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Woman to Woman

Betty Compson in a Stellar Performance
Betty Compson was almost an old hand at talkies by this time and it made sense for the British film industry to remake this adaptation of a 1923 movie scripted by Alfred Hitchcock and also starring Betty Compson. It was a British production directed by the ultra stylish Victor Saville (and his style is there in every scene) but filmed in America where sound equipment was State of the Arts. Also James Hilton must have seen and remembered these films because "Random Harvest" had a very similar plot line, especially in the earlier scenes.

Betty Compson was fabulous and her French accent never faltered (actually Juliette Compton gave a very passable British accent as Vesta). Betty is Lola, a French cabaret artist who meets British officer David (George Barraud) during the war. He is called to the front before they can marry and years later finds him in an empty sterile marriage with cold Vesta but having no memory of the war or Lola, the love of his life. Lola is now a celebrated dancer taking London by storm and one evening David, who is in the audience, suddenly finds his memory returning when Lola sings an old favourite military style sing along. David is keen to renew his old life with her and knowing she has his child makes him more determined. Strangely his wife doesn't share his keenness to make the break - she is a social climber and knows if David walks out she will be an outcast!! So Lola reaches out to her "woman to woman" to see if they can find commom ground!!

The ending is pretty hokey - Lola has a heart condition and another performance will kill her. She wants Vesta to be a mother to her little boy. I don't agree with the other reviewers that the child is whiney - I think he struggled with an accent and just gave up half way through!!

Very Recommended.

Account Rendered

Honor Blackman Was a Jewel in British 1950s Bs!!
British cinema of the 1950s had a real jewel in Honor Blackman, she was a cool sophisticated blonde (rather like Eva Marie Saint) but most of her film work was unrewarding - she was usually the dutiful wife as in "Account Rendered", the more showy role of the femme fatale going to Ursula Howells. She is Lucille Ainsworth who flirts her way through dinner then must leave early to keep a rendevous with another lover (an artist) but is appalled by his portrait of her which displays her selfishness and ruthless look for all to see. Her husband is not sitting idle - he has followed her, to her final destination down by the lakes - he makes his way down to have it out with her, knocks himself out with a fall and when he comes to it is to find he is a chief suspect in her murder!!

The thing that stops this being just another follow the dots murder are the Langfords - at the dinner they appear quite swanky but when the police track them down for questioning they are anything but!! Living in a run down flat with the ever on high volume radio competing with the couple's constant bickering!! In fact the scene ends with a bit of intensity when John being led to the police station for questioning races back as he realises Nell's hysteria is just a mask for her vulnerability!! Too late - it may be way over the top but the scene makes the movie memorable!!

Griffith Jones, way back in the mid 1930s was Jessie Matthews co-star in a couple of her movies - he aged very well and by the late 1940s had found work as a character actor. I even saw him the other night on a "Public Eye" episode - grey and dapper and with a complex part he could really get his teeth into!!!

The Italian

Grim and Realistic Drama on the Treatment of Immigrants
George Beban had made a career out of playing ethnic characters when Thomas Ince signed him in 1914 to star in an original motion picture with the working title "The Dago". There was much publicity when it was announced that the crew would travel to Italy to shoot some scenes but they only got as far as Venice, California. A very similar plotline to Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" which revebrations were still being felt ten years after publication - that American streets weren't paved with gold and it was a pretty scary place for an unskilled and uneducated migrant.

Beginning with the star George Beban, resplendent in a smoking jacket (patrons were not allowed to mistake the real star for the part he was playing) he begins to read "The Italian" and is transported into the story of an Italian peasant and his love for Annette. He is a gondolier and often takes tourists through the beautiful scenic countryside, hearing their tales of America where every man is a king. Annette also arouses the interest of the rich merchant Gallia and her father gives Beppo a year to make good. He goes to America and is soon recruited by a mob boss Corrigan to persuade his migrant friends to vote for a candidate "the working man's friend" and with the money he earns he sends for Annette!! Initially life is lovely - the marriage ceremony is a riot as Beppo forgets the ring and for Annette, life is a whirl of new faces and experiences.

Time passes and life in the slums takes it's toll (ghetto scenes were filmed on location in Los Angeles and San Francisco). The city endures a massive heat wave and their little baby is succumbing not only to the weather but the impure food - the doctor says they must only have pasteurized milk. Beppo's search for the elusive milk sets up a train of circumstances which see him robbed, thrown in prison and returning home to a wife grieving the death of their baby. All the while showing how, as a migrant, he is treated as a second class citizen - the thieves are believed by the police, his notes to Annette are discarded by a smirking prison guard and when he appeals to Corrigan (who is shown with his own family) he is kicked to the gutter!!

Weeks later Corrigan's own child is near death and must have absolute quiet, Beppo is tempted to wreak a terrible vengeance. There is a wonderful use of natural lighting - early scenes where the lovers walk the hills during sunset and when doors open, lights illumine the darkness of poverty.

Clara Williams was one of the principal actresses at Inceville along with Louise Glaum - she eventually married the film's director Reginald Barker and retired from acting. Her success in "The Italian" found her typecast in ethnic roles. Even though not a glamour girl she had a beautiful sincerity that highlighted her performances.


Who Could Resist Nancy Carroll?
Could any movie with Nancy Carroll be bad - I don't think so!! Judging by the reviews of the day people were getting over "give me back my baby" themes pretty quickly. Critics felt that Nancy, Richard Arlen and Pauline Frederick gave it their best but were defeated by the dull and hokey script. The movie starts promising with dancing chorus girls over the credits and Nancy in a little song and dance but she is much too excited about her new admirer David Frost to be worried about back stage ribbing (that's Mae Questal).

Meeting the family becomes a nightmare as Pauline Frederick drips vitriol. "Is that a stage costume" she says, aghast, when Daisy is just about to enter the room. The family are awful and treat her like dirt beneath their feet - all except Bob who is the black sheep of the family and can see Daisy as the only one who can see his sense of humour. They are both caught poking light-hearted fun at the other guests and before the night is over both Mrs. Frost and Uncle Judson have offered her money to leave.

Daisy and David try to make a go of it on their own but David's cushioned up bringing makes it hard for him to economize. When their baby becomes sick they are back again with mother and when she organises a little get together with David's high school sweetheart as guest of honour that's the last straw for Daisy - she impulsively jumps at Bob's suggestion that they leave. Daisy is drunk but Bob plans to compromise her as he's fallen in love with her.

I obviously liked it far more than the other reviewers - it's a treat to see Nancy in anything and she is so enchanting in this. Like Barbara Stanwyck she always has an emotive scene and this one came at the end when, after taking six months to establish herself in a job, she returns to claim her child and to realise that Mrs. Frost has never revealed to David that she returned that night!! So David has always believed she ran off with the town drunk!!

Gertrude Michael, just at the start of her career, plays David's old sweetheart who has surprising sympathy for Daisy. Pauline Frederick played a few of these odd ball matriach roles ("The Phantom of Crestwood" anyone) and in this, while she was more restrained, she was still able to give the part an icy dignity!!

Aggie Appleby, Maker of Men

Wynne Gibson Makes the Most of a Rare Starring Role!!
Aggie meets Red during a diner brawl and it is love at first fight!! - a bit down the track and reality sets in. And isn't Wynne terrific - wow, I was in heaven with a rare Wynne Gibson starrer - she's Aggie, a tough talking (but soft hearted) gal who tries to keep Red on the straight and narrow!! And the wisecracks!! - "I just imagine those two dames gnawing over the same bone", "that's a two buck woid", "quit talking like a lollipop and use some woids with zeros"!! - all said in Wynne's tough but tender voice!!

Things come to a head when Red (William Gargan) is taken in charge and Aggie has to vacate her rooms. Her pal (Zasu Pitts) lets her stay in a room rented by an absent minded professor type (Charles Farrell) who is looking for a job!! Aggie takes him in hand - first of all changing his name to Red!! And Farrell is fine as well, at first, but the film slows a bit when Farrell assumes that tough guy persona - he's just not that convincing as a brawling construction worker. When he is puzzled about why he can't get a job (a very funny scene) and playing "Pomp and Circumstance" on the phonograph and pining for his fiancee Evangeline, he is great. Betty Furness once again takes a colourless part and puts her stamp on it!!

The film turns dramatic when the real Red is given a pardon - Aggie realises in meeting Eva that she is the right girl for Farrell, she's refined but rejoices in his new found he-man spirit. Apparently William Gargan hated his role in this film, he felt he was being typecast as cartoonish lovable lugs but he was fine and the end, showing Aggie has another remake on her hands - to turn the real Red into a dignified floor walker!!

Very Recommended.

Kate Plus Ten

Tobin is Terrific!!
Not exactly Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre and not really how I remember the book but obviously designed to fit the bubbling personality of Genevieve Tobin. As Kate she has just left her job in rather a hurry - her employer's daughter (a very young and exuberant Googie Withers) has misplaced a cigarette case, accusations are being thrown around and the police have been called in. You see, Kate Westhanger is the notorious head of a criminal gang - but thanks to the intrepid Scotland Yard Inspector Pemberton (Jack Hulbert) , Kate is saved to plot another day!!

Genevieve is terrific, her sparkling wit is given free reign and she is given a rare star billing - Hulbert and she have great rapport but Tobin would put anyone at their ease. Kate is running her gang like clockwork but there is rupture in the ranks - Gregori (Noel Madison) is planning his own little bank job and he has a few of her gang onside!! It is a stretch believing in Genevieve as the master mind of a gang of surly thugs - when she says "I've planned everything down to the last detail and have I ever steered you wrong before" you almost expect her to pout and stamp her foot!!

Delightful scene - first time I've ever seen a milk bar in a movie and what a milk bar!! It may have been an American invention but the Brits took it to a whole new level!!

Also Noel Madison who originally was from the stage where he had diverse parts, in movies he was usually a "dese, dems and does" wise guy - in "Kate" he was a bad guy but with a very passable British accent as Tobin had also. Another gang member, this one on Kate's side was Arthur Wontner who made a very good Sherlock Holmes in a series from the early to the late 1930s. Francis L. Sullivan definitely playing against type as Lord Flamborough, the rattled father of socialite Googie Withers who luckily didn't have a huge part in the movie as she was a dead ringer for Genevieve!!


Kidnapped in New York

Living History!!
This is the type of movie I call watching living history - the prologue with it's fabulous scenes of horse drawn wagons matching pace with the cars, a panoramic tracking shot of Brooklyn Bridge, busy Fifth Avenue, the Flat Iron Building - may have been no big deal to patrons of the time and was probably added to make the movie an acceptable feature length but they really set the scene for the vintage period.

"Baby Toots" father, a merchant, has called the police because of another factory robbery - he suspects an inside job but the villains have bigger fish to fry. They speedily kidnap Toots and take her to a New York slum. Meanwhile the detective on the robbery case has been thoroughly charmed by Toots and her very cute rendition of "Taking Baby's Picture" and makes it his mission to find her. Initially assisted by Toot's nurse, she is also captured. The climatic fire would have thrilled unsophisticated audiences back in the day who would not have been thinking "oh yes, that's stock footage from a film I saw last year"!! The inter cutting between the actual fire and the dramatic last minute rescue is very good.

Baby Marie Osbourne was a real find. She had a mysterious childhood - born in Colorado as Helen Alice Myres, she turned up as the adopted daughter of Leon and Edith Osborn who changed her name to Marie and added an extra "e" to obscure the adoption. "Kidnapped in New York" was her first film and she proved a sensation with Balboa being the studio lucky enough to sign her and make her a star where she reigned for 6 years!! Director Henry King also started out as a Baby Marie director and 20 years later he bought her out of retirement for his movie "Carolina" (1934).

Worth a look.

The Woman in the Suitcase

Adorable Enid Bennett
Enid Bennett was an adorable Australian actress who met (and later married) Fred Niblo when they were both part of a troupe touring around the country. They were then asked by J.C. Williamson to make film versions of their plays to forestall the American releases. By 1915 they were in America where they had met and joined Thomas Ince at the newly formed Triangle studio.

"The Woman in the Suitcase" is a very watchable movie with Enid Bennett in a "Miss Fix It" type role. She plays newly graduated Mary Moreland who has a strong bond with both her parents, however her world comes tumbling down when she sees a photo - the "woman in the suitcase" in her father's bag who doesn't look like a Great Aunt Agatha!! Too shy to frequent the Great White Way by herself she advertises for an escort to help her access places which would be closed to a young single girl. Billy Fisk, son of the paper's owner craves adventure and taking the call he volunteers his services. Mary has tracked Dolly down and with bewildered Billy in tow drags him around to various cabarets - he knows flighty Dolly and is not happy that his sweet escort is desirious of making the worldly woman's acquaintance. Plus because Mary hasn't told him the reason for her interest and has given him a false name, he is beginning to think she is not as "lady like" as he initially thought!!

The big scene takes place in Dolly's apartment, she knows her father is due for a rendevous and puts on a drunken act so the father will think she has fallen low under Dolly's influence. William Conklin as her dad gave it his all - he was soon to play a very similar role in the next up "Sex"!!!

Later on a prestigious director, Rowland V. Lee often partnered Bennett in movies and here he effectively plays Billy Fisk along with another future star of the 1930s Gladys George as Mary's pal Ethel.

Very Recommended.

A Man Called Harry Brent

Down a Durbridge Rabbit Hole!!
I liked this Francis Durbridge serial a lot. A bizarre murder of a managing director sets the scene for the always terrific Gerald Harper to make his mark as the brittle Detective Inspector Alan Milton. He is still smarting from a broken engagement and then finding his ex-fiancee is engaged again - to Harry Brent who, try as he might to appear innocent, seems to know a lot more than he lets on!!

Carol's brother, gentleman farmer Eric Vyner, seems to be quite chummy with Harry and a Mrs. Tolly seeks out Milton, she worked with the murdered man and swears she saw both the victim and Harry at a cafe, months before they were supposed to have met for the first time. Then there is the mystery of the pen - Milton gets a call a day after the murder by a woman who claims she gave Wedgewood (the victim) a particular pen for a Christmas present and now wants it back - weird!! Just who is the mastermind who is pulling the strings!! Theatre tickets are found in Harry's wallet but he claims no knowledge of them and again, as with all Durbridge's mysteries, this leads down another rabbit hole!!

Harper commands the whole show but Jennifer Daniels, as Carol, was a very familiar face on 1960s British television. Judy Parfitt also excels as actress Jacqueline Davidson.

The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre: The Malpas Mystery
Episode 5, Season 1

Beautiful Sandra Dorne!!!
Pretty Audrey Bedford has just been released from prison (she looks as though she is just leaving typing school!!) - she is upbeat and even though innocent of the charge, just wants to forget and get on with things. Initially given the cold shoulder by her step sister (luscious Sandra Dorne) suddenly she is welcomed with open arms by Dora and her sleazy boyfriend Lacy (the always officious Iain Cuthbertson). This was vintage Edgar Wallace - with things that go bump in the night and a terrorizing Mr. Malpas!!

This was one of the first of the series of Edgar Wallace Mysteries that did so well in the cinemas. "Malpas" was the only one produced by Julian Wintle and Leslie Parkyn who a few years later produced "Gideon of Scotland Yard". Audrey soon has a dashing detective (Ronald Howard, son of Leslie) on her trail - he is keen on her, knows that she has been wrongly imprisoned and wants to help find the culprit. She puts an ad in the local paper and is contacted by Mr. Malpas who wants her as a typist.

Meanwhile, in a subplot, a gentleman named Torrington (Geoffrey Keen) is searching for his daughter who he hasn't seen since she was a small child - Dora and Lacy see a way to cash in by trying to convince him that she is the one he has been searching for - they almost succeed but get a bit too greedy.

Maureen Swanson would have been one of the liveliest actresses in an Edgar Wallace Mystery but unfortunately she retired soon after to marry into the English aristocracy!!

Worth a look!!

East of Fifth Avenue

Dorothy Tree Owns This Movie!!
Ah, boarding house life, and Mrs. Conway (Maude Eburne) has all the representatives - Gardiner (Lucien Littlefield) who despairs of his lack of hair, Sam (Harry Holman) who is always thinking of a get-rich-quick scheme as long as there is no work or money involved and Baxter (Walter Byron) who thinks he is a beacon of culture amidst all the Philistines!! Mary Carlisle might be the top billed actress but Dorothy Tree owns this movie. She is Kitty, desperately awaiting Vic's return - they had had a fling and now she finds out she is having a baby. Tree's performance really elevates this movie as she goes through an emotional wringer. At one stage she contemplates suicide but her close relationship with an elderly couple, the Lawntons, gives her the strength to face things. They are all in all to each other and treat Kitty like the daughter they never had. When Vic does return it is with a wife, Edna (Mary Carlisle) and just when you're thinking that Wallace Ford is not the kind of chap to leave a girl holding a baby, you realise that Edna is not going to win any prizes for Wife of the Year!! She and Baxter find each other - he thinks he has found his muse and can now go to Tahiti where he can be to Poetry what Gaughan was to Art and Edna is just the type of an airhead who would be caught up in the romance of it all!!

Of course Wallace Ford was proving a heck of a versatile actor even in this one, initial thoughts were "what a jerk" but he turned out to be just a gormless guy. Walter Connolly was excellent as the loving Mr. Lawnton who would do anything for his wife. Dorothy Tree had already shown in "Husband's Holiday", her first credited role that she had an understated intenseness to her acting but unfortunately although she never caught on in front of the camera behind the scenes she became a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild and became known for her feminist views. As Dorothy Uris she became a speech and drama coach at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

The Shakedown

Another Magnificent Performance by Murray
James Murray gave a stupendous performance as John Sim - Everyman, in "The Crowd" and even though I haven't seen all his films, his performance as Dave Roberts, another "everyman" but one with a secret, is pretty high up there. It just seems that Murray's metier was the silent film or maybe talkies just coincided with his descent into alcoholic oblivion. I also loved his rapport with Clem, the street kid - his interaction was so masterful, there was no sickening sentimentality, Murray kept his scenes and acting on an adult level.

Murray plays Dave Roberts, first seen as a pool room lounger who tangles with boxer Battling Rolf after the brawler insults a local girl - but girl, Dave and Rolf are all part of a crooked scam, employed by the same manager to breeze into town and create a "situation" that will have the locals flooding to the big boxing match that is set up between Dave and Rolf. All money is on Dave to win but he is employed and paid to lose that match!! The manager's last words as Dave heads to Boonton are "try to arrange to save someone's life" but when that actually happens and he does save Clem from a nasty train accident, even though he is upset that there are no witnesses his redemption has started!! Apparently William Wyler specifically requested Murray for the role and MGM , who were desperately trying to hush up the problems they were having with their star, were happy to loan him.

Of course there is "a girl", this time she is Marjorie, the waitress at the diner which caters for oil rig workers (where Dave has found a job) and played to perfection by Barbara Kent (who had already excelled in "Lonesome" a rather low key version of "The Crowd"). Both of them believe in Dave and towards the end when a scuffle breaks out between Clem and a local ruffian, the truth comes out that Dave is a fraud. Wyler's direction of the fight sequence was magnificent and Murray comtributed enormously - the different camera angles involved the viewer. Dave was almost down for the count but the encouragement of the crowd gave him heart whereas Rolf, who was used to quick, fixed fights found his stamina flagging. The film ends - not with a hug from his girl (she is grasping the tent rope with relief) but with cheers from the crowd. If only Murray had been able to take heart in real life.

Very Recommended


Talent in Embryo
It may have been only 40 minutes long but Michael Powell's talent was already there with a nicely built up plot and stylized camera angles (one scene is filmed with Stewart Rome through a mirror) reminded me of "Crime Without Passion" a bit but on a more basic budget!! From the start attention is riveted on the odious and over the top Boswell Marsh who has been making threats to businessman Benedik (Stewart Rome). Benedik is chairman of Rynox, a company which is going downhill fast!! With Marsh's absurd theatrical makeup and Benedik' clipped tones, it is almost as though Powell and his crew are setting up cinema patrons to be caught in the middle of a grand illusion. Marsh has brow beaten an elderly ticket seller into selling him several tickets for the next evening's show - they are for the servants at the Benedik residence and their absence will leave him alone and a few hours later the victim of a bizarre murder!!

With his death Tony takes over the business and gradually realises that because of a life insurance policy, his father's death has saved the company. He and his fiancee (Dorothy Boyd) are keen to track down Boswell Marsh who they observed making a huge hue and cry in a gun shop earlier that day (and a satirical dig at the stiff upper lip fortitude of the British citizen - after Marsh's outburst a salesman steps forward with a "can I now help you Sir?").

Even though both Boyd and Rome had reasonably long careers, John Longden as Tony is the only actor I was familiar with. Michael Powell began as a stagehand on a Rex Ingram movie which was then shooting in Nice and eventually got him his directing chance when quota quickies were introduced. Most of his were mysteries and were often written by J.J. Farjeon and Phillip MacDonald.

They Knew Mr. Knight

Who Knew Mr. Knight?
When the film of popular writer Dorothy Whipple's book "They Were Sisters" became such a box office bonanza (over a million pounds at the box office) her earlier novel about corruption by wealth "They Knew Mr. Knight" achieved great success also. Apart from a maudlin, tacked on ending it was terrific - with grand performances especially by Mervyn Johns as Mr. Blake and Joyce Howard as Freda.

A chance encounter at a railway station throws the very ordinary Mr. Blake into the materialistic world of Mr. Knight. Blake has a lot going on in his life - he has a part ownership in his father's steel mill, he has three teenage children, one desperate to go to university and he can see years of disappointment before him. So he is easily swayed by the grandiose living of Knight. Blake was the good brother, the one destined not to give trouble but he has another brother, Edward, a square peg in a round hole who just can't seem to get his head around business. He is a dreamer and a thorn in the side of Blake.

All of the family (except the sensible mother, Nora Swinburne) clutch at the good fortune with both hands - especially Freda who is dazzled by her taste of high society with the Knights. Joyce Howard is fabulous as the flighty Freda, she convinces as a school girl and then as a young deb whose lack of character shows in her sudden marriage when things get rough for the family. Get rough they do when Knight convinces his cronies at a dinner to buy stocks in Cosmos - by the time of the stock market crash Blake is ruined!! When he confronts Knight for giving him bad advice, Knight calls him a fool and also insists that Blake pays him back the 2,000 pounds he lent him to buy the mill outright.

Throughout all this Edward, along with his down to earth barmaid wife (the marriage was a huge shame to Blake's ego) is a tower of strength and provides whatever money they can give when the family is at it's lowest ebb. Olive Sloane who was terrific as the aging good time girl in "Seven Days to Noon" is also excellent as Mrs. Knight whose good humour and down to earth personality inadvertently exposes Knight as the charlatan he is!!

Highly Recommended

The Dragon Painter

Lyrical Mysticism
After creating a sensation in "The Cheat" by the end of the teens Sessue Hayakawa was enough of a respected star to put together his own production company, Haworth, where he could explore different characterizations away from the usual stereotypical Oriental roles cinema audiences were used to seeing. With movies such as "The Illustrious Prince" and "The Beggar Prince" (often directed by William Worthington) Sessue took on sophisticated roles often with a mystical theme.

Here he is Tatsu, the Dragon Painter, a tormented genius both feared and revered by the villagers. He paints portraits of his lost fiancee who, he believes, has been turned into a dragon. A surveyor who has travelled to the remote regions where Tatsu lives, feels he would be a natural successor to the elderly artist Kano Indara who is looking for an artist to carry on his work and prestige when he dies. Tatsu's uncouthness aside, to get him to stay Indara convinces him that his beautiful daughter Ume-Ko is the princess reincarnated. Tatsu innocently falls in love but with marriage he finds his painting skills and inspiration have left him because he is so much in love with his wife. Ume-ko plans to commit suicide at the Singing Waters so Tatsu can conjure up his passion again.

Hayakawa's wife, the beautiful Tsuru Aoki had had just as an eventful career as her husband's thus far. Born in Japan but growing up in San Francisco, she was initially involved in dance which caught the eye of director Thomas Ince. She also recruited Japanese actors for the Imperial Japanese Company and made a strong film debut. She married Sessue in 1914 and together they would appear in over 20 movies together but they had a very traditional marriage and her career eventually wound down.

Very Recommended

Half Way to Heaven

"This Circus Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us"!!!
Quite amazing that by the time of this movie's release in December 1929, all three of the stars were talkie veterans - such was the manic effort to show that Paramount could make movies that talked!!

Paul Lucas plays Nick Pogli, a high wire "catcher" with a giant chip on his shoulder to do with his partner Greta - you can see what's coming?? Greta is keen on another flyer, then suddenly there is a fatal accident!! Nick convinces everyone it was an accident but when Greta sees scratches on his wrist she flees the circus, finds a rooming house and has no intention of going back. She meets Ned Lee who is all excited about his new "secret" job - he doesn't let on that he has just joined the circus as a replacement flyer for Greta's former beau.

It's nothing out of the box plotwise but the aerial shots are different and give you a feeling that you are up there with them. Jean Arthur sounds quite at home in front of the mike, lots better than her previous efforts. Rogers was still being groomed as "America's Boyfriend" but within the year he was forced to adopt a tougher screen image where he smoked and also played callow, selfish youths. He was better here as the over eager innocent (a particular scene where he first finds out he has a job in the circus - he jumps about and is so excited). Paul Lukas with his thick Hungarian accent is suitably moody - but the ending defies belief (or gravity)!! When Nick realises there is something serious between the two - you know that Ned is not going to last very long up on the wires if he has to rely on his "catcher"!! He gets around the problem in a novel way but Nick is only satisfied with a brawl in which he is bested by young Ned who tells him "this circus ain't big enough for the both of us"!!

The Idle Rich

The Great Middle Class!!
Even though by 1931 Bessie Love was looking toward Britain to continue her film work, "The Broadway Melody" proved a great boost to her career and 1929 was probably her busiest year. The problem was she was so good in B.M. as the type of sunny trouper she had made her own but she just didn't have enough clout to put her foot down and say "Stop! no more of these parts"!! So MGM used her to almost the same extent that they used Conrad Nagel who also happens to be in this movie!! He plays William Van Luyn (did you really think he would play the bread winner of the family!!) who is in love with Joan Thayer, his secretary (lovely Leila Hyams). It's a pretty creaky early soundie with some pretty ripe dialogue but MGM, as far as talkie innovation went was always behind the eight ball compared to the other studios. The conservative studio heads felt the talkies were only a passing fad and their late silents ("The Kiss", "Our Modern Maidens") were superb.

This tried to delve into class consciousness (as far as the elegant MGM could delve - not too deep). Joan is working class (only MGM could believe classy Leila Hyams as such) while William is a billionaire!! He is a lovely chap, a trifle patronizing but anyway Joan is worried that there is a big divide between his life style and hers. Her family are not poor but middle class and as cousin Frank is always eager to expound, their class misses out on things that the rich can afford and the poor get for free!! After putting up with the Thayer's cramped apartment (after their marriage Joan refuses to go to a motel) Will drops a bombshell - he is going to relinquish all his assets and build a hospital to help the great middle class - a phrase that's going to seem like a pain in the side by the end of the movie!!

Leila Hyams is patrician and shows why she was MGM's perfect leading lady but Bessie Love as her sister Helen shows plenty of spark and gets an emotive speech. The last part of the movie is pretty dramatic as the family come to the realisation that by their constant whining they may have driven William to philanthropic extremes - in fact Helen is the only one who accepts his wealth with open arms. Her emotive speech about what it's like to work in a typing pool where cabarets and dance halls are sought as an escape would have worked terrifically in a more dramatic movie. Even though the film was confined to mainly two rooms it never felt stage bound due to the good performances - all of the cast handled dialogue exceptionally and although it was hard to believe that Bessie could fall for gormless Tom Gibney even that was explained in her little speech.

Very Recommended.

To the Public Danger

The Highway to Hell!!
Highbury Studios were built in 1937 but when they suffered bomb damage were acquired by the Rank Organization as a home for it's "Company of Youth" talent school. It quickly became a fully fledged studio once again - for Rank second features. One of the earliest and best was the 45 minute shocker "To the Public Danger" based on a Patrick Hamilton radio drama about the dangers of road houses and drunken driving. Terence Fisher, a film editor, did so well on his first directorial effort "Colonel Bogey" that he replaced the slated director E.V.H. Emmett on this one.

Two couples meet in a pub - a working class couple (Barry Letts and Susan Shaw) and upperclass pals, irresponsible Captain Coles (Dermot Walsh) and his tipsy friend Reggie. It's clear from the start that Coles is after Nancy and she is bored enough to encourage him. After a game of billiards and after plying the couple with drinks Coles suggest a ride but Fred sobers up pretty quickly and when Nancy, encouraged to take the wheel, runs down a cyclist Fred's main thought is to alert the police.

For 43 minutes it is very pacy with fleshed out characterizations. For once the finger is pointed not at the working class but at their "social betters" who are completely insensitive to anyone's feelings but their own. Dermot Walsh had started in A features but he made such an impression as Captain Cole that from then on his "quickie" fate was sealed - his very recognizable dark hair with a silver streak gave his appearances an edge other than the straight forward characters he often played. Susan Shaw, a graduate of Rank's Charm School but character parts her real forte - again, it was this movie that gave her a chance to shine as a sulky teen, also paving the way for her very vivid performance as a post war delinquent in "It Always Rains on Sunday".

Very Recommended.

Diagnosis: Murder

The Look of a "Thriller" Episode - Which is Great!!
As soon as I saw Laurie Johnson's name as music composer, I thought instantly of "Thriller" and that this was a movie of whose plotting Brian Clemens would be proud. Gripping the viewer instantly, a woman is seen dodging bullets from an unknown assassin, all amid idyllic English countryside. Cut to a well to do doctor, Hayward (Christopher Lee) who has notified the police that his wife is missing, he has also been getting threatening letters. His secretary Helen (Judy Geeson) is very protective of him and maverick police inspector Lomax (Jon Finch) thinks they are having an affair. His sympathy plummets (not that he had much anyway) for the doctor when he is taken out in a speed boat. Hayward sees a neighbour who is encroaching on his water space and he spends the ride trying his best to capsize the little boat, with Lomax now thinking the bloke is an absolute psychotic!!

Hayward's plan is to keep his wife in a drugged state at a remote property they rent - when police give up the search, he can quietly kill her and dispose of her body in the lake!! The only questionable part of the movie is how a lovely girl like Helen could possibly find the cold hearted doctor even remotely likable!! Running parallel to this plot is one involving the private life of Lomax - he is involved with a woman whose husband is in a wheelchair and determined that Mary is going to have a miserable life!! Lomax is pretty awful to her but she wants some happiness and is willing to exact a horrible price!!

Christopher Lee was as usual at his supercilious best but anyone familiar with Jon Finch would be bowled over by his performance. He excelled at Shakespearian roles but his Lomax was not a gentlemanly copper. Also Jane Merrow who usually played 1960s vamps had a change of pace here as the housewife at the end of her tether!!

The Dream Lady

Weaver of Dreams
Getting her first movie breaks because of her father's connections with the early Californian film industry, Carmel Myers joined Universal (one of the first studios to move west) when she was a teenager and became one of it's most popular stars. Teaming up with Elsie Jane Wilson (there was an Australian connection between them) "Dream Lady" was able to come up with some cunning "gender bender" variations. Myers plays dreamy Rosamond who with the death of her grumpy uncle can now realise her dreams of having a little cottage in secluded woodland, a bloodhound from Livonia and becoming a fortune teller!!

She finds a forest hideaway, also picks up a little orphan Allie and finds her nearest neighbour is a dyspepsic recluse whose mother despairs of his ever finding a wife!! You can see where this is going!!

Into this idyllic setting comes trouble - Richard Jerrold, a conman, the black sheep of a hard working farming family, who is now passing himself off to gullible Rosamond (even the kid smells a rat and refuses to shake his hand) as a misunderstood inventor and encouraging her to do him a favour by finding customers to invest in his turbine company (actor Philo McCullough had a huge career of over 500 films). And of course smitten John Squires (the recluse) is quick to sign up but he is having second thoughts about Rosamond's constancy. He has seen her kissing one of her clients down by the water's edge and is horrified at her explanation that the client, Sydney, is just showing their gratitude. The secret that John isn't in on is that Sidney is really a girl who has come to Rosamond to ask for assistance to just break free from conventions for a while and to live as an equal to her fellow man. She then finds a fellow companion who thinks he has found the perfect pal!!

There are a couple of editorial slip ups - Rosamond yearns for a Chinese kimono but little Allie finds one at the start in Rosy's suitcase!! Elsie Jane Wilson was born in Australia where she toured with J.C. Williamson and eventually she and fellow thespian Rupert Julian married and immigrated to America in 1911 were they were both hired by Universal's Rex Company. Universal had a reputation of promoting women in all aspects of film. Wilson was soon known as the noted woman producer/director of Bluebird productions with children's movies her specialty. Her direction of little Elizabeth Janes as Allie is comical and memorable!!

Kraft Mystery Theater: House of Mystery
Episode 10, Season 1

Brilliant Film That Combines Science With Ghostly Phenomena!!
Wow!! I found this in a "special features" section of an Edgar Wallace Mystery set - and it is pretty special!! Combining the scientific with mysticism, it's the story of a haunted house and it's tenant history. An eager young married couple feel they have found their dream house but when they press the mysterious caretaker for an explanation as to why the house is so cheap she tells them the history. Beginning with the previous tenants, another bright eyed married couple Joan and Henry Trevor (Natalie Newman was absolutely luminous - a combination of Audrey Hepburn and Jean Simmons). The sitting room light begins to have a life of it's own, switching on and off and then Joan sees a man over by the windows. Henry is quite skeptical but takes a completely British, unhysterical, systematic approach to things - by mending the fuseboxes but all to no avail. They then both see the same man appear on TV and after ringing the station and their neighbours and finding the phenomena was exclusively shown to them, a TV repair man is called!! Joan, as a last resort, brings in a "ghost buster" - a gentleman with a number of electronic gadgets at his fingertips, he then calls in a medium (Molly Urquhart who plays her completely straight) who senses evilness and there is another flashback to the original tenants. The Lemmings, a scientist (Peter Dyneley) and his bored wife (Jane Hylton) who is having an affair!! So far there have been ghostly caretakers, metaphysical happenings, now the science starts!! Lemming knows about his wife's affair and he has rigged up the same sitting room so that anything the couple touch means instant electrocution. The scene fades to the present as they await death....

Jane Hylton was able to give her role so much depth that she grabbed your attention instantly - she was a graduate of the Rank Charm School but was more than just a pretty face. Unfortunately the film supposedly her breakout role was "It Started in Paradise" a romantic melodrama of the fashion world that just wasn't that good. The last scene in "House of Mystery" is a shocker, very scary!!

Very Recommended.


The House is the Star!!.... well as the spectacular cinematography of James Wong Howe who at the time was suffering from a career decline so was available for this independent effort. He made the location the star instead of boosting a pretty lack lustre script. Ida Lupino also gave more than her character had - by making Agnes intense but very self contained she inadvertently switched the focus from the mysterious Jennifer to herself.

Agnes (Lupino) is keen to start on her job as caretaker at the old Gaille mansion (surely a former silent screen star residence - "a thousand nights ago Rod La Rocque swam in that pool") but she finds doubt and skepticism where-ever she goes, whether asking questions or just the general store. Her keyed up tension makes her clutch at the mystery of Jennifer, the former caretaker who mysteriously disappeared. Finding a diary with cryptic entries, an unsettling record called "Vortex" as well as plans for a sea cruise, with the loneliness of the big house Agnes is walking a thin line. She also has a few visitors, a young man on a college hiatus (who looks more like a seedy 35!!), also Jim (Howard Duff) who manages the estates finances and seems to turn up everywhere she goes. There are also odd phone calls to the Gaille family themselves. Then there are the mirror fetishes, they come into play in every scene intended to scare - all of which makes the disappointing ending even more of a let down.

Just as much of a mystery as the movie is the director Joel Newton whose credits seem to be this movie only!! Just too polished and stylish to be the work of a once offer, I really think it may be a psuedonym for a more established director who just didn't want his name connected with the film for some reason - maybe that's the real mystery!!

Good-Time Girl

A Good Girl Gone Bad!!
Girls running wild must have been a post war problem and films of that period were at pains to point out the sticky situations they faced when they found themselves in company with usually older experienced criminals. Jean Kent scored the role of a lifetime as Gwen Rawlings who seems destined for a fast race to the devil!! You never doubt that she is 16 or the pride she feels when mistaken for 24!!

Initial scenes show a young Diana Dors as an underage runaway, too frightened to return home to her brute of a father - Flora Robson as a sympathetic matron tells her the story of Gwen Rawlings, hoping to bring the girl to her senses. Jean Kent, interviewed for the book "60 Voices" felt that the character in the original book was more believable for being not quite the wide eyed innocent portrayed in the movie. I still thought Kent was terrific - she had the deck stacked against her from the start but still wanted to be where all the bad action was!! Firstly, trying to put back a necklace she had borrowed from a dance the night before, she rebuffs the slimy jeweller's advances, is quickly fired and then has to face her father's violence. It's all downhill from there!! Thrown out of home, she is quickly drawn into the underworld of London where a spiv at her lodging house gets her a job as a club hostess.

There are a couple of decent people - Herbert Lom as the tough club manager realises she is out of her depth and Dennis Price as Mike Farrell who wants to help her but can't offer her long term happiness as his separation from his wife is only temporary. For every nice person she meets there are any number of thugs and petty criminals ready to give her the excitement she wants and aiding in her degradation. For the first one, she ends up in a woman's prison, the next, Danny Martin (Griffith Jones, one time Jessie Matthews co-star, who found his true calling with a string of psychopath roles) leaves her for dead in a railway carriage. She is found by two G.Is who seem innocuous enough but they are AWOLs and she then finds herself as part of a crime gang - she the lure, while they provide the thuggery!! The film comes to an electrifying climax as one of the cars who stop to help an "hysterical" woman, turns out to be the only person who ever looked out for her - Farrell. Too late, her hysterics are soon for real as she urges him not to stop!!

First class movie - Jean Kent is the whole show, Dennis Price does his usual gentlemanly turn and Bonar Colleano is super as the dark hearted G.I.

Very Recommended.

For Them That Trespass

Top Class Edwardian Noir
A tremendous film showing how changes in circumstances can make or break a man's character. Christopher Drewe (Stephen Murray) is a young playwright whose lack of spark reveals his sheltered upbringing
  • he needs to experience life in the depths to make his literary mark, so starts to haunt the seedy
cafes of Soho. Going by the pseudonym "Kit Marlowe" he falls in with a free spirited slum dweller Frankie who intricately juggles her different men friends so her "regular steady" railway worker Jim Neil will be none the wiser!!

When she is found murdered a manhunt gets underway for - hot tempered Herb (Richard Todd) one of her friends, but not the one who was there at the time!! - that was "Kit Marlowe"!! Herb tries to lose himself in the labyrinth of London and meets the loving and loyal Rose (Patricia Plunkett) who even through his long imprisonment never stops her support of him. After a few hot blooded outbursts, realising that Rosa will stand by him, he begins a metamorphisis from a petty criminal to conscientious worker. Drewe, after sending a couple of anonymous letters written to try to clear Herb's name, settles down to write his play "The Area Steps" with characters and dialogue lifted right from the murdered girl - but who attending the first night would connect him? Herb does, years later, listening to the play on the radio. He finds associates and dialogue taken straight from the past.

Acting within the law Herb tracks him down but the eager and sensitive boy from the film's beginning is now a self absorbed prig who, even though the viewer waits with anticipation to see Drewe concede "yes, it was me" - it doesn't happen and you realise he has no intention of lifting a finger to help. It's very interesting to see how justice is finally done.

The film is stunning and never lets up for a moment, all filmed with Cavalcanti's unusual style. I thought I knew Stephen Murray and he played the blind (in more ways than one) father in "Silent Dust" (1949).

Very Recommended.

Let's Try Again

Wynyard and Brook Make This a Stylish Production
With music by Max Steiner, art direction by Van Nest Polgnase and intelligent script and direction by Worthington Minor, this stylish film doesn't disappoint. Not forgetting it's two stars - Clive Brook and Diana Wynyard who play beautifully with each other. Brook plays Jack Overton, a doctor whose genuine concern for his patients have turned a young dancer's head. Helen Vinson thrives in an unusually sympathetic part - her Nan knows that she is infatuated with him but feels love should always be exciting and of the moment and doubts that Jack's long lasting devotion to his wife Alice is true love.

Seeds of doubt are sown in Jack's mind and when he arrives home, he and Alice have a blazing row as things have been souring in the marriage for quite a while now. Alice is not without her admirers - her niece Marge's fiancee Paul (Theodore Newton) is positively infatuated with her, especially seeing her in the beautiful dress she once wore when she eloped with Jack. Brook wasn't an exciting actor but he was so good - and it comes through in his impassioned speech about trying again, even if they have to pretend to be in love just while they recapture their past excitement. The film worked best in the scenes between Brook and Wynyard - Vinson was terrific but her part was left a bit up in the air. Towards the end she visited the Overton's home and proved to Alice she was sincere in her love. Irene Harvey was lovely as Marge and she did get a few scenes to show some emotion.

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