14 January 2013 | blanche-2
good message, bad script
John Beal stars with Mary Treen in this feature, "Stand By for Networks," a 1942 B movie. Beal plays a newscaster who calls 'em as he sees 'em -- except nobody likes what he's calling and what he's seeing.
Beal is Ben Fallon, and he's intrigued and bothered by attacks on American soil and begins to suspect treason. To Fallon, this is a call for Americans to get their heads out of the sand and to stop being isolationists. A friend has a list of suspected Nazi agents, which he manages to get to Ben (via Ben's secretary) before he's murdered. One of the people, Lela Cramer, works for the radio station.
Before any of this can be exposed, Ben is fired but mysteriously is still broadcasting inflammatory material. He isn't, nor can he find out where these broadcasts are coming from, but the voice sounds like his and it's apparent he's being set up. Not only that - he's lost all credibility. He keeps digging.
The message of not being complacent still rings true today, particularly after 9/11. Alas, it's a bad film - probably made fast and on the cheap with very little direction. First of all, the newscaster has a list of Nazi agents - I've carried tissue more carefully, but I wouldn't be walking around with a list like that. Why didn't he give it to the government? Second, I'm not sure a piece of tin is much help against a bullet - don't people shoot tin cans with bullets and aren't the cans damaged? And this was a pretty thin piece of tin. There are other things, but I won't go into them.
John Beal and Mary Treen, who plays his secretary, are both very lively and energetic, and Treen is very funny. The problem there is that they're in a different movie. Beal in fact seems like he's on stage. The others around him aren't putting forth much. This is the fault of the director.
All in all, not good. I met John Beal in the 1980s, a lovely man. When I see one of his films on TCM, I always watch them. He had a very prolific film, TV, and stage career despite starting out as a leading man in Hollywood and not quite making the grade. With films like this, I don't know how much of a chance he had.