14 July 2003 | django-1
solid Republic mystery programmer, w/ Dale Evans in non-Western role
The late Dale Evans was a multi-talented lady--singer, songwriter, author, actress--and it's often forgotten that she worked as a pop singer in the big-band era BEFORE her fame as a Western star. Republic Pictures put her in a few non-Western roles, undoubtedly trying to expand her appeal to the general audience. I know nothing about the production history of this film, which has Ms. Evans top-billed, but it almost seems as though Republic had a completed script and had cast the film, and then was ordered by Herbert Yates, Republic president, to write Dale Evans into the film without changing the existing story. I say this because the film starts quite well, gets an interesting mystery established, introduces a well-drawn cast of diverse characters, and then after 20 minutes Dale Evans' character--sister of the crooked William Bakewell and fiancee of the good guy Douglas Fowley--is worked into the plot, but actually adds nothing to it. Her role could have been completely cut out of the film and the same events would have happened and nothing would be missed! Oh, she is in many scenes (not as many, however, as Fowley and other supporting players), but she is somehow peripheral. Also, the song she sings in a nightclub is not a very good composition and not a good showcase for Ms. Evans' talents in singing non-Western songs--it makes her sound shrill, which she never was in her Western material. The final third of this film is somewhat weak, which is a shame as the first third is excellent and the middle third interesting, but the climax, where the lead crook confesses the whole plot in a VERY unlikely manner, seems abrupt and ends the film with a whimper, not a bang. The Trespasser, however, does have many strengths, in particular the performances of Douglas Fowley, William Bakewell (great to see him in such a meaty role as a flawed character), Adele Mara, and Warren Douglas (the cruel practical joke he plays on another character at the beginning of the film starts things off with a jolt!)--also, the plot element of the forging of rare books unfolds in an interesting manner. Director George Blair worked his way up at Republic from assistant director in the late 30s to director of many features in the 40s, before moving to television in the 50s and directing many classic shows such as Superman and Highway Patrol.
Overall, the film is an interesting piece that doesn't quite work entirely, but should be of interest to Dale Evans' many fans. She does a good job here, but there were many leading ladies in 1940s Hollywood and only one Queen of the West, so she went back to the ranch again after the film following this one.