Child marriage, Crime, Exploitation, Harry Revier, Insurance fraud, Jean Parker, Jean Yarbrough, June Vincent, Murder, Mystery, Ozarks, Review, Shirley Mills, Wallace Ford, William Beaudine, www.archive.org
NOTE: All three movies were viewed courtesy of http://www.archive.org – go check it out!
Shed No Tears (1948)
D: Jean Yarbrough / 70m
Cast: Wallace Ford, June Vincent, Mark Roberts, Johnstone White, Frank Albertson, Dick Hogan, Elena Verdugo
Spirited noir with a constantly twisting, changing plot to keep its audience guessing (although the eventual outcome is never in doubt – it’s the Forties after all, and bad people still need to be punished). After faking his death with the help of his wife Edna (Vincent), Sam Grover (Ford) hides out until Edna can collect on the insurance money. What Sam doesn’t know is that Edna has no intention of sharing the money with him, and has her own plans involving her lover, Ray (Roberts). Meanwhile, Sam’s son Tom (Hogan), unconvinced that his father’s “death” was accidental, hires a private detective (White) to look into the matter. What follows is an entertaining yarn full of double crosses, unexpected twists and turns, and hard-boiled dialogue (mostly uttered by Vincent). The cast are proficient – though some of Vincent’s line readings are memorable for all the wrong reasons – and Yarbrough’s direction shows a sure hand. Not as slick or as impressive as some other post-war noirs but worth catching nevertheless.
Rating: 6/10 – a minor gem that works well when focusing on its lead characters’ greed; Vincent looks completely untrustworthy throughout.
Child Bride (1938)
D: Harry Revier / 62m
Cast: Shirley Mills, Bob Bollinger, Warner Richmond, Diana Durrell, Dorothy Carrol, George Humphreys, Frank Martin
Exploitation curio that mixes child marriage reform with more traditional soap opera elements. Jennie (Mills) is twelve. She’s a bright, precocious child who lives with her mother (Carrol) and father (Humphreys) in the Ozarks. The community there sees nothing wrong with children Jennie’s age being married because, as one character puts it, “there ain’t enough adult women to go round”. The local school teacher, Miss Carol (Durrell) is fighting to have the law changed but it’s an uphill struggle. Meanwhile, Jennie’s father falls foul of his partner in an illegal still, Jake Bolby (Richmond). Events play out so that Jennie ends up betrothed to Bolby. Will she be saved in the nick of time? Child Bride moves along at a rapid pace and crams a lot into its short running time. Revier directs ably enough but the cast vary from just about credible (Richmond) to downright terrible (Durrell and Martin). There’s an extended sequence where Jennie goes skinny-dipping and it’s clear that Mills is naked, and an even more risible sequence where Miss Carol is abducted at night by hooded men.
Rating: 4/10 – engrossing in its way, Child Bride ends up being a little too melodramatic for its own good; it’s also dated badly but the presentation of its central theme still has the ability to make modern audiences uncomfortable.
Detective Kitty O’Day (1944)
D: William Beaudine / 61m
Cast: Jean Parker, Peter Cookson, Tim Ryan, Veda Ann Borg, Edward Gargan, Douglas Fowley, Herbert Heyes, Pat Gleason
Fast-paced comedy whodunnit featuring Parker as Kitty O’Day, who, when her boss is murdered, decides to find the killer – against the best advice of her boyfriend Johnny (Cookson) and the police (Ryan, Gargan). But everywhere she turns, more dead bodies pop up and soon Kitty and Johnny become the number one suspects. Parker and Cookson make for a good team, and if their banter seems a little forced at times, it doesn’t detract from the obvious chemistry they have together. The storyline dips in and out of being plausible, and the final explanation is unnecessarily convoluted, but otherwise this is an enjoyable romp that relies largely on short, punchy scenes to make up its running time. Beaudine – who could make this kind of movie in his sleep – keeps it light and frothy, and the cast fill their roles with ease, especially Ryan and Gargan who steal the show as the by turns exasperated and clueless cops on the case. Not a classic – and neither is the sequel, Adventures of Kitty O’Day (1945) – but it’s a fun way to pass an hour.
Rating: 5/10 – tries to be rip-roaring but gets bogged down in its own plot; light and breezy throughout with few variations to compensate for all the frivolity.