Starring Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Edward Arnold, Helen Vinson, Willie Best, Leif Erickson
Steve Bennett (Hope), new to T.R Ralston’s stockbroking company, and Miami, gets caught up in a few schemes all at once: his boss’ niece, Gwen (Goddard), needs to raise $20,000 for a charity before the end of the month, and tricks Steve in to helping; his coworker needs to get out of an affair with a temperamental mistress, and tricks Steve into leering her away; and the head boss, Mr. Ralston himself tricks Steve into accepting a wager, wherein he can’t lie for a whole day with someone always nearby to watch him. Late screwball comedy that highlights Bob Hope’s great ability and Paulette Goddard’s charm. Fast. Odd. Funny.
Starring Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, June Duprez, Louis Hayward, Roland Young, Richard Haydn, Judith Anderson, Mischa Auer
Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None was a dark, terrifying murder mystery set on a remote island, and possibly one of the earliest precursors to the modern slasher. In her novel, eight strangers and a married couple meet, all with criminal secrets, for what was supposed to be fun and games, but turns out to be psychotic retribution, as one among them is a killer, picking off the others one by one. This 1945 adaptation, due to restrictive production codes, couldn’t match its source’s ferocity, so instead, it provides a witty, stylish, and entertaining thriller, light on scares, but full of suspense. By going with all character actors, the film lets you know that any one can die over the course of the movie, whereas a movie star would have to survive until at least the end. Breaking the fourth wall with the character introductions was just one of director, Rene Clair’s numerous wonderful touches. Droll. Skillful. Hair-raising.
Starring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Dennis Hoey, Aubrey Mather, Paul Cavanagh
Sherlock Holmes (Rathbone) is called in with his earnest sidekick, Dr. Watson (Bruce), to investigate the deaths of two members of a secretive club, whose deaths were preceded by threatening letters. The remaining five club members fear for their lives, while it becomes clear that one of them is likely behind it all. Rathbone and Bruce, who played the iconic pair, more times than anyone are in their element here. Rathbone always looks amused and one step ahead of the rest, while Bruce provides the comic relief and every now and then stumbles on to some important clue. The film, short and sweet, wraps up with a very satisfying conclusion. Suspenseful. Assured. Solid.
Starring Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Alan Hale, Charles C. Wilson, Roscoe Karns
Fairy tale romance given a 1930’s great depression era grit as newspaperman, Peter Warne (Gable) finds the story of his career fall right into his lap in runaway heiress, Ellie Andrews (Colbert). He agrees to take her to her fiancee in exchange for the write up. The difficulty is that neither of them has much money to work with, and, on top of that, the two fall in love. Many memorable funny moments, including the iconic, still classic scene of Ellie stopping a car, and many more cute moments shared between leading man and leading lady. Perhaps the first great romantic comedy, director Frank Capra allowed his stars many small, quiet moments to show they cared for one another. Timeless. Romantic. Witty.
Starring Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, Gloria Grahame, Charles Boyer, Lillian Gish, Susan Strasberg, John Kerr, Fay Wray
The doctors have just as much problems as the patients it seems in this lurid melodrama set in a psychiatric institution. Dr. McIver (Widmark) truly cares about his patients, but competing egos, an affair with a member of his staff, Meg (Bacall), and a growing distance from his wife, Karen (Grahame), threaten to unravel him. Well acted by all, the trumped up emotions and amplified colors become a style, and it’s a style director, Minnelli does successfully. Not as much happening subtextually in this one as in some of the better examples of ’50s melodramas, but still an entertaining potboiler.
Starring Charles McGraw, Marie Windsor, Jacqueline White, Queenie Leonard, Paul Maxey
Hard-boiled Detective Seargeant Walter Brown (McGraw) has to escort a mobster’s widow (Windsor) from Chicago to Los Angeles by train where she’s set to speak before a grand jury. Powerful underworld figures are willing to do anything to make sure that doesn’t happen. Brown, whose partner was already murdered protecting the big-mouthed dame, has his work cut out for him, standing alone against a team of crooks and murderers. They even try bribing him. Meanwhile he meets a married woman, Ann (White), on the train, and quickly grows attached to her. Fast, tightly plotted tale with strong performances and a surprising finale. Very suspenseful. Prime B-movie.
Starring Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, Gail Patrick
After being lost at sea for seven years and legally ruled dead, Ellen Arden (Dunne) returns home to find her husband, Nick (Grant), has remarried. Fortunately, Nick still loves Ellen and wants to reunite with her, only he doesn’t know how to tell his bride. Plus, once he finds out that Ellen wasn’t by herself at sea, but alone with the studly Steve Burkett (Scott), he begins to have second thoughts. Screwball comedy and follow up to the great film, The Awful Truth, also starring Dunne and Grant, this movie isn’t as successful as that one, but it still showcases its stars knack for this kind of humor. They’re terrific, and the film gets the most mileage out of a bizarre premise for a romantic comedy.