22 August 2020 | lugonian
The Perfect Alibi
NIGHT CLUB SCANDAL (Paramount, 1937), directed by Ralph Murphy, is not much of a story set mostly in a night club, but more of a murder mystery with a slight twist where the actual killer is known from its opening scene. Though this could have been a new idea for a murder mystery premise, actually NIGHT CLUB SCANDAL had originated as GUILTY AS HELL (Paramount, 1932) starring Edmund Lowe, Victor McLaglen, Richard Arlen and Henry Stephenson, with Elizabeth Patterson playing Mrs. Elvira Ward, the same role repeated here for NIGHT CLUB SCANDAL.
The story introduces Doctor Ernest A. Tindal (John Barrymore) about to leave for his medical society banquet. Having just murdered his wife, Ruth, leaving her body in the bedroom, Tindal sets up a perfect alibi with Mrs. Elvira Ward (Elizabeth Patterson) as a witness seeing him leaving with Doctor Goodman (Leonard Willey) while his wife, unable to attend due to a headache, being heard outside playing the Franz Liszt composition "Liebesmanne" on her piano. Later, at the Cumbuling Club, Frank Marlan (Harvey Stephens) leaves his sister, Vera (Louise Campbell) on a secret rendezvous with Ruth., only to come to her apartment the back way and find her dead. He leaves before being discovered by Mrs. Ward and the messenger boy (George Offerman Jr.) entering the apartment to bring her the prescribed medicine ordered by her husband. Captain McKinley (Charles Bickford) and his assistant, Duffy (John Sheehan) come into the case, along with McKinley's newspaper friend, Russell Kirk (Lynne Overman), of the Morning Star, already at the scene ahead of his arrival. With Mrs. Alvin (Cecil Cunningham), Tindal's cook, suspecting the wife's infidelity, and McKinley finding fingerprints on the doorknobs, a watch chain on the victim's hand and fingerprints on the doorknob links Frank to the murder. With Frank becoming the prime suspect finds Tindal's perfect alibi to let the law take its course. While night club owner, Jack Reed (J. Carrol Naish) and his wife, Julia (Evelyn Brent), might also be linked to the murder, the jury finds Frank guilty anyway, and sentenced for execution. Kirk, however, feels Frank is innocent, but is unable to prove his theory.
Other cast members include: Barlowe Borland (Doctor Sully); George Guhl (Brown); and John Hamilton (The Governor). Evelyn Brent briefly sings "There'll Be No More Tears," a song introduced earlier in Paramount's HER HUSBAND LIES starring Gail Patrick. Other songs as "Stop, You're Breaking My Heart," and "Double or Nothing," introduced in other Paramount 1937 musicals, are heard instrumentally in night club sequence.
Well scripted by Lillie Hayward from the play "Riddle Me This" by Daniel B. Rubin, NIGHT CLUB SCANDAL is a very entertaining 74 minutes. Although John Barrymore heads the cast, this product very much belongs to Lynne Overman (who always talks like he's drunk) and Charles Bickford as friendly rivals. Louise Campbell is charming as the female co-star, with Evelyn Brent, former leading lady of the silent screen, having some some fine moments with her tough babe stereotype performance.
Commonly presented on daytime or late show during the 1960s and early 1970s, NIGHT CLUB SCANDAL, which has never been distributed on video cassette, did have cable television broadcasts on American Movie Classics (1989-1990) before making its Turner Classic Movies premiere August 13, 2020, as part of its tribute to John Barrymore in one of his finer yet long forgotten programmers of the late 1930s worth viewing today. (***)