Thursday, August 20, 2015

James Webb's babies: Raton Pass (1951) and The Big Country (1958)

Screenwriter James R. Webb was twice awarded the Bronze Wrangler by the Western Heritage Awards, in 1964 for How the West Was Won (also Oscar nominated) and 1965 for Cheyenne Autumn.  The Writer's Guild of America honoured him three times with the Valentine Davies Award in 1965, the Morgan Cox Award in 1974 and the Edmund J. North Award in 1975.  His 32 screenplays include a great mix of entertaining westerns, adventures and thrillers:  Cape Fear, Phantom of the Rue Morgue, They Call Me Mr. Tibbs!, Pork Chop Hill and Illegal.  His first foray into movies was with the Roy Rogers western Nevada City in 1941.  This was followed by such titles as Jesse James at Bay, South of St. Louis, The Big Trees and The Big Country.

TCMs Summer Under the Stars presented in the wee hours on Patricia Neal Day a 1951 western called Raton Pass.  I didn't recall hearing of it previously, but it was a western so I set the recorder.  The synopsis was rather convoluted about a rancher and homesteaders fighting his wife and her gunfighter, but if offered Steve Cochran as the gunfighter.  Oh, boy!  The Warner Bros. fanfare announced the start of the black and white feature which went into an unmistakable Max Steiner score.  The movie might not be an epic, but Steiner always gives it that feel.  As a devotee of William Wyler's The Big Country I was pleased to see the names James R. Webb as screenwriter and Edwin L. Marin (Abilene Town, Fighting Man of the Plains) as director.  This, I thought, may well be worth the time.

Patricia Neal starred as Ann Challon, an extremely ambitious woman who made no secret of the fact that she wanted land and came to town with her sights set on Marc Challon played by Dennis Morgan.  Both Marc and his father Pierre, played by Basil Ruysdael, thought Ann was the perfect wife/companion and new matriarch for the huge and powerful Challon ranch. Everyone was in accord, so what could possibly go wrong?

Ann was frustrated by the limited role of a woman at the ranch.  Marc and his father had long done things their way and didn't want or solicit her ideas.  Eventually Ann's natural greed took over and she got her hooks into a banker, Prentice played by Scott Forbes, with a plan to divorce Marc and buy him out.  Pierre, on a wrong-headed generous impulse, had given Ann title to half the ranch on her wedding day.

Marc acquiesced to Ann's demand, or so it seemed to Pierre, who packed up and left town.  Marc had a long range plan for revenge.  Ann had no title to a strip of land called Raton Pass that Marc had leased from Jim Pozner played by Louis Jean Heydt.  The homesteaders led by Pozner had long felt themselves under the thumb of the mighty Challons and forced to subsist on less than fertile land.  Marc sought the help of the homesteaders, combined with his own loyal forces to box the cattle away from Challon land and drive Ann to bankruptcy.  The only "in" Marc had with Pozner was Pozner's niece Lena played by Dorothy Hart.  Lena had had a crush on Marc since girlhood and lied to her uncle that she and Marc were in a relationship.  Her lie bought Marc some semblance of co-operation from the homesteaders.  

Meanwhile, Ann had hired her own crew headed by gunfighter Cy Van Cleave (what a name!) played by Steve Cochran.  They had connected when she first came to town and Ann thought she knew how to control the hot-headed fighter.  Some gals were born to play with fire and Ann is at the head of the line.

Watching this work-a-day project I couldn't help but notice some similarities to the almost a decade off The Big Country.  Raton Pass was based on a novel by Thomas W. Blackburn, the lyricist of the popular Davey Crockett theme, published in 1950.  The Big Country was based on a novel by Donald Hamilton, author of the Matt Helm series.  Webb's screenplays for both have some obvious similarities for those of us familiar (perhaps overly so) with the films.  

Although the story of the all-powerful ranch owner sticking it to the little guy is nothing new in the western, it is the combined effect of the similarities which I found striking and more than a little endearing.

The Challons of Raton Pass rule with an iron fist and sense of entitlement similar to Major Terrill of The Big Country.  Jim Pozner and his little guys living on scrub land and having to take it are easily marking time for Rufus Hannassey and the folks of Blanco Canyon.  Marc Challon falling for the wrong gal when the right one is standing in front of him is a shadow of Jim McKay being engaged to Pat Terrill when Julie Maragon is right around the corner.

Near the climax of the feature, there is a scene where Lena and an injured Marc ride off to join Pierre as he and the remaining cowhands face Ann and Van Cleave.  In an impassioned speech Lena berates her fellow homesteaders for not sticking up for themselves when it counts and off she and Marc ride alone.  The music swells as eventually what is left of the Pozner gang follows.  In its own small way it is a set-up for Major Terrill and Steve Leech's ride into Blanco Canyon - one of the great scenes in a western.

I'm not recommending Raton Pass as a must-see movie, but if you are a fan of The Big Country it is amusing to see parts of the epic in an embryonic stage.  Dennis Morgan even sings a tune on his wedding day!


Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Making of an Anti-Damsel: Deborah Kerr in "Vacation from Marriage"

Movies Silently and The Last Drive-In urge us to think of the "anti-damsel", empowered ladies of silent and classic film.  Here is where all the inspiring females hang out.

It is not enough to say that Robert and Catherine Wilson, the lead characters in 1945s Vacation from Marriage, directed by Alexander Korda, are an average couple.  They are not.  They are rather a below average couple.  Robert is a perfect little automaton, a nondescript London bookkeeper and a slave to routine.  Cathy, his wife, nurses a perpetual cold while fussing over the needs of her husband.  Robert Donat, the dashing star of Knight Without Armour and The 39 Steps plays Robert Wilson.  Cathy is played by Deborah Kerr who had just made a great success in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and in a short time would win over the folks in Hollywood.

Cathy at home serving tea.
Deborah Kerr

Cathy Wilson, at the time we meet her, is in the unshakable throes of domestic damselhood.  However, Robert and Cathy's lives are to be changed forever.  It is 1940 and Robert is off to war.  Prone to seasickness, Robert is facing untold years in the Royal Navy.  Whatever will poor Cathy do without his steadying influence?

Cathy  and Dizzy Clayton
Deborah Kerr and Glynis Johns

Cathy's answer to the long separation is to join the Women's Royal Navy Service (WRENS).  Among new companions and with new and energizing responsibilities, Cathy gradually sheds her old cardigans and old ways.  Cathy becomes a modern, self-sufficient anti-damsel!

Cathy's new pal, "Dizzy" Clayton is a confident contemporary woman.  She smokes, uses lipstick and tilts her hat at a flattering angle.  Dizzy also has a cousin Richard, an intriguing and conveniently located artist.

Cathy in the thick of things.

It is a matter of routine for the young woman to deliver important messages at night, alone, across open water during a bombing raid.  "A bit noisy", but no trouble at all.

Our inner selves are often at odds with the face we present to the world or the lives we lead.  Sometimes all we need is a little shaking up.  For Cathy, it took a worldwide conflict to embrace her inner anti-damsel.

Cathy dancing with Dizzy's cousin.

Roland Culver plays Richard, Dizzy's cousin.  Richard is a man who appreciates the new Cathy, who takes her on picnics and opens her mind and heart to possibilities heretofore undreamt.  Richard teaches Cathy to dance.

A most uncomfortable Cathy.

After three years Cathy and Robert finally have leave at the same time.  Cathy thinks it is immoral to have to be a wife to someone you haven't known in years.  She likes her new life and wants nothing to do with the old one, especially her stick-in-the mud husband, Robert.

Cathy is surprised.

It is obvious that Cathy was under the impression that her Robert was sitting on his hands all this time.  Not a bit of it!  Robert has had his share of adventure and change.  He's met interesting people and done his fair share of dancing.  Robert may be even less thrilled about this reunion with the mousey damsel he left behind than even his spouse.  The dawning light finds Robert as surprised as Cathy.

Cathy dances with Robert.

As the strangers dance, they begin to think perhaps their marriage isn't such a lost cause.  After all, any anti-damsel worth her salt is allowed a change of heart, and free reign to follow that heart's desire.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon: Lionel stars in "Down to the Sea in Ships"

The legendary Barrymores are getting the blogathon treatment courtesy of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood Here you will find all the affection and admiration accorded the family.

Lionel Barrymore's autobiography, as told to Cameron Shipp, We Barrymores cemented my regard for the actor who was loathe to follow in the family business.  What shone through for me was his love for his grand sister and his tragic and misunderstood baby brother.  

Lionel's screen acting career garnered him one Oscar win for 1931s A Free Soul.  Although I am a fan of Lionel's, I am not a fan of that performance and am flummoxed by the fact that he did not receive another nomination in a career that encompassed over 20 more years and many great performances.  Consider:  Broken Lullaby, Grand Hotel, Dinner at Eight, Captains Courageous, Ah, Wilderness!, Key Largo and, my special favourite, Down to the Sea in Ships.

Henry Hathaway directed the 1949 feature Down to the Sea in Ships based on a story by Sy Bartlett (Twelve O'Clock High, The Big Country) and screenplay by John Lee Mahin (Captains Courageous, Bombshell).  The crisp black and white cinematography is by Joseph MacDonald (My Darling Clementine).  The stirring score is from Alfred Newman (How the West Was Won).

New Bedford, 1887 - a land of lighthouses, widow's walks and whaling masters.  Captain Bering Joy (Lionel Barrymore) is a whaling master, the son of a whaling master, the father of a whaling master and the grandfather of a future whaling master, Jed (Dean Stockwell).  Returning to port after four years at sea Captain Joy has a new record in his cargo of whale oil and a grandson who outgrew the clothes with which they started the voyage.  Their next voyage is not assured.  Out of concern and compassion, and the request of the insurance company, Captain Joy's friends and employers want to convince the 70-year-old to retire and live out his remaining years on land.  The local school board will be testing young Jed to ensure his grandfather was diligent in maintaining educational standards.

The future hinges on Jed's exam results.
Lionel Barrymore, Dean Stockwell, Gene Lockhart

A sympathetic school superintemdent (Gene Lockhart) fudges the marks to give Jed a passing grade.  The ship's owners hire, pursuant to Captain Joy's approval, an experienced, university trained first mate in possession of master's papers.  Being Joy turns the hiring of Mister Lunceford (Richard Widmark) to his own advantage by giving him the duty of tutoring Jed.

Captain Being Joy addresses the crew.

 "The business of this vessel is the takin' o' whale.  We don't go home til we've a full cargo.  You'll get justice aboard with no favouritism, but I better not run into no shirkin', cowardice nor just plain meanness.  I aim to bring you back better men than when I got ya.  Bare and bow your heads - O Lord, we ask your blessing on this company that go down to the sea in ships; that will see and know your works and your wonders in the vast deep.  Amen."

Ship's log

It is part of Captain Joy's code as master of the ship to treat Jed as he would any other member of the crew now that the lad has moved up from cabin boy.  The affection a grandfather would normally show his grandson is strictly off limits.  The affectionate youngster turns his hero worshipping eyes in the direction of his new mentor Mister Lunceford.  Emotion is something Mister Lunceford strives to avoid and does not heed the cook (Cecil Kellaway) when he cautions Lunceford about Jed's attachment and the Captain's jealousy.

Life is a lesson.
Dean Stockwell, Richard Widmark

The films gives us a strong sense of the isolation and tedium broken by the backbreaking  and dangerous work of "takin' whale".  It includes a fascinating look at the rendering of the carcass into the important product of whale oil.  The crew is comprised of a number of familiar character actors whose weathered faces look totally at home in the environment:  J.C. Flippen, John McIntire, Harry Morgan and Arthur Hohl.  The crew is devoted to Captain Joy.  He is strict and demanding, but fair and honest.  Every man knows where they stand with the Captain who holds himself to the highest standard of all.

Avast, mateys!  Spoilers ahead.

Pride and concern as Jed is "blooded".
Lionel Barrymore

Life on a whaling vessel is filled with danger.  One small mistake can cost a man his life.  A crisis comes to pass when one of the longboats sent after a whale goes missing in the fog.  On board is young Jed.  It is against the Captain's rule to endanger a second ship by sending out a search party.  Mister Lunceford disobeys orders by sending out the extra crew.  The missing boat was in great distress, but thankfully they saved the sailors.  Captain Joy was thrilled beyond measure to have his grandson back, yet he still had to discipline Lunceford for disobeying orders by relieving him of duty and sending him ashore at the first opportunity.  Lunceford understood the necessity of his punishment.  Jed, however, saw it only as a sign of meanness in his grandfather and it causes a breach between them.

Pride of New Bedford in distress.

A further tense situation occurs with Captain Joy becoming ill.  Mister Lunceford is placed in charge and the ship is damaged while trying to navigate an ice field.  Men are injured, men are killed and men are frightened.  Captain Joy rouses himself to take charge of the situation displaying the strength of his character and reconciling with Jed.

Captain Bering Joy
Lionel Barrymore

The emotionally inspirational aspect of the story of Down to the Sea in Ships is the maturing of three generations of characters.  Captain Joy appears to be a stubborn and crusty old fellow, but is humble before his God and open-minded enough to admit his lack of education.  When Mister Lunceford's talk is beyond Joy's ken, he secretly takes to the books to improve his knowledge.

Jed Joy and Mister Lunceford
Dean Stockwell, Richard Widmark

Mister Lunceford is bright and ambitious, but he has neglected his emotional understanding and well-being.  By observing and becoming involved in the relationship between Jed and his grandfather and allowing his affection for both to grow, Lunceford becomes a more well-rounded and understanding man and master.

Jed has a youngsters large capacity for both good will and enmity, for quick judgments and misunderstandings.  The adult influences in Jed's life guide him without pushing and he comes through his trials a more aware and thoughtful young man.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Colleen Gray: We will always enjoy her work.

Colleen Gray
October 23, 1922 - August 3, 2015

Film fans are mourning the loss of lovely Colleen Gray, star of classic film-noir such as Nightmare Alley, Kiss of Death, Kansas City Confidential and The Killing.  Westerns like the revered Red River, and the less revered Town Tamer, Black Whip and Arrow in the Dust.  Sci-fi fun flicks like The Leech Woman and classic television guest appearances on Perry Mason, Rawhide, 77 Sunset Strip, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and as Chief Clifford's wife on McCloud.

Red River
John Wayne, Colleen Gray

Ms. Gray's round-up of leading men includes the tops in the business:  Tyrone Power, John Wayne, Bing Crosby, William Holden, Dana Andrews, Victor Mature, Sterling Hayden, John Payne and Dana Andrews.

Kiss of Death
Victor Mature, Colleen Gray

If I recall my Saturday Night at the Movies hosted by Elwy Yost correctly, Colleen said that "Vic" became her protector against notably grumpy director Henry Hathaway on Kiss of Death.

Ms. Gray possessed a warmth that was as sincere as any found onscreen.  She was a welcome ray of sunshine in the shadowy world of noir.  She was a lively and winning comedienne in two family comedies of 1950, Father Was a Bachelor and Frank Capra's remake of his own Broadway Bill with music, Riding High.  When I think of Ms. Gray, I always think of this spirited number:

Sunshine Cake was written by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen, herein performed by Mr. Bing Crosby, Mr. Clarence Muse and Ms. Colleen Gray with kibbitzing from "Broadway Bill" himself in his stall.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Caftan Woman's Choice: One for August on TCM

The Tall Target has the three things that make a movie great - trains, murder, and trains.

Released in 1951 The Tall Target is a political and historical thriller from director Anthony Mann.  It is only one of the legacy of quality films from Mann in film-noir (Raw Deal, He Walked by Night, T-Men), groundbreaking adult westerns (Winchester '73, Devil's Doorway, The Tin Star) and epics (El Cid, The Fall of the Roman Empire).

The story and screenplay by George Worthington Yates and Art Cohn is based on the threat of assassination of Abraham Lincoln prior to his inauguration as President of the United States, known as The Baltimore Plot.

Adolphe Menjou, Dick Powell

Dick Powell stars as John Kennedy, a police officer once assigned to protect the politician who believes he has stumbled upon a plot to kill President-elect Lincoln, but cannot convince the authorities of the imminent danger. Stripped of his credentials, Kennedy faces a lonely and danger-filled night battling the conspirators on board a train bound for the inauguration.


Is there anyone Sgt. Kennedy can trust? The peacock-proud newly-minted Union officer played by Adolphe Menjou seems willing.  A young southern West Pointer played by Marshall Thompson is touchy and distracted.  His sister played by Paula Raymond and their slave played by Ruby Dee are dealing with their own difficulties.

Florence Bates, Will Geer

The all-knowing conductor played by Will Geer has a deceptively distracted air.  The over-bearing authoress played by Florence Bates may be more of a hindrance with her forcefully shared opinions.  The rambunctious and larcenous youngster traveling with his mother, Peter Morrow and Barbara Billingsley, would only be in the way.

Lief Ericson

The menacing thug played by Lief Ericson leaves Kennedy no doubt as to the validity of the plot and the lengths to which the conspirators will go.  I grew up watching Ericson on his series The High Chaparral and he is an actor who intrigues me. He was one of those Group Theatre lads, but I haven't been able to catch him at it.

Ruby Dee, Paula Raymond

It is not only danger that is faced throughout the long night. The characters played by Misses Raymond and Dee are forced to face their emotional loyalties and political realities.

Dick Powell

A thoughtful and exciting edge-of-your-seat thriller, The Tall Target is well-written, and energetically performed and directed.  The moody black and white cinematography is courtesy Academy Award Winner (Battleground) Paul Vogel.  At a crisp 78 minutes, it is as dandy a thriller to ever come out of Hollywood.

TCM is screening The Tall Target on Monday, August 3rd at 2:45 am as part of Adolph Menjou's day for Summer Under the Stars.  It couldn't be a better time to be a Night Owl.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Gelett Burgess on Remake Alley: "Two in the Dark" (1936) and "Two O'Clock Courage" (1945)

Gelett Burgess
1866 - 1951

Gaze upon the features of the man who gave us Goops, and How to Be Them, plus sequels, A Classic Dictionary of Words You Have Always Needed, such as "blurb", and The Purple Cow.

 I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one!

The humorist, art critic, poet, author, editor (The Lark) influenced generations and continues to do so to this very day as the Gelett Burgess Center annually awards their prestigious award to the best in children's literature.

Mr. Burgess was also the author of a dandy mystery published in 1934 called Two O'Clock Courage.  The story involves an amnesiac and his attempts to prove or disprove his involvement in a high profile murder case.  Sounds perfect for the movies, doesn't it?  Well, it certainly kept the folks at RKO busy.

The 1936 version of the story is called Two in the Dark and was directed by Benjamin Stoloff, a veteran of shorts, westerns and comedies, from a Seton I. Miller (The Adventures of Robin Hood, Ministry of Fear, Pete's Dragon) screenplay.

Our film opens with the silhouette of a man walking out of the fog, he stops by a street scene to ascertain his whereabouts and we see he has a head injury.

Our as yet unnamed hero is played by Walter Abel (Holiday Inn, Island in the Sky).  He is next to a gated park; it is not locked and he enters and sits on a bench barely noticing the young woman sitting on an opposite bench.  However, she notices the nattily dressed stranger with the hunted look.  No matter his circumstances, I find Walter Abel always looks very neat.

Margot Grahame, Walter Abel

The woman is played by Margot Grahame (The Informer, The Arizonian).  She is an actress whose show has closed leaving her stranded in Boston and kicked out of her boarding house by a heartless landlady.  She may have her troubles, but the poor fellow on the other bench really looks like he needs help.  The pair of them are continually hustled along by the beat cop (Ward Bond) until it is daylight.  Determining the police as their best possible place for help, they are stopped outside the station house by the morning paper which indicates our man may have something to do with a murder.  Using the scant clues available to them, initials in a hat, matchsticks from a night club and ticket stubs to a play, our detective duo sets out to determine the why, the where and, most especially, the who.

Along the course of their investigation they are involved with the official lead investigator played by Alan Hale (The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Strawberry Blonde) and a know-it-all reporter played by Wallace Ford (The Informer, The Man from Laramie).  Gail Patrick (Stage Door, My Man Godfrey) is a society gal who seems very tight with our hero.  Erin O'Brien-Moore (The Plough and the Stars, Peyton Place) is a glamorous actress with romantic problems.  There are great bits for Eric Blore (Top Hat) as a nervous butler and Erik Rhodes (Top Hat) as an hysterical musician.

The film starts off as a moody little thriller and manages to maintain that atmosphere even the addition of comic elements, personified by the reporter and the wisecracks between that character and our actress.  Abel conveys a true sense of the confusion of a man who doesn't even recognize his own face, coming to life when thrown into the midst of the action.  Grahame has a weary, resigned vibe to her character at the beginning that fades as she throws herself into the task at hand, and her unwavering belief in her companion, tinged with the hint of romance.

Actresses, butlers, tailors who sideline as amateur detectives, producers, gangsters - how will it all end?  There's a neat double twist at the end of the string for a very satisfying, entertaining film. 


The 1945 version of the story reverts to the title of Two O'Clock Courage and was directed by Anthony Mann (The Tall Target, T-Men) from a screenplay by Robert E. Kent (Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome, Where the Sidewalk Ends).

Our movie begins with the silhouette of a many walking away from us into the fog.  We follow him as he stops next to a street sign and notice he is bleeding from a head wound.  He steps into the street and avoids being run down by a taxi due to the quick thinking of its female operator.  And - we're off!

 Ann Rutherford, Tom Conway

Tom Conway (The Cat People, The Falcon series) is our man with no name, but full of determination to unravel the mystery.  Ann Rutherford (Orchestra Wives, Pride and Prejudice) is the entrepreneurial young lady who turned to cab driving (she calls her car "Harry") when her acting career didn't lead anywhere.  She is a fast and voracious talker who talks herself and her companion into and out of all sorts of situations.  Her faith in her strange passenger is strong and purely romantic.

Emory Parnell (Gildersleeve's Ghost, The Falcon in Mexico), the master of bluster, here takes the part of the inspector in charge of the case.  The loud-mouthed reporter is played by Richard Lane (Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Boston Blackie series) and, believe you me, he's cornered the market on obnoxious for this role.  The banter between he and Rutherford's character is more than sparring as it is taken up a notch from the earlier feature.

Twenty year old Bettejane Greer (the "Bette" would be dropped after this film), is a pretty, but still gawky young woman in the role of our hero's date of the previous evening.  You can still see the makings of the femme fatale that would emerge by 1947s Out of the Past.  The glamorous star role is given to Jean Brooks, so heartbreakingly mysterious in The Seventh Victim

Fun bits are contributed by Chester Clute (My Favorite Wife) as a sports-minded tailor and Almira Sessions (Sullivan's Travels) as his murder mystery loving wife.  The movie's best drunk, Jack Norton (The Bank Dick), has a great part as a man who knows more than people give him credit for.  They probably could have wrapped the whole thing up with a nice sit down.  However, we run headlong into the neat double twist at the end of the string.

Two in the Dark creates a charming atmosphere to accompany the plot.  Two O'Clock Courage is louder with a sense of non-stop action.  Both films are well worth the viewer's time.  Swallowing my fear of recrimination, I'll leave the last word to Gellet Burgess : -

 Ah, yes, I wrote the "Purple Cow"—
I'm Sorry, now, I wrote it;
But I can tell you Anyhow
I'll Kill you if you Quote it!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Leo G. Carroll Fan Club, plus

Leo G. Carroll
(1886 - 1972)

I read the most amusing story the other day, especially written to push the buttons of character actor fans.  Leo G. Carroll Fan Club by LeVar Ravel is a dollar buy for your Kindle and a nice accompaniment to a pot of tea.  

Set in 1966, our unnamed narrator becomes involved with a small and quirky set of characters who worship at the shrine of Leo G. Carroll.  Our narrator is not as enamored of the British actor as the club members with whom he becomes involved, so how did he get in so deep?  Attending a film festival his encyclopedic knowledge of movie trivia, particular that of the Carroll-Hitchcock connection convinces a fellow filmgoer that here is someone destined to join the club.

The club members are not legion, but their devotion to their idol rivals my own Charlie Chan fandom.  They are male, female, old, young, rich, conservative, and hippies.  They collect memorabilia, they meet, they drink tea.  They form friendships and they fight.  Just like any normal family.  The outside world is about to intrude in the unexpected form of international crime.  Will their devotion to Leo G. Carroll help or hinder them in this life or death situation?


An actor with such a long and distinguished stage and screen career as Leo G. Carroll would find himself no stranger to crime stories.  Two of my favourites are of the B movie variety.

Sapper's international man of mystery, Captain Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond (John Howard) and his fiancee Phyllis Clavering (Heather Angel) are preparing the family estate for their anticipated wedded bliss when death and mystery come to their very doorstep and comes in for a visit.  We're watching 1939s Bulldog Drummond's Secret Police.

A Professor Downie (Forrester Harvey), one of those absent-minded types comes to tea with a coded book that claims to give the location of a treasure buried right within the walls of the estate.  Phyllis sees nothing but trouble and yet another delay in their marriage, but what red-blooded boy can resist the lure of buried treasure?  The gang is all there for the fun including Inspector Nielson (H.B. Warner), Algy Longworth (Reginald Denny) and the indispensable Tenny (E.E. Clive).  At least Phyllis' Aunt Blanche (Elizabeth Patterson) can be depended upon to be sensible, or can she?

Things turn nasty quite suddenly with the murder of Professor Downie.  Is it possible that the new servant sent from the employment agency could be involved?  It's good old Leo G. Carroll.  Surely he has nothing to hide.  What starts out as a rather routine story has a very exciting, action-filled ending.

Leo G. Carroll appeared in two Chan pictures, 1939s City in Darkness and 1940s Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise is based on Earl Derr Biggers' novel Charlie Chan Carries On.  The 1931 film adaption of the novel is one of the lost Chans, however the Spanish language version Eran trece, also from 1931 is available on one of the DVD box sets and currently on YouTube.

Inspector Duff (Montague Shaw) of Scotland Yard has attached himself to a cruise of suspects in a London murder.  Nearing the end of the trip, the last leg of which is from Honolulu to San Francisco, the Inspector pays a visit to his old and dear friend Inspector Chan.  Duff confides that he feels certain he will have his man soon, but before the final details are revealed he is murdered in Charlie Chan's own office.  Owing a debt to his friend, Charlie Chan, as the novel's title tells us, "carries on" with the case.
Sidney Toler, Lionel Atwill, Leo G. Carroll

The holiday-makers are a diverse group of suspects.  We meet the boisterous Don Beddoe, the wacky Cora Witherspoon and her young companion Marjorie Weaver.  And get to know the wealthy heir Robert Lowery, the secretive Kay Linaker, the forgetful Leo G. Carroll and the officious Lionel Atwill.  Will the Inspector and Number 2 son, Jimmy solve the crime in time to prevent more terror?  There's fun and games, and murder in the middle of the ocean!  Irresistible, if you ask me.  Get your ticket now.