Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Double Danger (1938)

Yesterday Turner Classic Movies hosted a day of "B" movies directed by Lew Landers. I've enjoyed several Landers films in the last few months, so my DVR was humming Monday!

Most of the Landers films I recorded don't run much more than an hour.  They all have terrific casts for fans of '30s and '40s "B" movies, including names like Chester Morris, Anne Shirley, Bonita Granville, Lee Tracy, Allan "Rocky" Lane, Lucille Ball, and Florence Rice.

I confess to having a bit of a crush on Preston Foster ever since seeing him in THE HUNTED (1948) a couple of years ago, so the first movie I watched from this group was DOUBLE DANGER, a 62-minute film in which Foster plays Bob Crane, a mystery writer who is also a jewel thief known as "the Gentleman."

The Police Commissioner (Samuel S. Hinds) is about to retire and is determined to catch the Gentleman first; for reasons which aren't completely explained, he's narrowed the Gentleman's identity down to either Bob or Carolyn Martin (Whitney Bourne), a lovely young society woman. The Commissioner invites both Bob and Carolyn to his palatial country estate for the weekend and sets a trap. But nothing goes quite as the Commissioner expects!

I found this little movie to be a very enjoyable and relaxing hour. Some aspects are a bit silly -- the Commissioner isn't really a very smart man, and one wonders if he was on the take to afford that huge mansion! -- but the cast all seem to be having a good time, particularly Foster and Cecil Kellaway, who plays Foster's valet and safecracker-in-training. It's a fast-paced, congenial hour which leaves the viewer smiling at the end.

Naturally, Bob isn't a very intimidating jewel thief, and anyway he's decided he wants to go straight and marry Carolyn, with whom he's fallen head over heels in love. When Carolyn's former partner in crime (Paul Guilfoyle) snarls "I hope she can't cook!" Bob simply smiles and says "Doesn't matter, I can!"

Bourne, who plays Carolyn, is a pretty, elegant actress. There's a touch of an overtone of TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932) with Bourne and Foster admiring each other's "work." Bourne only made 10 films, all in the '30s, and also had several Broadway credits in the same decade. She passed on in 1988.

The supporting cast also includes Donald Meek as a hapless jewelry store owner and Arthur "Dagwood" Lake as a young man courting the Commissioner's giddy daughter (June Johnson).

I'd love to know exactly where the movie's opening "heist" scenes were filmed; I assume it's a neighborhood somewhere in the Los Angeles area.

The Warner Archive has released at least one other film directed by the prolific Landers, SMASHING THE RACKETS (1938), starring Chester Morris. I'd love to see the Archive bundle some of these short little movies in collections. So far all of the Landers films I've seen have been quick-moving, diverting entertainment. I'm looking forward to watching more!

7 Comments:

Blogger Jacqueline T Lynch said...

I share your crush on Preston Foster.

5:07 AM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Sounds fun,Laura. I don't know Whitney Bourne. Someone to look out for.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Fun to know I'm not alone in that, Jacqueline! :)

Whitney Bourne is a name I've just come across in the last year or so, Vienna. I'd like to learn more about her. So far I haven't turned up much but I'll keep working on it.

Best wishes,
Laura

8:33 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Whitney Bourne -- High Society of her time. Check out New York Social Diary back posts.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for the tip, Barrylane!

Oooh, this says Whitney Bourne was dropped from the New York Social Register after she appeared on Broadway! Times were different then.

Her parents were George Galt Bourne and Helen Cole Whitney, later known as Helen Whitney Gibson. It appears Whitney Bourne's full name may have been Helen Whitney Bourne. A blog called Old Long Island has some photos of Whitney's parents' homes.

Hope to discover what became of Whitney once she left acting, so far haven't turned anything up but I'll keep looking. :)

Best wishes,
Laura

3:40 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

Like you, I've been recording and watching Lew Landers movies. I had already seen several I liked before that day TCM gave him last month and saw several more they ran then, of which CONSPIRACY was especially good.

Tonight watched breezy crime thriller TWELVE CROWDED HOURS with Richard Dix and Lucille Ball--another lively 64 minute gem and definitely not by the numbers. It still amazes me what can be done in B films with a good script and stylish direction

My impression of Landers is that he is a real find, a director anyone who loves classic cinema would enjoying knowing. He just seems to do everything possible to make these movies as interesting and entertaining as they can be. It's wonderful to think there are so many more of his to discover but so far I'm entranced by his work and don't expect that to change. Sure, he's always been there, obviously, but somehow has just never been widely discovered for the talent he is.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much for your thoughts on Landers, Blake -- I've got CONSPIRACY in my backlog of Landers films from last fall so I'll be sure to check it out, and I also recorded TWELVE CROWDED HOURS. Just finished STAND BY ALL NETWORKS which I'll be writing about soon -- not as polished as DOUBLE DANGER, but certainly entertaining. I'd love to know what you think of other Landers films, especially DOUBLE DANGER which I found to be really fun. Hope you enjoy it too!

Like you, I delight in knowing there are so many more Landers films ahead to see, as the half dozen or so seen to date have all been quite worthwhile. An added plus is that it's easy for me to fit in an hour-long Landers film at the end of a busy day! :)

I also would love to explore all of Florence Rice's films -- the majority are "B" movies and they have such interesting casts!

Best wishes,
Laura

10:52 PM  

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