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Reviews

The Judge
(1949)

poor
I can't say too much about this film, "The Judge" from 1949. I saw a horrendous print, and I admit I found the story strange.

The movie stars Milburn Stone of Gunsmoke fame. I only know him from Gunsmoke, and I doubt I saw one episode all the way through. He plays attorney Martin Strang, known for taking high-profile cases and winning.

When he learns his wife is cheating on him, he comes up with a way to exact revenge. He approaches a cop killer, William Jackson (Paul Guilfoyle) and takes his case pro bono. However, he exacts a promise from Jackson, if he gets him off, he will ask for a favor in return.

Strang uses a loophole in the law so that Jackson's case is dismissed - temporarily. Jackson will not be indicted for killing a member of law enforcement, but he will be going down for murder. Before Jackson actually realizes this, Strang calls in the favor.

The rest was ridiculous and in fact, as is usual with a lousy script, the narrator had to explain the whole thing at the end. The only interesting thing to me was that the actor Stanley Waxman, who played Mrs. Strang's love interest, looked like Tyrone Power from a distance. The shape of the face, the hairline, the eyebrows. Up close he didn't look like him at all.

I am working off of a list of noirs. I have seen all of the famous ones. The rest of them have been a little disappointing. This was one.

Josette
(1938)

Mistaken identity, not to mention mistaken singing
That old ploy, mistaken identity, comes into play here in "Josette," a 1938 film starring Don Ameche, Simone Simon, and Robert Young.

This was Simon's swan song after five films at 20th Century Fox. She returned to France, only to reach screen immortality in 1942 for "Cat People" at RKO. I can only say, a good thing she came back.

Don Ameche and Robert Young play the Brassard brothers, David and Pierre, owner of a successful cannary. Their father is retired and receives an allowance from them. Unfortunately he is always getting into trouble with women who think he's loaded, and it's up to his sons to detach him from the female clutches.

This time around, he's going to marry a fabulous French singer, Josette. Josette is going to be appearing at a local club, so David and Pierre decide to meet with her, explain their father's situation, which will then cause her to exit.

Unknown to them, the beautiful, petite Renee (Simon) has to go on for Josette when she up and leaves the theater. The owner of the club (Bert Lahr) has to pretend she's Josette or the bank will take his establishment.

Pierre is a first-class worm and, very attracted to "Josette" says he will give her the information about Dad gently - after wining and dining and giving her yacht rides. In truth, Renee is attracted to David and manuevers some time with him. Meanwhile, the real Josette is with Brassard Sr. And charging a fortune in clothes.

The actors make the film fun. However, when Renee as Josette sings - omg I've never heard a more horrific tremelo. I tried to find out who dubbed her and then it occurred to me - would the studio actually have hired someone to sing like that? I still don't think it was her voice though. "Josette's" singing was a big hit - no accounting for taste.

When she wasn't warbling, Simon was beautiful, sexy, and kittenish - she just felt Zanuck wasn't doing enough for her. History proves she was right.

Three Blind Mice
(1938)

Remade a million times, still fun
Darryl F. Zanuck used to take half of one film and half of another and make a new movie. Hard to say how many times three women looking for millionaire husbands was remade. Moon Over Miami, Three Little Girls in Blue, Three Coins in a Fountain etc. Etc. Etc.

This film from 1938 stars Loretta Young, Joel McCrea, David Niven, Stuart Erwin, Marjorie Weaver, Pauline Moore, Binnie Barnes, and Jane Darwell.

Pamela, Moira, and Elizabeth Charters inherit a total of $5800 from an aunt, the equivalent of $113,000 today. In preparation for this inheritance, Pamela (Young) practices being the grand dame, while Marjorie practices being a maid, and Elizabeth a secretary/companion.

Money in hand, they leave the chicken farm and head for California, where Pamela wearing a splendid wardrobe sets up housekeeping in an expensive hotel. It's probably based on the Bevery Hills Hotel, since they're staying in a bungalow.

Pamela meets two well-heeled gentlemen immediately, and they both are crazy about her - Van Dam Smith (McCrea) and Steve Harrington (Niven) escort her everywhere, each scheming to be alone with her. Moira meantime is flirting with one of the employees (Erwin).

Out of money, it's time for Pamela to press the point with Van Dam. Things don't work out as planned.

The performances are all very good, with Binnie Barnes a standout as Niven's eccentric and earthy sister. Young, eye-poppingly beautiful, wears a stunning assortment of gowns.

Charming and fun film. Even if you have seen it a dozen times. The cast is wonderful.

Lancer Spy
(1937)

brothers from a different mother
A good cast is the highlight of the 1937 film, Lancer Spy, starring George Sanders, Delores Del Rio, Peter Lorre, Virginia Field, Sid Rumann, and Joseph Schildkraut.

Sanders plays an English soldier in World War I who bears such a strong resemblance to a captured German prisoner that he is sent in to replace him and learn valuable information. When the German officers become suspicious, they send a spy (Del Rio) in to find out if he is in fact the German officer.

20th Century Fox used this film to promote George Sanders as a star; however, he had been in previous films for the studio, including Lloyds of London. He is very good, as he always was. Del Rio is impossibly beautiful. Schildkraut gives his role an amusing characterization. For me he can never go wrong. Peter Lorre has a small role.

Not much of a story, since in these films, stealing information is always right there in the file cabinet. However, this is an entertaining film.

Accused
(1936)

#me too, 1936
No question, one of the most beautiful women to grace the screen was Delores del Rio. Here she stars with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. In "Accused" from 1936.

The film takes place in France. Del Rio plays Gaby Seymour, a dancer, who is her husband Tony's (Fairbanks) partner in a show where they do an Apache dance act in a show. At the end of their piece, she stabs him. He is wearing a steel waistcoat, so he is not hurt.

Despite her beauty, Gaby is insecure about Tony's love for her, and she's also jealous. The lead in the show, Yvette (Florence Desmond) is attracted to Tony and invites him to her dressing room. He goes only to keep the job he and Gaby worked so hard for, but he makes it clear that he is not interested.

When Yvette is found dead, stabbed with Gaby's knife, Gaby is arrested and goes on trial. Tony knows she didn't do it, and in fact, saw a man hovering around the theater that same day. He knows that if he can find him, he can save Gaby.

The story was made compelling by the two leads. Fairbanks was an interesting actor. Even though he had an overblown monologue toward the end of the film, he makes it believable rather than melodramatic. His acting styles comes off as modern today.

Del Rio, what can I say - you can't help but pull for her. I would only say she's miscast because I don't understand how she could be jealous of anyone - she could not have had any competition!

Appointment with Crime
(1946)

A man goes for revenge after imprisonment
Right before the final few moments of 1946's "Appointment with Crime," I realized I saw it many, many years ago - the final scene is very striking.

William Hartnell plays Leo Martin, who went along with a robbery scheme and was badly injured and wound up in prison while the other perps went free. When he is released from prison, he plans his revenge.

One of his ex-partners, Loman (Raymond Lovell) runs a dime a dance joint. Leo wants a job from him and subsequently learns that the job, a jewelry store robbery, was actually planned by someone else - Gregory Lang (Herbert Lom), an art dealer.

Leo comes up with a way of framing Loman for the murder of the other partner, and then blackmailing Lang, whose gun was used. He also gives himself a great alibi for the murder. At the time it occurred, he was at the dance club monopolizing the time of Carol (Joyce Howard).

Lom is appropriately classy and slimy at the same time. Hartnell is scarily effective and manages to talk without moving his mouth very much.

I have been working off of a list of noirs and near-noirs - many of them atrocious - and this is a cut above those I've seen.

Dark Mountain
(1944)

B movie that is now in the public domain
This was thankfully short.

From 1944, Dark Mountain stars Robert Lowery, Ellen Drew, Regis Toomey, Eddie Quillan, and Elisha Cook, Jr.

Kay Downey (Drew) finds out her new husband Steve (Toomey) is a total gangster, dealing in stolen goods and stooping even lower - murder. He has to get out of town and insists she accompany him, when all she wants to do is leave, period. At a certain point, they separate - he gives her a way to reach him after things have cooled off.

Kay goes running to Don Bradley, who is madly in love with her and in fact, came to propose to her without realizing she had married. He is a park ranger and, finding out what happened, he sets her up in an unused cabin.

Little do either one of them know that Steve never had any intention of leaving Kay behind - he just wanted to know her hiding place so he could hide with her. Despite Don visiting the cabin and bringing supplies, Kay has to pretend Steve isn't in the next room.

B movie done on the cheap, and it's one of those public domain films. I am following a film noir list because I want to see as many as I can; unfortunately, some of them just aren't very good.

Love Under Fire
(1937)

Young and Ameche, not their best teaming
From 1937, "Love Under Fire" stars Loretta Young, Don Ameche, Frances Drake, John Carradine, and Harold Huber.

Ameche plays Tracy Egan of Scotland Yard. He is vacationing when the Spanish Civil War begins, and he's called by his office with an assignment. He is to find and arrest one Myra Cooper (Young), who has stolen the fabulous Peralta pearl necklace.

Tracy has already met the beautiful Ms. Cooper and announces that this will be an easy job. Perhaps it would have been, but getting out of Spain is proving difficult. Not only that, but the real thief (Drake) joins the party. And Tracy and Myra have fallen in love.

It's not very good, but it goes from not very good to awful when Borrah Minevitch and His Gang appear. They are harmonica players, and Borrah actually became a millionaire.

I could have sworn I saw Johnny Puleo from The Ed Sullivan Show as part of the group. Reading up on it, he apparently was until he formed his own group. This is a short film, and they seem to be on screen for hours.

I love the leads, and Ameche actually has a song, and it's lovely. That's about it.

Inspector Hornleigh on Holiday
(1939)

part of a series begun on the radio in the UK
This is the second of the Inspector Hornleigh films, starring Gordon Harker. His assistant Bingham is played by Alistair Sim.

The two men are spending a delightful holiday by the sea - indoors. The tides are six feet high. Storms rage. Winds howl.

The men are staying in a guest house in Balmoral - one of the people there is a Captain Fraser of the Royal Navy. One night he receives a phone call and rushes out, taking his pet dog along with him.

Attempting to have a vacation, Hornleigh and Bingham are there under assumed names. However, when the man's car is found wrecked at the foot of the cliff, they are taken into custody to identify the body. The body is burnt beyond recognition, but the men take note of the fact that the dog was not in the wreck.

Hornleigh reveals himself to be a police detective and gets to work helping the locals.

It turns out to be part of a complicated plot. Harker and Sim are very funny, Sim especially, and the plot has a few interesting twists.

I will be looking forward to seeing the other two in the series.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto
(1937)

Mr. Moto investigates smugglers
Peter Lorre stars as Kentaro Moto in "Think Fast, Mr. Moto" from 1937. It's said that Lorre did not want this role, but having just been released from a sanitarium for substance abuse, he didn't have much choice. Nevertheless, he was very successful in the role.

Moto in this story is in the employ of the owner of a shipping line. He thinks his ship is being used to smuggle Asian artifacts. So he is on a ship to Shanghai with the owner's son (Thomas Beck), who carouses and carries on with all the wrong people.

Moto is a sly one, easily ignored by people until they get a look at his jiu jitsu skills, just as an example. He's also a master of disguise and unflappable.

This was the first of the eight films in the series. Very enjoyable.

Dinner at the Ritz
(1937)

A showcase for the beautiful Annabella
For French movie star Annabella, Darryl F. Zanuck was like God - he gaveth and he taketh away.

While he was in a giving mood, he starred her in 1937's "Dinner at the Ritz," also starring David Niven, Paul Lucas, and Francis L. Sullivan.

The scene is Paris. A banker, Racine, is giving a party at his estate, when he is shot dead. Racine had been troubled by problems at his bank - a conspiracy, in fact, that could be its downfall.

He had sent a letter naming six men who are most likely the guilty ones. However, the letter doesn't arrive. The police rule the death a suicide. His daughter (Annabella) is sure it was murder. She sets out to learn the truth and perhaps recoup money for her father's customers.

This quest takes her to Monte Carlo and London, and she at different times disguises herself as Spanish royalty and Indian royalty.

This is a sophisticated film, replete with beautiful gowns, real European locations, and some light comedy. A problem, however, was that at that point, Annabella's accent was not easy to understand. In spite of this, she is very good.

Then one day Annabella walked onto the set of Suez and met her costar, Tyrone Power. They fell in love. Contrary to popular belief, studio heads did not want their romantic leading men married.

When Zanuck saw the wedding bells on the wall, he offered Annabella three films that were to be made in Europe. Hmm.... Movies.... Tyrone Power...Guess what she chose. And Zanuck stopped her star build-up.

Annabella and Tyrone did radio and stage work together, and after their divorce, she returned to France. After an unhappy second marriage, Power visited her and asked to reconcile. However, it was too late.

That all happened later - see Annabella and David Niven, who in fact were to be involved in a tragedy in 1946 when Niven's wife died in the Power home, in happier times.

Red Notice
(2021)

Netflix caper film
Dwayne Johnson stars with Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot in "Red Notice" from 2021.

Mark Antony gave Cleopatra three bejeweled eggs as a wedding gift. Think Faberge eggs on steroids. Johnson plays John Hartley, who works for the FBI, trying to catch a notorious jewel thief, Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds) before he manages to steal them.

I've never seen a Dwayne Johnson movie. For me, this was a lot of fun, with great characters and dialogue, particularly Reynolds. "This is farm to table, right?" he asks a prison chef as slop is slapped into a bowl. He and Johnson are very funny together, and the action is non-stop. Gadot is gorgeous.

I enjoyed all the clever escapes, the banter, the fights, the parties, the dancing, even the derivative Indiana Jones feel of the movie.

Mindless fun - and sometimes that's just what the doctor ordered.

Fifty Roads to Town
(1937)

lots of fun
Don Ameche and Ann Sothern star in "Fifty Roads to Town" from 1937.

Until Tyrone Power attained stardom at 20th Century Fox, Ameche was their go-to leading man. After Power's rise to fame, Ameche still played leads, except when Power was in the film.

In this story, Peter Nostrand (Ameche) is on the lam, but at first, we don't know why. Millicent Kendall (Sothern) is on the lam, too, but again, we don't know why. We only know they are whizzing down roads at 90 miles an hour trying to avoid each other and the police. They both wind up at a hotel that is about to close for the winter. They both escape, Millicent still in her nightgown.

Later, they wind up in a cabin. It's there they learn that Millicent is an heiress (it is, after all, after It Happened One Night) running away from her father so she can marry her boyfriend. We also then learn that Peter is running away from a divorce case in which he is asked to testify. Since both parties are his friends, he wants no part of it.

Delightful film with Millicent at one point hiding in Peter's trunk - he spots her and gives her a bumpy ride. The shootout at the end is hilarious. The two sing a song together, Never in a Million Years, and we get to hear what great voices they both had. Both had many Broadway musical credits.

I love these lighthearted comedies.

Despite the Falling Snow
(2016)

Beautiful production values, but a disappointment nevertheless
"Despite the Falling Snow" from 2016 is a well-produced film with very good music and a good cast, including Rebecca Ferguson in a dual role as Lauren and her Aunt Katya.

The story is told in flashback. Lauren, an excellent artist, has been invited to show in the new Russia. She intends to go, despite her Uncle Alexander's (Charles Dance) protests. Lauren knows she bears a strong resemblance to Alexander's wife, Katya, whom he left behind in Russia - unwillingly. She wants to know what happened to her aunt.

Alexander, Katya, and Mischa (Anthony Head) were all spies in the Soviet Union in the 1960s. Katya meets Sasha at a cocktail party. She is encouraged by her handler, Mischa (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), to cultivate Sasha. While she pretends to be an avowed Communist, Katya hates the Communists for killing her parents and is spying for the U. S. Mischa believes that Sasha will have some good information for her to pass along.

However, Katya falls in love with Sasha and marries him - not what Masha had planned! Does as told. But, what starts as espionage ends in Katya falling hard for the personable and handsome Misha, as he also loves her, and marrying him, much to Misha's dismay. Complications arise.

I found this story slow, and I also realized immediately it wasn't filmed in Russia, and that no one involved with the production knew much about Russia. First of all, it's quite cold there. These people are walking around with woolen coats, scarves jauntily around their necks, and little wool hats. And the clothes were wrong. Not believable.

There was a complaint that the Russians spoke with British accents. I have a question - did you expect them to speak English with a Russian accent? How about that they're speaking Russian, and a British accent, used in Chekov and many other Russian stories, is completely appropriate.

The film moved slowly. The acting was good. I just couldn't get swept up in the story.

Alimony
(1949)

Men are fickle - or is love fickle?
"Alimony" from 1949 is a low budget film that nevertheless sports a good cast: John Beal, Hillary Brooke, Martha Vickers, and Leonid Kinsky.

Beal is a composer, Dan, who narrates his story in flashback when he is visited by Kitty (Vickers) father, who is trying to find her. Dan admits that he hasn't seen Kitty in a couple of years.

Dan lives in a convivial rooming house along with his fiancee Linda (Brooke) though they don't share a room. It's 1949 after all. Dan stays up until all hours of the night playing his piano, but no one ever complains.

Kitty comes along, and, once she hears Dan's compositions are going to be used in a new Broadway musical, decides that he's all hers. And Dan falls for her. He breaks up with a heartbroken Linda.

The musical falls through, and Kitty is out the door. Dan is left to try to win Linda back. No problem. She succumbs in no time. Dan, however, in the throes of amore, has written a song for Kitty. It becomes a big hit, and now the two are inextricably linked, even touring together, to Linda's disgust. But she decides to fight for her man and get him back. Again.

Not much point to this. I met John Beal some years ago. He was a lovely man and better than this!

The Mystery of the 13th Guest
(1943)

The Mystery of the 13th Guest
I saw an earlier version of this with Ginger Rogers.

The Mystery of the 13th Guest concerns a family of people who don't particularly get along. One night, the patriarch of the family summons all of them - with a 13th chair empty - and tells them that he is leaving his will with his lawyer. However, it is only to be opened by his then 8-year-old granddaughter when she turns 21.

When she turns 21, the granddaughter (Helen Parrish) goes to the old family dwelling - which, despite being empty has a phone and lights. Before much can happen, she is found dead by electrocution, to be followed in death by someone else.

A detective (Dick Purcell) hired by an uncle in the family, as well as Lt. Burke (Tim Ryan) work to solve the murders, realizing that the family is being knocked off according to the original seating chart.

Frank Faylen plays policeman Speed Dugan, who generates much of the humor.

We never do find out anything about that 13th guest.

A Monogram film, need I say more.

Crack-Up
(1936)

wild movie
Brian Donlevy and Peter Lorre star in this 1936 film "Crack-Up," which is all over the place.

The crazy plot involves an ace pilot, Ace Martin (Donlevy), and a new plane he is set to fly, the Wild Goose. The test flight, for reasons not revealed, is going to Berlin. Martin, as it turns out, isn't what he seems.

He has made a deal to steal some important propeller plans from a company in exchange for $20,000. In order to do this, he gives a sob story for a young man he has taken on as a protegee, Joe Randell (Thomas Beck), stating that the propeller is his invention and he just has to have it to stake his claim.

Joe's fiancee (Helen Wood) works at the plant that has the diagrams, so when he picks her up at work one night - she's usually there late and alone - he steals them, not realizing what Ace is up to.

Meanwhile, getting in everyone's face at the plane site is a nut job who calls himself Colonel Gimpy (Peter Lorre) who walks around blowing a trumpet and making bizarre statements.

Little does anyone know that this Kayser Soze prototype is actually the brains behind a huge spy operation - he wants the plans for his country, which seems to be Germany.

It all gets crazier and crazier, with Ralph Morgan playing a man whose wife has unexpectedly left him. She's en route to Paris, so he hitches a ride. Then Colonel Gimpy appears on the plane while it's in flight.

All strange...yet parts of it are entertaining. If you decide to watch it, good luck.

American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally
(2021)

Axis Sally on Trial
For some reason, as a kid, I went through the newspaper. Not sure how much I took in. But I remember some stories. One was about the release of Mildred Gillars, better known as Axis Sally. This would have been in 1961. I can remember my father didn't have very nice things to say about her.

American Traitor purports to tell the story of Gillars and presents her sympathetically. She was an American wanting to make it in show business who moved to Paris and then to Berlin in the 1930s. When the U. S. government told Americans to get out, she stayed because of her fiance (who was later killed in the service).

Originally she worked on the radio, reading propaganda to keep the U. S. out of joining Britain in the war. Once the U. S. got into the war, however, she no longer wanted to do that work and wanted to go home.

However, it was too late. The Germans had her passport and papers, and she either continued to read the scripts they gave her or have a very unpleasant time of it. She complied.

In this version of events, she was forced into sleeping with Goebbels (Thomas Kretschmann). He also beat her when she changed a word in a script. No way of knowing if these things are true. She was involved with Max Otto Koischwitz (Carsten Norgaard), who was her producer and whom she cared about very deeply.

Al Pacino plays her attorney, James J. Laughlin, and Sven Temmel is Billy Owen, his second chair (there is a small interview with Owen during the final credits). Laughlin's premise was that Gillars did what she had to do in order to survive, and that none of us know what we would have done. It's something to think about.

Meadow Williams is Mildred, and though the actress is 55 years old, she looks younger than the real Mildred, who was actually 44 or so at the time of her arrest. She uses a soft voice and a whiny, off key singing voice in the role.

Pacino as usual plays to the balcony but is believable as a no-nonsense attorney.

This was a vanity production of Williams, who inherited $8 million from her late husband. Production values suggest she has plenty of money left over.

A Shot in the Dark
(1941)

William Lundigan, a perennial smart-aleck
William Lundigan stars in "A Shot in the Dark" from 1941, which also stars Regis Toomey, Ricardo Cortez, and Nan Wynn.

Phil Richards (Cortez) a friend of police detective Bill Ryder, has decided to sell his nightclub and other properties to a buyer from out of town, although a mob boss has offered him a higher price. Richards has always been clean, and is determined that his businesses are sold to someone with the same values.

Newspaperman Peter Kennedy (Lundigan) goes to the airport to interview the buyer; after a brief interview, the man is shot dead. Ryder dogs his detective friend as he works on the case.

Nan Wynn turns in a lovely performance as Dixie, the club singer, whom both Kennedy and Ryder are interested in. Sadly, this actress' career ended in 1947 when a cancerous growth was removed from her throat.

Not very good, but I do appreciate goofball Lundigan. He at least is lively. At the end, Ryder and Kennedy recap the case since the script wasn't written well enough to follow.

Appearing as Richard's girlfriend is the beautiful Maris Wixon. Her biography says she it all going to be a star but somehow didn't make it. She was much in demand for magazine covers, and the great photographer George Hurrell loved her. Warners put her under contract and loaned her to Monogram, a poverty row studio!

With the #metoo situation getting so much publicity today, and the fact that this actress was married for 59 years, one wonders if her refusal to play the Hollywood casting couch game didn't contribute to her lack of success. That actually happened quite a bit in Hollywood. And still does.

Accomplice
(1946)

Cars moving across the road at a rapid pace
If you want to see long, long car rides that go for miles, 1946's Accomplice is for you.

The film stars Richard Arlen, Veda Ann Borg, and Marjorie Manners. Arlen plays private detective Simon Lash, who takes a case from his ex-girlfriend Joyce (Borg) who can't find her husband, Jim Bonniwell. He has, she says, bouts of amnesia, which Lash doubts.

It quickly becomes a real mess. First, it seems as if hubby has not one but two girlfriends, and both seem to be in love nests, one with a woman named Evelyn Price (Manners). Then Lash receives a call from a sheriff in Palmdale about a dead body. Joyce identifies the body as the missing Bonniwell.

This film lifts driving over hill and dale to a new art form. At 68 minutes, it seems like about fifteen of them are spent watching cars move.

Not much to this, except I liked Arlen's relaxed manner. Low budget and a bad print.

Mystery in Mexico
(1948)

an insurance investigator heads to Mexico chasing a diamond necklace
Not much to this. William Lundigan plays Steve Hastings, an insurance inspector checking into the theft of a diamond necklace in "Mystery in Mexico" from 1948. The film also stars Jacqueline White and Ricardo Cortez.

The first suspect in the case is actually an insurance investigatorGlenn Ames (Walter Reed) for the same company - it looks like he has taken off with the goods. Steve follows Ames' sister (White) to Mexico. They suspect she might be in cahoots with him.

Here's the thing - Steve Hastings is obnoxious. For a man who is trying to keep track of a woman by befriending her, he does a lousy job with his sexist attitude. In old films, sometimes the more wolf-like a man is, the better is chances are - go figure. I just saw another film, "Career Woman" where the male character was even worse and got the girl in the end.

At 66 minutes, the film has a lot of dead space. Finally, towards the end, there's a murder. Big yawn. Lundigan is very attractive and in my opinion deserved better. Jacqueline White was lovely and feisty. Ricardo Cortez' leading man and A movie days were over. He would eventually return to Wall Street, where he had once worked as a runner. He did very well, too.

Career Woman
(1936)

A small town girl returns home after graduation
Claire Trevor is a young "Career Woman" in this 1936 film also starring Michael Whalen, Isabel Jewell, Eric Linden, Gene Lockhart, and Virginia Field.

Trevor plays Carroll Aiken, soon to graduate from law school. She attends court to see the famous attorney Barry Conant in action. He is a showman but while doing his shenanigans, he spots Carroll and later makes a big play for her. She's not interested. She also tells him that as soon as she graduates in a week, she's returning for a time to her home town in the midwest.

Carroll's memories of the town, she soon realizes, need some adjustment. She resumes a friendship with Gracie Clay (Jewell) and even gives her a dress.

Later, at a 4th of July celebration, Gracie is found by her strict and awful father (Charles Middleton) as she consoles the boy she loves (Linden). When they arrive home, Gracie's father whips her.

Trying to get away from him, she hits him with a hairbrush, and he falls down a flight of stairs and dies. Though just a beginner in the law, Carroll agrees to represent her.

Carroll is overwhelmed in court, with the judge giving bad rulings - and it's obvious the jury is dying to convict Gracie. Not only that, the town disapproves of Carroll because she is a female lawyer. In walks guess who, Conant, to help in his unique way.

Enjoyable film, and though the monologue Trevor does is melodramatic and calls for emotional acting, Trevor does a beautiful job of keeping it more natural. Whelan is a riot with his courtroom antics, and Isabel Jewell is very sympathetic as the poor defendant.

It's not the greatest, but the actors all did a good job. Eric Linden, Jewell's love interest, came from the theater and returned to it permanently in 1941.

The Voice of Merrill
(1952)

The murder of a woman and three viable suspects
A female blackmailer is murdered, and three suspects emerge in "The Voice of Merrill," known in the US as "Murder Will Out."

Publisher Parker (Henry Kendall), up-and-coming writer Hugh (Edward Underdown), and Jonathan (James Robertson Justice) are the three who may have been involved in her murder.

Jonathan is married to Alycia (Valerie Hobson), but the marriage is not a happy one. She meets Hugh, and they fall in love. Hugh was due to meet the victim for dinner the night she was killed.

Ambitious for Hugh, Alycia organizes a radio series of her husband's old stories. The show is called The Voice of Merrill. It becomes extremely popular, with people wondering about the identity of the voice.

Alycia wants to tell the press that the writer of the stories is actually Hugh and not her husband. Jonathon has a severe heart problem and not expected to live. He never cared about claiming authorship of the stories. However, seeing the show's success, he decides to make trouble. The last story in the series, still allegedly written by Hugh, is a pip!

The murder of the blackmailer is revealed, but it's actually secondary to the triangle of Jonathan-Alycia-Hugh. There's a twist at the end of the film.

This is a little long and draggy, but Robertson Justice and Hobson really make the film. Robertson Justice reminds me of Peter Ustinov physically. The character has a tremendous wit and has some great dialogue. Underdown is handsome, but his character has the least to do. He was Ian Fleming's choice for James Bond, but the producer never really considered him.

This was a B movie that over time was elevated to an A over time.

3 Steps to the Gallows
(1953)

An American sailor searches for his brother in England
Scott Brady is a military man who learns that his brother is about to be hanged in "Three Steps to the Gallows" from 1953.

Brady is Gregor Stevens who arrives in London planning on visiting with his brother. His brother, however, was convicted of murder in will be executed in three days.

This doesn't give Gregor much time to find out what happened and hopefully clear his brother. He finds himself involved with smugglers but gets some help from Yvonne Durante (Mary Castle) a nightclub singer. It's risky business because these are diamond smugglers who will stop at nothing to silence anyone they think might talk.

A lot of action in this one, as Brady is constantly getting into fights. One funny part is when a secretary (Genevieve Brune) introduces herself as a school friend of Yvonne's. Since they were 19 years apart in age, that must have been some school.

Ferdy Mayne and Michael Balfour do excellent jobs supporting Brady. Many American actors made British films in the '50s. Scott Brady at that time was something of a matinee idol, though low level. He later went into character work and worked into the '80s, dying in 1985.

Most of these films starring Americans are B level, but I usually enjoy them, especially the Hammer films, of which this is one. Not the horror ones though.

The Late Edwina Black
(1951)

whodunit, Victorian style
"The Late Edwina Black" from 1951 stars Geraldine Fitzgerald, a favorite of mine, and David Farrar.

The story takes place in Victorian England. Gregory, Edwina Black's husband, is a schoolteacher. Edwina herself seems to be an invalid and independently wealthy. Her companion from childhood is Ellen (Jean Cadell).

The other person helping with Mrs. Black is Elizabeth. Elizabeth happens to be in love with Gregory, and he with her, and Ellen knows it.

One day Mrs. Black is found dead, and while at first it seems like a heart attack, it appears she was poisoned. A police inspector (Roland Culver) comes around as soon as it is learned how Mrs. Black died. His questions annoy Gregory and upset Edwina.

Before you know it, the two of them are suspecting one another. Elizabeth believes Edwina's spirit is still present and trying to destroy both of them.

Good movie, good mystery, with fine acting. It really does keep you wondering. The atmosphere is terrific, mostly inside a big, dark, gloomy house, which is perfect for the plot.

David Farrar was quite handsome but, like Dirk Bogarde before him, just wasn't cut out for Hollywood. While Bogarde's career in Europe continued and expanded after Hollywood, Farrar could not regain his momentum. He finally retired. Recommended.

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