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
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
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!!
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
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.
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
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!!
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
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!!
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!!
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).
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
"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
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.
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.
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
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!!
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.
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.
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
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.
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!!
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
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
"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"!!
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
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
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
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".
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!!
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!!
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!!
....as 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
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
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!!
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
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
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
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).
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.