Friday, July 05, 2024

SHORT TAKES (7/5/24)

The marriage of reporter Torchy Blane (Glenda Farrell) to policeman Steve McBride (Barton MacLane) is delayed when a jeweler named Deveraux is shot and killed at his place of business and $250,000 worth of gems are stolen. Torchy gets mad when competing reporter Lucien Croy (Gordon Oliver), son of her newspaper's editor, is allowed into the crime scene before she is. It turns out that Croy was one of the last people to see Deveraux alive. Croy, deep in debt, wanted to borrow money from Deveraux; the two argued and Deverauz not only wouldn't give him money but threatened to tell Croy's father about his situation. Croy has alibis for the time of the murder, but when he announces that he is leaving on a round-the-world air trip, racing another reporter, Torchy decides to get in on the race action, thinking that Croy might be considering selling the stolen gems overseas. This is the second in a series of B-movies featuring Torchy Blane. It moves quickly, privileging pace over plotting—my biggest problem was, if this was a race around the world, why were the three reporters on the same vehicle so often? The last part of the race is set on a zeppelin and works up some thrills. Farrell is fun, though I find MacLane too stodgy to be much fun as her romantic partner (to be fair, there isn't much romance in the movie). I always like Gordon Oliver, a solid B-movie secondary player, and here he plays against type a bit as an unlikable character. There's a silly subplot about McBride's somewhat dim comic-relief associate, played by Tom Kennedy, quitting his job but constantly showing up anyway. A-movie character actor Harry Davenport has a small role near the end. If you're already a fan of Torchy or of Farrell, you'll like this, but others should probably steer clear. [TCM]

Ralph Bellamy has just been released from prison after accidentally killing a man in a bar fight while defending the honor of his girlfriend (Nell O'Day). He has returned to his hometown to live in a cabin in relative isolation, though the sheriff, O'Day’s father, is not happy he's back. O'Day, however, is, and she goes to visit him one night to rekindle old sparks. Unfortunately, fancily attired Fay Wray shows up a bit worse for the wear and on the run from playboy gangster Melvyn Douglas, who has been her "keeper." When Douglas arrives, all hell breaks loose: Douglas calls the sheriff to tell him where his daughter is, Douglas' associate Brown shoots Bellamy's dog, and Bellamy punches Brown who falls and winds up with a life-threatening skull fracture. Certain to be wanted by the police, Bellamy takes Wray and heads to the big city even as Douglas tells the police that Wray has stolen jewels from him. When it looks like Brown may recover, Douglas plots to kill him to hang another murder charge on Bellamy. At 68 minutes, there is an awful lot of plot here (based on a short story by Dashiell Hammett) presented at a pretty good clip, but things never get too confusing. Though it missed being a pre-Code movie by a few months, it remains clear that Wray is Douglas' mistress, and her character is not punished at the end. Bellamy is not the most dynamic lead, though Wray and Nell O'Day are fine. Roscoe Ates does his usual comic relief part as the ex-con in the city. The reason to watch this is to see Melvyn Douglas as a bad guy. He's charming on the surface but pretty rough underneath, and it's a very good performance. [DVD]

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