30 April 2008 | kevinolzak
A Crime Doctor with George Zucco never screened on TCM
Of the ten Crime Doctor films starring Warner Baxter released by Columbia from 1943 through 1949, this is the only one that Turner Classic Movies has never aired. This third entry is one of the earliest screen roles for the young Nina Foch (pronounced Fosh), who plays a neurotic young woman having strange nightmares and calls upon Dr. Ordway to pay a house call at her seaside estate. There is no shortage of suspicious characters not the least of which is Nina's chemist uncle Frank Swift, played by the always enjoyable George Zucco. Other familiar faces include Lester Matthews and Ben Welden. A screen heartthrob during the early talkie era whose health problems by this time included emphysema and arthritis, Warner Baxter was truly grateful for the steady employment of a 'B' movie series like this one. Columbia was one of the few Hollywood majors whose bread and butter came from series like the Crime Doctor, The Whistler, Boston Blackie, and the trio of "I Love a Mystery," all of which were based on popular radio shows of the day. Until their recent airings on TCM, these films had not been widely seen so 'B' movie buffs like myself have been rejoicing ever since. The Crime Doctor series differs from the others in that (with the exception of the initial entry) the title character was never saddled with a love interest and always dedicated to the psychological aspects of the cases (shades of Philo Vance!). Warner Baxter was a native of Columbus Ohio who died in 1951 at the age of 62, much beloved at the time but quietly forgotten today, although his early talkies include appearances opposite Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. While none of Dr. Robert Ordway's adventures were truly outstanding, the only one I could not recommend remains the one set in Paris (the ninth, "The Crime Doctor's Gamble," director William Castle's 4th and last entry). Perhaps the most intriguing entry would be the last, "The Crime Doctor's Diary" (1949) which featured an early Hollywood appearance by future Moneypenny Lois Maxwell.