Monday, May 21, 2012

Tonight's Movie: The House Across the Street (1949)

THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET is an agreeable Warner Bros. "B" film. The newspaper detective story is a bit sluggish now and again, but an interesting cast makes this amusing little 69-minute film worth watching.

Managing editor Dave Joslin (Wayne Morris) gives his publisher (Alan Hale) heartburn with his dogged pursuit of stories on the murder of a witness scheduled to testify against a mobster (Bruce Bennett). Joslin alienates the police when he criticizes their work and also causes the mobster to threaten a libel suit. Before too long, though, Joslin is on the track of evidence to solve the killing, aided by his gal Friday (perennially peppy Janis Paige, who turns 90 this fall).

There are some fun bits in the story, including Joslin being demoted to answering lonely hearts letters; Morris is genial, but not an especially compelling leading man. (There's interesting background info about his notable WWII service at the Arlington National Cemetery website.) The real fun is the performances by Paige, Hale, and watching all the great faces who keep turning up from scene to scene.

Actor-dancer James Mitchell has a lot of screen time as Bennett's snarling henchman; in fact, I think he had a bigger part than the higher-billed Bennett! Lovely Barbara Bates plays Mitchell's beautiful girlfriend, and curiously she gets bigger play in the movie's posters than Janis Paige.

There's Charles Lane as an apartment manager and George Chandler as a business owner; between them they amassed hundreds of credits. (Irving Bacon, who racked up even more credits, is credited as a jury foreman at IMDb, but if so, it was a bit part in a trial montage, without any lines.  I didn't spot him on my first viewing.)

Phyllis Coates, the restaurant photographer, was Alice McDoakes in the long-running Joe McDoakes series of movie shorts and Lois Lane early in the run of the '50s TV series SUPERMAN. That's Billy Gray of FATHER KNOWS BEST as the little boy who insists he doesn't play with girls. Chick Chandler is the long-suffering photo lab man, and little Doreen McCann, who plays Madge, was recently seen by me in MARY RYAN, DETECTIVE (1949). Ray Walker plays Lt. Forman.

The other fun thing about the movie, pointed out by Glenn Erickson in his review, is that it has two unusually noticeable bloopers. The movie opens with a camera panning down one side of a street and then back up the other side. But watch as the camera swings from the end of the street over to the other side -- it scans right past a huge soundstage with the door wide open!

The other funny moment is when James Mitchell presses a gun into Wayne Morris's stomach; if you watch carefully, the tip of the barrel collapses and points down. Mitchell, you see, had to hit Morris in the head with it a couple seconds later, so it was a rubber gun. I'm often oblivious to movie mistakes, but these were really fun. Makes you wonder if no one on the production team ever noticed, or if they just shrugged it off as a little movie on a "B" budget and simply hoped no one would mention it?

THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET was directed by Richard L. Bare, who turns 99 this August. The black and white photography was by William Snyder.

THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET is available on DVD as part of a Warner Archive Film Noir Double Feature with the entertaining HOMICIDE (1949). This disc is recommended for fans of "B" noir.


Blogger barrylane said...


This same story was used, more or less, for Hi Nellie, Love Is On The Air and You Can't Escape Forever. Never all that great.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Sounds like a get-together with a lot of old friends.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

It really is a fun get-together, Caftan Woman! I just love when a door opens and Charles Lane is standing there. :)

Thanks for the background info on the storyline, Barrylane.

Best wishes,

9:38 AM  

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