Monday, September 30, 2019

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR OCTOBER ON TCM


"Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough." That which is eternal in Emily Webb Gibbs tries to heed the advice of that which is eternal in Mother Gibbs, to discover that "Earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you."

Martha Scott, Frank Craven, John Craven
Emily Webb, The Stage Manager, George Gibb
Broadway, 1938

Thornton Wilder's play Our Town was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1938. Martha Scott made her Broadway debut as Emily Webb in the production which ran for 336 performances. Understudies in the role were Dorothy McGuire who went on to her own hit play Claudia, and Teresa Wright who would originate the role of Mary Skinner in Life With Father.

Thornton Wilder's insightful presentation of daily life in Grover's Corners at the turn of the 20th century reflects life in all our towns in all our centuries. Since its debut, it has been popularly revived, adapted, and the first theatrical experience for generations of high schoolers.

Martha Scott, William Holden
Emily Webb, George Gibb

Frank Craven, the narrator/stage manager from the theatre, becomes the narrator/tour guide for the movie audience in the 1940 film produced by Sol Lesser (Tarzan series) and directed by Sam Wood (Goodbye, Mr. Chips). Craven also collaborated with playwright Wilder on the screenplay. Aaron Copland wrote the second of his seven film scores, following Of Mice and Men. He was nominated for the Oscar for both scores. Bert Glennon (The Rains Came) was the cinematographer, and it is a shame that the film fell into the public domain and most of us see only a shadow of what his artistry created. 

The facts of the New Hampshire town as to topography and population are wryly provided and we are invited to become voyeuristic observers of the commonplace, which mirrors our own experience. We are asked to study our own life, with all its hopes and trials, and inevitable end. Quietly and unexpectedly our relationship to the Gibbs and the Webbs, and others in Grover's Corners is cemented by sharing the big moments that come out of the small.  

The film is charmingly cast with Fay Bainter, Thomas Mitchell, William Holden, Beulah Bondi, Guy Kibbee, Stuart Erwin, and other familiar faces. Martha Scott, Frank Craven, Doro Merande and Arthur Allen reprise their Broadway roles. 

Our Town would not win any of the six Oscars for which it was nominated. However, the National Board of Review would award their Best Acting of the season to Martha Scott and William Holden.

Martha Scott, Fay Bainter
Emily Webb Gibb, Julia Gibb

The film presentation of Our Town is a sensitive and memorable adaption of a stage classic. The perceptive screenplay elicits unexpected emotional responses from an audience unused to seeing itself reflected in the mundane and magnificent. 

The film ending to Our Town is controversial to purists. The result was reached through the collaboration of Thornton Wilder and producer Sol Lesser. Hollywood in 1940 could not seem to imagine that audiences of movies and audiences of theatre were one and the same. An upbeat conclusion was required and the author adapted.

"Emily should live. In the theatre they (the characters) are halfway allegory. In the movie, they are very concrete. Let her live. The idea will have been imparted anyway." - Thornton Wilder 


Monday, October 21st the TCM daytime lineup features films taking place in smaller New England communities. Our Town takes centre stage at 12:30 EST.














Saturday, September 28, 2019

HOLLYWOOD'S HISPANIC HERITAGE BLOGATHON: A Pedro de Cordoba Sampler


Aurora is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at her site Once Upon a Screen with her sixth edition of the Hollywood's Hispanic Heritage Blogathon on September 29th. Begin your journey HERE.


Pedro de Cordoba
September 28, 1881 - September 16, 1950

Patrician Pedro de Cordoba was born in New York City enjoying the combined cultural heritage of a French mother and Cuban father. He trained as an actor and made his Broadway debut performing in a 1902 production of Hamlet. Shakespeare provided a lot of his work at this time: The Taming of the Shrew (Hortensio), Twelfth Night, The Winter's Tale, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Othello, As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, and Julius Caesar (Brutus). Fellow performers in these productions include Harry Davenport, Sydney Greenstreet, Basil Rathbone, Leonard Mudie, Katharine Cornell, Jane Cowl, Constance Collier, Henry Kolker, Ferdinand Gottschalk, Tyrone Power Sr., John Litel, and Charles Coburn.

Other productions in his 48 play Broadway career between 1902 and 1935 include Lady Windermere's Fan, Vanity Fair, The Blue Bird (Fire), Marie Antoinette (Count Fersen), The Rivals (Faulkland), Candida (Rev. Morell), and Arms and the Man (Sam Abramovitch).


Pedro de Cordoba made his motion picture debut in Cecil B. DeMille's 1915 version of Carmen alongside opera star Geraldine Farrar in the title role and Wallace Reid as Don Jose. During the next decade, Pedro de Cordoba would appear in 23 films including The New Moon as Prince Michael and When Knighthood Was in Flower as the Duke of Buckingham. The actor with the mellifluous and commanding voice would re-enter film in 1935, again for DeMille as Karakush in The Crusades.

Geraldine Farrar, Pedro de Cordoba

The toreador Escamillo is taken with the gypsy woman Carmen. On his way to Seville to take advantage of the opportunity to become renowned in his profession, Escamillo wants to share his good fortune with the tempestuous and beautiful Carmen. Carmen enthusiastically returns his regard and will accompany him to the city and to glory. However, first, she must assist her smuggler friends by seducing the naive soldier Don Jose. The thrill of Escamillo's success and its glory do await the couple in Seville, and more.



Sidney Toler's fourth outing as Inspector Charlie Chan places our hero in Paris, a City in Darkness in 1939 as the world moved inexorably toward war. Paris is practicing blackout drills as desperate people flee and others spy for foreign entities or take advantage of the confusion about them.

Pedro de Cordoba as Antoine

Pedro de Cordoba plays the role of Antoine, a wounded veteran of the First World War who is employed as the valet of a wealthy industrialist played by Douglas Dumbrille. Antoine is a patriot, even more so as his only son is about to become involved in the current inevitable conflict. Antoine is elegant and thoughtful; a man of honour and of keen observation.

During this time in Hollywood when an A list picture took on Hitler and the Nazis, it was controversial, yet the B units such as those producing the Chan pictures could confront the politics head-on and gave us this excellent entry in the series.



Alfred Hitchcock's 1942 thriller brought WW2 to America's homeland. A munitions factory worker played by Robert Cummings is sought by authorities and by the genuine saboteurs responsible for the destruction and murder for which he is blamed. On the run with a sometimes willing/sometimes unwilling accomplice played by Priscilla Lane, the pair will meet many who will help and may who will hinder.

Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings
Anita Sharp-Bolster, Pedro de Cordoba

Help comes to our couple from a traveling carnival. Pedro de Cordoba plays Bones aka The Human Skeleton. The assistance is not obtained easily, but democratically.

Bones: "In this situation, I find a parallel to the present predicament. We stand defeated at the outset. You, Esmerelda, have sympathy yet you're willing to remain passive. I have a belief, and yet I'm tempted to let myself be over-ridden by force. The rest of you, with the exception of this malignant jerk, are ignorant of the facts, and, therefore, confused. Thank heaven we're still members of a democracy. We'll vote."



Pedro de Cordoba is front and center in this grouping from the 1939 Hopalong Cassidy feature Law of the Pampas. It was his second Hoppy picture that year following Range War. Pedro plays Jose Valdez, the subject of a plot to separate him from his land. It's a good thing Hoppy is on his way. And, yes, that is "Chan", Sidney Toler next to the kid.



My time machine wish includes more comedy for Pedro de Cordoba pictured here with Cary Grant and Gail Patrick in My Favorite Wife in 1940. Dr. Kohlmar is one very confused psychiatrist in this secretive marital mix-up.

The IMDb lists 115 feature film credits for Pedro de Cordoba. You never know when you will be pleasantly surprised by his appearance as a revered rancher, a dignified Native, an ambassador, a general, or perhaps the classiest head waiter ever! Keep your eyes peeled in Comanche Territory, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Captain Blood, The Falcon in Mexico, The Sea Hawk, Anthony Adverse, Blood and Sand, Green Dolphin Street, and Five Came Back.

Pedro de Cordoba was at one time the president of the Catholic Actors Guild of American. He was married from 1928 to his passing in 1950 to Eleanor Nolan and their family included six children.


Bonus:

Pedro de Cordoba in Technicolor!
With Monty Banks in Blood and Sand, 1941













Monday, September 16, 2019

REMAKE AVENUE: The Racket, 1928 and 1951


Many of our excursions to Remake Avenue begin on Broadway and today's is no exception.

Bartlett Cormack's play The Racket had a run of 119 performances at the Ambassador Theatre in the 1927/28 season. Cormack (1898-1942) was a graduate of the University of Chicago, with experience in theatrical public relations. Passing at the early age of 44, Bartlett Cormack left many exciting and interesting screenplays for classic movie fans: Gentlemen of the Press, The Green Murder Case, The Front Page (adaption), The Phantom of Crestwood, Four Frightened People, Cleopatra, Fury, Sidewalks of London, and Unholy Partners.

The success of The Racket coincided with and promoted the beginning of the gangster cycle in entertainment. The three-act play is set entirely in a quiet precinct outside of Chicago where a single-minded police captain battles a mob and crooked politicians while wise-cracking reporters keep the pot boiling.

G. Pat Collins as Patrolman Johnson

G. Pat Collins (White Heat) played the pivotal role of Patrolman Johnson in both the play and the 1928 movie. On stage, reporters were played by classic movie stalwarts Willard Robertson (Heat Lightning) and Norman Foster (Skyscraper Souls). Edward G. Robinson was also featured as "An unidentified man". Could he possibly have played a gangster?


The Racket was among the first Oscar Best Picture nominees in 1929, losing to Wings. Our director, Lewis Milestone won the award for Best Director, Comedy Picture for Two Arabian Knights, beating out Ted Wilde for Speedy. The Academy dropped the Director for a Comedy category by the next season. 

Independent producer Howard Hughes brought The Racket to the big screen, and it was distributed by Paramount Studios. Thomas Meighan starred as Captain McQuigg whose feud with gangster Nick Scarsi played by Louis Wolheim impacts everyone around them. Note: Director Milestone and actor Wolheim collaborated on Two Arabian Knights, The Racket, Tempest, and All Quiet on the Western Front

Louis Wolheim, Thomas Meighan

Chicago is a tough town and it is split right down the middle. On one side is the political machine which controls the rackets and bootlegging gangsters like Nick Scarsi and Spike Corcoran. Honest cop Captain James McQuigg may seem like a lone figure in this battle, but he is obviously getting under the skin of the crooks for he is banished to the quiet suburbs, at least until after the upcoming election.

The one-set play was opened up to establish the antagonism between McQuigg and Scarsi. The audience is witness to a vicious street fight between rival bootleggers. A riotous party in a speakeasy gives us a taste of the high life enjoyed by the criminals.

The party is in celebration of Scarsi's kid brother Joe played by George E. Stone. The young man has graduated from college and is looking for a good time. He is attracted to singer Helen played by Marie Prevost, but Nick puts a stop (he thinks) to that as "women are poison." Helen resents Nick's insult and decides to go after Joe for kicks and revenge.

 Marie Prevost, John Darrow

All of these disparate characters and their conflicting intentions come together in the quiet burg that is now Captain McQuigg's stomping ground. On a fateful night, Helen is the witness to Joe's homicidal hit-and-run and his arrest by Patrolman Johnson. Skeets Gallagher plays a perpetually soused member of the press, who keeps the news and the tensions heightened. A naive rookie reporter played by John Darrow catches Helen's eye, and vice-versa. Nick is anxious to get Joe out of the slammer and to get revenge on those who crossed him. The double-crossers will come to include the "old man" who controls the rackets.

McQuigg is able to manipulate the circumstances put in place by Nick's anxiety over Joe, the political machinations, and an unexpected and blatant murder. Much is on the line and mistakes will be made. There is a semblance of justice at the conclusion, but the racket continues.

Thomas Meighan brings a weary stoicism with an underlying wit to the role of McQuigg. Louis Wolheim is as tough a mug as you'll see in this genre of film, yet we still get the picture of the sweat it took to reach his position, plus the affection he holds for his brother. Marie Prevost is a dream as Helen. We see her performing in the speakeasy, confidently handling the rambunctious Joe, falling in a sweet way for the rookie reporter, standing up to Nick and even sending a little sympathy the Captain's way.

The Racket has a runtime of just under 90 minutes and every minute moves the story of graft and violence forward through startling images and fine performances.

Thomas Meighan, Jim Farley

McQuigg: "I'd like a little sleep but by the time I get through with the coroner and the rest of the public servants it will be time to go to mass."



Boldly Begins Where the Senate Crime Committee Left Off!

The 1950 United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce chaired by Senator Estes Kefauver captured the public's imagination through television broadcasts and is the obvious inspiration for Howard Hughes to revive and remake his earlier hit, The Racket. Perhaps some bright producer is considering a 21st century take on the story. Crooks and grafters never seem to go out of style.

The film was directed by John Cromwell who, in another lifetime, played the protagonist Captain James McQuigg in the original Broadway production. William Wister Haines (Command Decision) and W.R. Burnett (High Sierra) wrote the screenplay from Bartlett Cormack's play placing an emphasis on a newly formed Crime Commission in an unnamed city. The syndicate wishes to run their business as a business and are not only at odds with investigators and police but with Nick Scanlon. Nick is an old school gangster played by Robert Ryan. While the "old man" in charge wants to use non-violent ways to deal with issues, Nick is more psychotic and entrenched in nature and intends to continue running things his way.

Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan

When Nick goes against orders and bumps off a squealer, it opens up an entirely new avenue for honest cop McQuigg played by Robert Mitchum. McQuigg has been bounced around the precincts to keep him out of hot spots, but now the hot spot has come to him.

On the personal front, Nick has put a lot of time and money into the gentrification of his kid brother Joe played by Brett King and does not approve of his involvement with a nightclub singer Irene played by Lizabeth Scott. As in the earlier versions, these characters are central to the circumstances which will result in Nick's downfall but are far less compelling in this screenplay.

William Talman, Virginia Huston

The movie gives our Captain McQuigg a home life and a wife played by Joyce McKenzie. The same is done for Patrolman Johnson here played by William Talman (Armored Car Robbery). Virginia Huston plays his loving wife. The young cop is a veteran Marine and an honest man. He would follow McQuigg into Hell and is not afraid of confronting the mob. Maybe he should be.

Robert Hutton plays the naive reporter Dave Ames, who was in the Marines when Patrolman Johnson was his Sergeant. His old Sarge lets the newshound in on the case where everyone seems to know that District Attorney Welsh played by Ray Collins is syndicate's latest front for a judge and that Sergeant Turk played by William Conrad is the syndicate's trouble-shooter. The emotional young reporter becomes easily distracted when he falls for singer Irene. 

Robert Mitchum, William Talman, William Conrad

Both the 1928 and 1951 films run just under 90 minutes, with this feature having more characters and more action sequences. Nonetheless, when it came time for the finale, Haines and Burnett went back to the original concept with the violent murder and double-crosses taking place in the precinct.

Added to the exciting finish is some unnecessary moralizing from Captain McQuigg and some even more unnecessary happy conclusions to a couple of subplots. It is my feeling that the more satisfying film experience was released in 1928.

Robert Ryan and Robert Mitchum have given us their share of both good and bad characters over the years and the casting here would seem appropriate. However, after a couple of viewings, I feel like each actor might have done better in the other's role. Ryan's over-the-top antics and Mitchum's laid back persona came across more as boredom to me. Also, the movie was stolen from everyone by William Talman as Patrolman Johnson. Perhaps they sensed it.

Captain McQuigg: "Rest? Yeah, but tomorrow it starts all over again."


Connections:

Ray Collins as Lt. Arthur Tragg and William Talman as Hamilton Burger, District Attorney
Perry Mason (1957)


The Racket falls one short of the Crossfire, 1947 trio of Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, and Robert Ryan. See Mitchum and Ryan also in The Longest Day, 1962 and Anzio, 1968.


Fans take noteThe Racket, 1951 has an excellent Pat Flaherty sighting. At 54, he still made a good movie cop.












Friday, September 6, 2019

THE COSTUME DRAMA BLOGATHON: In Old Chicago (1938)


The Costume Drama Blogathon is the brainchild of Debbie Vega of Moon in Gemini and it runs from September 6th to the 8th. Click HERE for all the sublime designs and stories.


"We O'Learys are a strange tribe. There's strength in us. And what we set out to do, we finish."
- Alice Brady (Oscar winner) as Molly O'Leary
In Old Chicago, 1938

It is the way in Hollywood that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery or if the audience will pay to see the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 then surely they would be just as eager to see the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Comparisons between MGMs San Francisco and 20th Century Fox's In Old Chicago are inevitable. Audiences enjoyed both and the Academy was suitably impressed. In Old Chicago matched San Francisco's record of six nominations and came away with two wins.

Alice Brady as Mrs. Molly O'Leary
Gene Reynolds as Dion, Billy Watson as Jack, and Bobs Watson as Bob

Patrick O'Leary dies in a freak accident on the prairie and never saw the end of his rainbow, Chicago. He was buried where he died so the city could grow out to meet him. Widow O'Leary works as a laundress and raises their three sons.

Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, Alice Brady, June Storey, Tom Brown
Dion, Jack, Molly, Gretchen and Bob

Jack (Ameche) tilts at the windmill of justice for all, arguing losing cases in court and fighting crooked politicians. Dion (Power) gambles his nights away, getting involved in shady deals and looking to get in on some of those crooked politics that Jack abhors. Bob (Brown) marries the family's maid Gretchen and starts a family. 

Gil Warren played by Brian Donlevy runs the area known as The Patch. It is the O'Leary's home and the bane of Jack's existence as it is a cesspool of vice and crime, and a tinderbox of wooden structures. Warren's control extends throughout the city and Dion is determined to have his own piece of the action. Coming into information that a B. Fawcett owns a piece of land important to a new transit line, Dion aims to make this B. Fawcett a partner. When "he" turns out to be a beautiful singer, Belle Fawcett played by Alice Faye, so much the better.


Dion succeeds in winning Belle as a business and romantic partner, stealing her from Gil Warren's saloon and affection. Warren runs for mayor and pays for Dion's help in his campaign. Dion hedges his bets by anonymously backing Jack as a Reform candidate. Thanks to Dion's machinations Jack wins the election and true to his word, begins an investigation against Dion and the whole crooked racket behind City politics. A rift between the brothers ensues prior to the legendary (read: false) kicking over of the lantern by Mrs. O'Leary's cow and the true-life conflagration which destroyed thousands of buildings and at least 300 lives.  

20th Century Fox's record with costume dramas before and after In Old Chicago is impressive, including such titles as Lloyds of LondonUnder Two Flags, Suez, Little Old New York, and The Story of Alexander Graham Bell

Henry King
1886-1982

Henry King, one of the surest and most versatile of the studio directors was in charge of the production, with the special effects and fire scenes handled by H. Bruce Humberstone (I Wake Up Screaming). Henry King had been an actor who directed his first short in 1913, and his last feature Tender is the Night in 1962. He directed 11 movies with leading man Tyrone Power from 1936 to 1957, three with Don Ameche and three with Alice Faye.

"Not only is she my favorite actress. She is a favorite person."
- Henry King speaking of Alice Faye

"He was kind of special. I loved him very much."
- Alice Faye speaking of Henry King

Sonia Levien and Lamar Trotti wrote the screenplay for In Old Chicago from a story by Niven Busch (Till the End of Time). The cinematographer was J. Peverell Marley (Life With Father, Suez) and the music by Cyril J. Mockridge ( The Solid Gold Cadillac, Where the Sidewalk Ends). 

The costumes for this expensive historical drama/disaster movie are by Royer, born Lewis Royer Hastings. He worked at 20th Century Fox from 1933 to 1939, followed by a stint at United Artists from 1940 to 1942. For the decade of 1942 to 1952, Royer worked in the Mexican film industry billed as Louis or Luis Royer. In 1945 Royer was awarded an Ariel Award in Mexico for his work on the film Bugumbilia starring Dolores del Rio and Pedro Armendariz. The Academy would not institute a costuming award until 1948.

Let's look at some of Royer's sumptuous costumes that brought 1870s Chicago and these fascinating characters so vividly to life for audiences then and now.

Belle Fawcett played by Alice Faye is an entertainer and her character is equally showery offstage and on. Extras and chorus girls are just as meticulously costumed.

Alice Faye as Belle Fawcett, girl singer

Tyrone Power as Dion, Andy Devine as "Pickle", Brian Donlevy as Gil Warren
The men admire Belle's voice.

Madame Sul-Te-Wan as Hattie enjoys working for Belle.

An incredible robe only for the purpose of being removed, 

revealing this incredible gown.

Belle and the girls on stage

Tyrone Power, Berton Churchill, Phyllis Brooks
Dion dresses to the nines to impress a senator and his daughter.

Belle is a vision in sparkles and feathers.
The quartet looks dandy as well.

Dion and Jack's wardrobes reflect their individual characteristics and professional ascendency.

Widow O'Leary and Belle Fawcett are worlds apart.

Offstage, Belle has become more demure as her wealth and her love for Dion increases.

A fashionable wedding couple.

Tragedy touches all In Old Chicago.





Wednesday, September 4, 2019

THE ALAN LADD BLOGATHON: Appointment with Danger (1950)


Pale Writer Gabriela is hosting The Man Who Would Be Shane: The Alan Ladd Blogathon on September 3-6. Click HERE for the tributes to the beloved star.

The danger alluded to in the title of this film is in the form of a gang with plans for a big heist from the Postal Service, specifically one member of the gang with little regard for lives other than his own. The mastermind is Earl Boettiger played by Paul Stewart, a businessman with the brains to organize a plan and the personality to manage underlings.

Violence is built into the DNA of Joe Regas played by Jack Webb. Murder is his go-to solution to every problem. His most recent problem was Postal Inspector Gruber who was getting too close to the gang's plans. Regas and George Soderquist played by Harry Morgan take care of the problem and dump the body in a neighbouring city to keep the cops off their tails. 

Alan Ladd

Keeping this dangerous appointment with Gruber's murderers is Postal Inspector Al Goddard played by Alan Ladd. He is single-minded when it comes to getting the job done and cynical when it comes to people in general. This worries Goddard's superior Maury Ahearn played by Dan Riss, but the department can't argue with results and Goddard gets results.

Ahearn: "Let me tell you about you, Al. That badge and a few law books have turned you into a nut. You don't like anybody. You don't believe anybody. You don't trust anybody. You think everybody has a pitch."
Al: "Everybody has. You and I and a guy back there. A better job, a little more dough, a round of applause. One way or another, everybody you meet is a pitch artist."

Alan Ladd, Phyllis Calvert, Herb Vigran

Happenstance has brought Sister Augustine, a Catholic nun played by British actress Phyllis Calvert (Madonna of the Seven Moons, Crash of Silence) into this dangerous appointment. Unknowingly, she is a witness to the murder of Postal Inspector Gruber, or at least to the men disposing of his body in an alley on a rainy night. This teacher has a world view which includes healthy doses of compassion and forgiveness. She is also able to identify the men in the alley which leads the authorities and Sister Augustine to Gary, Indiana and a pool hall full of suspects.

Al: "You don't think very much of me do you, Sister?"
Sister Augustine: "I think much of everything, Mr. Goddard, but I feel sorry for you. I don't think you have a heart."
Al: "Call it muscle. That's the way it is with a cop." 
Sister Augustine: "I don't believe it."
Al: "When a cop dies they don't list it as heart failure. It's Charlie horse of the chest."

It becomes evident that a trucker employed by the Postal Service, Paul Ferrar played by Stacy Harris is key to the plan to hijack a million dollars which is vulnerable during a transfer between trains. Goddard easily convinced gang boss Boettiger that he is crooked and wants in on the deal. His inside knowledge will come in handy in such a caper. Some fancy footwork concerning Goddard's background fools everyone but the suspicious and violent Joe Regas. He's already gotten rid of his partner in the Gruber killing, Soderquist, and he's got that nun on his mind. Taking out another Postal Inspector won't be a bother at all.

Alan Ladd, Jan Sterling

Goddard has moved into a Boettiger run hotel so the gang can keep an eye on their new partner. Boettiger puts his girlfriend/stenographer Dodie played by Jan Sterling on Goddard watch. She doesn't mind at all. Dodie introduces Al to her collection of bop recordings.

Dodie: "Have you heard Joe Lily's Only Mine? Come up to my place and hear it." 
Al: "As a favor to Joe."
Dodie: "What he can do with a horn. He belts it, melts it and rides it all over the ceiling."
Al: "Can he play it?"

All of the conflicting intentions bump against each other as the deadline for the heist approaches. Goddard is busy keeping his cover and still keeping in touch with headquarters. It is not an easy line to traverse. Sister Augustine has, quite naturally, refused Goddard's offer of a gun for protection. At the same time, no one is aware of Regas' escalating efforts to silence the good Sister.

The human factor plays a major role in the resolution to this case. Who can be coerced, who will overhear what, and will everyone with a part to play be able to do so, or will the unforeseen take circumstances out of their control? 

Appointment With Danger has a dandy script by Richard L. Breen (Titanic, Pete Kelly's Blues) that is filled with wry sarcasm expertly delivered by Alan Ladd and the cast of crime picture veterans. Director Lewis Allen (The Uninvited, Suddenly) knows how to keep the story moving and at 90 minutes doesn't waste any time getting down to cases, so to speak. Cinematographer John F. Seitz (Lucky Jordan, Double Indemnity) brings some nice noirish touches to the soundstage set as well as the Indiana and Illinois locations, including railyard sequences which heighten the action. 

Alan Ladd was in his late 30s at the time of Appointment with Danger in 1950. A busy actor at his home studio of Paramount during the 1940s including breakout roles early in the decade, his demand would continue in the 1950s although the projects would vary in their worthiness. Appointment with Danger and the brittle yet reliable character of Goddard was a fine start to the years which would see his greatest role, that of Shane, just ahead.


Taxi!:

Murray Alper
1904-1984

Murray Alper appears in Appointment with Danger as a cabbie who helps Goddard track down the elusive witness to a murder. Some actors specialized in cops or butlers, or newspapermen. Murray was an expert in transportation.

Murray was Frank, the cab driver who took Sam Spade nowhere in The Maltese Falcon. He was the obliging trucker who picks up Saboteur suspect Robert Cumming. And the operator of those boats that take Marion and Bruno over to the island in Strangers on a Train. Yep, he was the bus driver in Trouble Along the Way.

You'll spot Murray hacking in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Murder on a Bridle Path, My Favorite Spy, Lady in the Dark, Angel on My Shoulder and many more movies. In On the Town, Murray was promoted to the owner of the cab company.


There must have been a Dragnet out on this movie:

Jack Webb
1920-1982

Jack Webb's character of Joe murders Jack Webb's future TV partner Harry Morgan in this movie written by Richard Breen, who wrote the 1954 Dragnet feature and the Dragnet 1966 reboot.  Stacy Harris and Dan Riss, a crook and cop respectively in Appointment with Danger were card-carrying members of the Webb stock company.
















FAVOURITE MOVIES: The Bishop's Wife, 1947

Robert Nathan's ( Portrait of Jennie ) 1928 story The Bishop's Wife became the movie project of independent producer Samuel Gold...