Wednesday, January 23, 2013


The police are irritated at radio sleuth John Howard who continues to make them look like fools by putting together clues to unsolved crimes and announcing the guilty parties on the air, so the police commissioner assigns Roscoe Karns to get some dirt on him. The next morning, Howard wakes up to find not his wife (Margaret Lindsay) but a female corpse in his bedroom. The body is that of a former actress who lived in Howard's apartment building and was friendly with another neighbor, a doctor (Miles Mander) and his wife. With the cops on Howard's trail (though Karns doesn't think Howard is guilty), Howard and his wife do some digging around and find out that the actress had another apartment, taken under a different name, and possibly had a couple of mystery men in her life, who might now be after Howard, along with the cops. Can Howard and Lindsay, with the help of houseboy Keye Luke, find the killer before the killer finds them?

This was obviously an attempt by the low-budget Republic Studios to start its own "Thin Man" series—Howard calls his wife "Mommy" and Lindsay complains about the low-lifes they wind up hanging out with; the surprise is that it almost works. The production values are considerably higher than for the usual Republic film of the era: well-appointed sets, good acting, solid direction and cinematography.  Howard (Cary Grant's rival in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY) makes a fine B-movie William Powell; Lindsay is OK, though she tries a bit too hard. Keye Luke is also good, though he has to do some silly dialect stuff (turning his "R"s into "L"s); he calls himself "smart China boy" and gets off one of the better lines: after seeing the dead woman, he tells Howard it's too bad they killed a beautiful woman when there are so many ugly ones in the world (not PC, but I chuckled). The film falters in its writing: the story gets muddled quickly, and the identity of the killer is fairly obvious. But the movie never slows down and the action scenes are pulled off nicely (especially the finale at the radio studio).  It's too bad Howard didn’t get to play the character, Greg Sherman, again. [Netflix streaming]

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