSLOW STEVENS, while Stevens in turn suspects Lowe of setting the fires in order to get his old job back. Then too, suspicion is firmly planted on ANN SOTHERN when she turns up at every fire and turns out to have an assumed name in order to cover a very valuable clue.

    It's dated, of course, but fun to watch with a puzzling mystery at the center of things. Lowe and Sothern work well together and Stevens does well in an interesting supporting role.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The plot of this film is pretty original, as there aren't that many films about arson and the insurance industry. And up through about the first half of the film, it's pretty good and held my interest. Unfortunately, it really looks as if this B-movie was rushed into production before all the logical kinks were worked out, as suddenly characters began behaving stupidly and inconsistently. That's when, out of the blue, an argument occurs between the lead investigator (Edmund Lowe) and his assistant. The intensity of this confrontation and why just made no sense at all--one minute they are friends and the next they are ready to kill each other just because the lead investigator logically concluded that their lady friend was lying (which she clearly had been doing throughout the film). From this point on, the logic of their actions and how Lowe came to unravel the truth just made no sense at all. It was if Lowe had read the script to see the ending of the movie in order to unravel the mystery. All this is really a shame, as the film had some promise. As it is, it's at best a time-passer. Just don't try to think through the logic of this one!
  • The 30's were full of amateur sleuths. This Columbia production amounts to a neat variation. Instead of a gentleman detective, Fletcher's (Lowe) a professional arson investigator, cocky and high-priced, with a Sherlock instinct for sifting through ashes. So who's the firebug setting half the town ablaze. We figure it's got to be one of the supporting cast, at least that's the way the game usually works. But in this nifty screenplay, the culprit could even be a cast principal, since they have reasons as well. But whatever you do, watch out for those lashing flames. They're realistic as heck.

    Lowe's too cocky here to be really likable, but he does command center stage. Too bad the actor's largely forgotten since he could pass for William Powell's over-eager brother. On the other hand, Sothern hasn't yet created her sparkling comedic side and hasn't much to do but stand around and look blonde. Then too, I really like the movie's added comedic touches, like the comely blonde secretary, who soon gives way to an annoyingly squeaky replacement, who in turn gives way to a battle-hardened witch— the company's way of punishing the demanding Fletcher. Then there're the street spies who are either "blind" old guys or "harmless" old ladies. Touches like these lift a programmer from the merely ordinary to the memorable. Yet, I have to agree with reviewer planktonrules. The relationship between Fletcher and his assistant Grayson (Stevens) goes suddenly sour mid-way through without explanation (was this an error of editing?).

    Anyway, the 60-minutes is a better than average programmer with a number of engaging touches.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Even though Harry Cohn felt that with a change of name he made Ann Sothern a star (her name had been Harriet Lake) nothing very much was done to promote her bubbling personality. It was left to MGM via the "Maisie" movies to make her "Queen of the Bs". In a couple of different interviews I have read she never seemed particularly enthusiastic about her Columbia films but I disagree with her - I think they are terrific little movies and she has "star quality" written all over her.

    Once again she is teamed with Edmund Lowe and they have a lot of chemistry - I'm sorry but Onslow Stevens (who is the third angle in the romantic triangle) doesn't stand a chance with Ann. There is a firebug on the loose - targeting buildings insured by the Interoceanic Fire Insurance Company and the word is out to get Tom Fletcher (Lowe) a hot shot investigator who gets results. After a particularly nasty fire at the Acme Fur Company Tom deducts that the fires were started by remote control and to be on the look out for a telephone repair man who sets up the devices, usually on the day before. Meanwhile, John Grayson, his 2IC, who started out full of enthusiasm and behind Tom 100% is now looking pretty shifty - he is seen lighting a cigarette just before one of the warehouses burns down and now wears a perpetual frown instead of a boyish grin!! Also muddying the waters is a mysterious beauty, Adrienne Martin (Sothern) who meets Tom at one of the fires and just may have something to do with the arsonist, After the fire device is discovered she sends a wire to persons unknown - "Please don't use phone anymore"!! The next fire is started with a magnifying glass, which puts Tom on the track of a Mr. Maxwell, who just happens to own a glass factory and who just happens to have a hatred of Interoceanic due to a rejected claim he filed years before.

    There is a lot more to this movie, including Adrienne, who is involved but not the way Tom thinks. Plus a wealth of funny characters that Tom employs to keep a watch on the different buildings - including a blind man - "How do you know it was a woman" "What do you think I am - blind"!!!

    Also keep a look out for a very young Iris Adrian playing - what else?? - a sexy secretary!!!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I would classify "Grand Exit" as a B+ production; not quite "glamorous" enough to be an A (and apart from the two leads, the entire supporting cast will probably be totally unknown to all but the most fanatical 1930s film buffs), but more polished and expensive-looking (extras, special effects, etc.) than a B. It's mostly a whodunit, except that the question is not "Who is the killer?" but "Who is the arsonist?". And it's really quite well-written - admittedly, I probably should have figured it all out sooner, but I didn't. Ann Sothern had not yet perfected her comedy style by that point, but she is still pretty adorable. Oh, and incidentally, the title seems to have been selected at random! **1/2 out of 4.
  • tedg27 July 2007
    I love mysteries set in the 30s because the form was so new, invention was rampant.

    And right after the code started being enforced, a good part of that invention was in how to portray sexuality (in women) indirectly.

    In this case, its the heat of fire, transposed with the presence of Ann Sothern, a redhead turned blond for her entire career. Our detective is a profound womanizer, natch. In addition to his extremely high fee, he demands a pretty secretary and a running joke is that his clients send him first a sexpot, then a pretty woman who is dumber than the comic norm, then a battleax.

    Anyway, the mystery grinds on with a clever arsonist and some gimmicks. The title doesn't have much to do with the story, I'm afraid. And other than the mild idea of sex and fire (and both against "insurance"), its pretty mundane. The building fires are real and pretty impressive.

    Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Somebody at Columbia must have been looking into a crystal ball when they developed this plot line about a string of fires caused as a result of arson caused by chemicals added into the structures a variety of big businesses and a span of time after which either nature itself caused the building to catch on fire or a simple phone call caused an explosion. Edmund Lowe is an arson investigator who puts the pieces together and becomes suspicious of the young blonde (Ann Sothern) who seems to be around every time this occurs. At first, he believes it only to be coincidence, but as time goes on and their acquaintance turns into romance, his suspicion grows.

    Edmund Lowe gives a very clever performance, his characterization wry and sardonic. An amusing factor is his plethora of street spies including an aging apple seller, a one-legged warehouse supervisor and a blind man. The chemistry with Southern has improved since their first paring two years before ("Let's Fall in Love"), and she's actually showing some of the comic skills that would aid her in other films and subsequently on T.V. The script keeps you guessing who the guilty party really is, and there is enough intrigue along the way to keep you hooked, not to mention the parallels with the unfortunate terrorist attacks at the recent Boston Marathon.