Friday, January 18, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Twelve Crowded Hours (1939)

This week's Lew Landers mini festival continued today with TWELVE CROWDED HOURS, a crime drama starring Richard Dix and Lucille Ball.

TWELVE CROWDED HOURS begins with a shot of a street shutting down for the night -- apartment blinds being pulled shut, lights turning off, and a milk bottle put out on a porch. In between that scene and the final shots of the the shades coming up and the milk bottle being brought in the next morning, newspaperman Nick Green (Richard Dix) experiences an eventful night dealing with mobster George Costain (Cy Kendall).

Costain runs a numbers racket and leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. I had a bit of trouble following the crime plot and its many characters in the early going, but the film soon settles down into Nick and Costain battling wits.

Like director Landers' other films seen this week, it's a fast-paced film, clocking in at 64 minutes, which makes enjoyable viewing. Landers always manages to include some nice creative touches, such as having the camera follow the feet of a woman as she leaves her apartment in the opening sequence, then she's followed home the next morning as the movie comes to a close. (Hmmm, what was she doing out all night?)

Unfortunately Lucille Ball is nearly wasted as the dance instructor Nick's sweet on, doing little more than sitting around watching other people, but she does have a great little action moment near the movie's end.

Richard Dix, who also starred in Landers' SKY GIANT (1938), isn't a particular favorite of mine, but he acquits himself well as the genial newsman trying to simultaneously break a story and stay alive. This role as a fast-thinking reporter is a better part than the sad sack he played in SKY GIANT.

Allan "Rocky" Lane plays Ball's brother. The cast also includes Donald MacBride, Granville Bates, John Arledge, and Dorothy Lee. The movie was shot in black and white by Nicholas Musaraca (OUT OF THE PAST).

TWELVE CROWDED HOURS was shown this week on Turner Classic Movies. This RKO film is not available on VHS or DVD.

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