EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|CRIME BY NIGHT (director: William Clemens; screenwriters: novel "Forty Whacks" by Geoffrey Homes/Richard Weil/Joel Malone; cinematographer: Henry Sharp; editor: Doug Gould; music: William Lava; cast: Jerome Cowen (Sam Campbell), Jane Wyman (Robbie Vance), Cy Kendall (Sheriff Ambers), Faye Emerson (Ann Marlow), Charles Lang (Paul Goff), Creighton Hale (Grayson), Eleanor Parker (Irene Carr), Stuart Crawford (Larry Borden), Charles Wilson (DA Hyatt), Juanita Stark (Telephone Operator), George Guhl (Harry, Deputy), Dick Rich (Frank, Chauffeur), Fred Kelsey (Dad Martin); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Jacobs; Warner Bros.; 1944)|
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Veteran B-film filmmaker William Clemens ("Devil's
Island"/"The Falcon and the
Coeds"/"Calling Philo Vance")
directs this snappy crime drama.
It's based on the novel
"Forty Whacks" by
Homes, and is sharply written by Richard
Weil and Joel Malone. It pleasantly follows the plot line formula of
most crime dramas of the period, and offers nothing new or edgy--just
likable characters in the lead (a bourbon-soused private eye and his ditzy
wisecracking secretary, making one think of the Thin Man).
Former hotshot NYC police
inspector, now a private detective, Sam Campbell (Jerome Cowen), gets hired by former concert pianist
Larry Borden (Stuart Crawford) to get evidence on his wealthy ex-wife
Irene Carr (Eleanor
Parker) so he could retain
custody of his child. The action happens so fast that we might not
realize it but we never see this child Larry is talking about (the
blame might go to poor editing or filmmaking incompetence).
Sam arrives from Manhattan to
the upscale country town of Brookmere (it might be on Long Island!) a
day early, and a nervous Larry mentions that the father-in-law he
hated, Harvey Carr, has been murdered and because of the bad blood
between them he fears he'll be a suspect. Also there's the matter of a
large inheritance left to his ex-wife, that his client feels
uncomfortable about. The hot-tempered Harvey, the owner of the local
newspaper and a chemical plant with wartime contracts, went berserk
during a row between the two and chopped off Larry's hand with an axe
(ending his concert career). Larry was talked into not pressing charges
if Irene gave up custody of the child to him, and now fears losing the
child. The inheritance also is never mentioned again even though it was
problem for Sam's client when they first met.
Sam is also told by the
distraught Larry that he tried to push Harvey's body down the river
after finding him dead in his cottage, and while there someone took a
shot at him. When Sam's love interest secretary Robbie Vance (Jane
Wyman) shows up, they both go to
Harvey's house to search for clues and discover pieces of a broken
lipstick-stained cigarettes. Sam deduces that the killer wanted to make
it look like the murder took place in the morning, but notes the bread
is stale and figures the crime took place at night. In the boathouse,
Sam discovers the handyman has been struck with an axe and is in
critical condition. But he dies in the hospital before he can clear
Sam's innocent client of the murder.
Ambers (Cy Kendall), the corrupt, slow-witted and bully
sheriff leading the murder investigation, and his more sophisticated
political rival DA Hyatt (Charles Wilson), each wants to
solve the crime in this election year to impress the voters and both
barter with Sam to help them. When Sam sniffs out that the suspicious
Irene is deeply concerned over the missing papers in her father's house
safe, she becomes a suspect as Sam obtains the sought-after papers
through trickery from the sheriff's office and discovers it's a secret
chemical formula for something being created for the war effort in the
suspects are Irene's new fidgety fiancé, the lounge singer
and his attractive smoothy theatrical agent Ann Marlow (Faye Emerson).
She was also Larry's agent.
turns out the crimes were committed by spies who were after the
valuable secret chemical formula.
It was too easy to figure out the guilty parties, but it was nevertheless a fun film that was briskly paced like a race horse. Wyman has the best one-liners such as telling Sam "You and I are gonna stick so close together we could wear the same suspenders" and offering her city slicker impression of the small town by saying "It's a nice place for a nervous breakdown."
REVIEWED ON 9/9/2010 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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