Dr. Annette Bochenek of Hometowns to Hollywood is hosting a shared imagined road trip through the United States via The Celluloid Road Trip Blogathon on December 9th - 11th. Hitch your ride HERE.
This blog's contribution is a trip to Massachusetts courtesy of MGM and the crime drama Mystery Street, 1950.
Jan Sterling plays Vivian Heldon. Vivian is a girl "in a jam," and you know what that means in 1950. Not to worry, Vivian can take of herself and she knows what she has to do. Some man will have to pay. Six months from this time her bleached bones will be discovered in Cape Cod.
Ricardo Montalban plays Detective Peter Moralis who has caught his first murder case. He is smart enough to do the job and cool enough to be persistent.
Bruce Bennett, Ned Glass, Ricardo Montalban
A murder investigation is not a solitary endeavour. Bruce Bennett plays a Harvard Medical professor, Dr. McAdoo. His forensic skills and "big picture" attitude will be of immeasurable help to building a case and in the maturing of Morales's detecting skills. Ned Glass is the lab assistant Dr. Levy.
Betsy Drake, Jan Sterling, Elsa Lanchester
A murder victim is not a solitary creature. Vivian lived in a Beacon Street boarding house. She had a friend in Jackie Elcott played by Betsy Drake. Betsy, a night shift waitress, was a true friend, the sort who worries and notifies the police when a girl is missing. Elsa Lanchester plays the landlady Mrs. Smerrling. Mrs. Smerrling is not a friend and has no friends. She wants her rent and she spies on her boarders. What's in it for her is Mrs. Smerrling's motto.
Ricardo Montalban, Sally Forrest, Marshall Thompson
Marshall Thompson plays Henry Shanway. The night of Vivian's disappearance, she draws him into her drama. She didn't mean him any harm, in fact, she didn't think of him at all. Henry was drunk and depressed, and embarrassed. His lies are little ones, but they lead to him being the number one suspect in Vivian's murder.
Sally Forrest plays Grace Shanway, a devoted and frightened wife. Their lives are ripped open by the investigation and she has every right to resent it. After all, we know Henry Shanway is innocent.
Elsa Lanchester, Edmon Ryan
Mrs. Smerrling knows Henry Shanway is innocent as well, but that won't put any money in her pocket. Vivian had a black book full of suspects, but Mrs. Smerrling follows the trail that lead to James Joshua Harkley played by Edmon Ryan. Neither of these malefactors is as smart as they believe.
Forensics, legwork, instinct, and the all-important persistence come into play when looking for the vital key that will solve the case.
Leonard Spigelgass (So Evil My Love) was nominated by the Academy for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story for Mystery Street. The screenplay is by Sydney Boehm (The Big Heat) and Richard Brooks (Crossfire). Cinematographer John Alton (He Walked by Night) imbues the police procedural with a chilling sense of noir fatalism. John Sturges directed Mystery Street, just one of many interesting "little" films from the director who would become known for his epics such as The Great Escape.
The post-war years saw Hollywood stretching outside of the studio to filming in actual locations to give the audience the realism they sought, and MGM was on board. Beacon Hill, Cape Cod, Hyannis, Boston, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Square, and Trinity Station are captured in the time capsule of a police procedural.
The shifting, whispering sands reveal the mortal remains of Vivian Heldon to an ornithologist played by Walter Burke.
No wonder cops get flat feet. Our detectives march all over Harvard Square before being directed to the Medical School at Roxbury.
Morales meets McAdoo, and I would have been more than happy to a series of mysteries with these characters and actors.
Trinity Place Station is the location of the exciting finale of Mystery Street.