HIGH TIDE was the second film on tonight's double bill at the UCLA Festival of Preservation.
While not on a par with the evening's first film, THE CHASE (1946), HIGH TIDE was one of the relatively obscure films I enjoy checking out. It proved to be entertaining, and its focus on tabloid journalism fit right in with two of last week's films, TRY AND GET ME (1950) and THE LAWLESS (1950). It's been an interesting exercise seeing multiple films on that topic which were all made fairly close in time.
HIGH TIDE begins in startling fashion, with a wrecked car on the Malibu coastline. Hugh Fresney (Lee Tracy) is trapped in the front seat by a broken back, and Tim Slade (Don Castle) was thrown from the car and has a leg stuck underneath the vehicle. As the threatening tide rolls in, the men reminisce about how they came to be in such a predicament.
Fresney, a hard-charging L.A. tabloid newspaper editor, had hired reporter-turned-private eye Slade to protect him from threats made by those he's investigating. Fresney moves forward with his stories despite the concern of milquetoast newspaper publisher Clinton Vaughn (Douglas Walton) -- whose wife Julie (Julie Bishop) had been in love with Tim and wants to renew their relationship now that he's back in town.
Bodies pile up as Inspector O'Haffey (Regis Toomey) tries to figure out who's responsible. The answer, which leads to the water's edge conclusion, is surprising.
This was a nice little movie with a good cast, and the 35mm print was absolutely gorgeous. It was fun to watch it in a packed house at UCLA; I was particularly amused that the hometown crowd spontaneously applauded the sight of Union Station.
Lee Tracy plays a cynical, somewhat obnoxious character not all that different from the reporter he had played 15 years before in the terrific pre-Code BLESSED EVENT (1932). His coarseness is neatly illustrated at the outset, when he orders a photographer to take the picture of a grieving wife (Argentina Brunetti) who visits the newsroom just as her husband dies in the electric chair. He may not be admirable, other than refusing to back down from covering mobsters, but he's always interesting.
I was unfamiliar with Don Castle, who according to IMDb was cast in this Jack Wrather production due to his friendship with Wrather and Wrather's wife, Bonita Granville; he acted from the late '30s to early '50s, then later segued from acting to working as associate producer on the Wrathers' famed LASSIE TV series. He's fine, though not especially memorable. The same could be said for Anabel Shaw, who plays a secretary at the newspaper who attracts Slade's eye. Shaw would later make a much more substantive impression as Ruby, John Dall's worn-down sister in GUN CRAZY (1950).
Julie Bishop had a long career which began in silent movies; she was billed as Jacqueline Wells through 1941. Her first film as Julie Bishop was THE NURSE'S SECRET (1941), a film starring Regis Toomey which was reviewed here earlier this year. She had a good part in one of my favorite Westerns, WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1951). She and Don Castle were later reunited in supporting roles in the Alan Ladd-Virginia Mayo Western THE BIG LAND (1957), which also featured Jack Wrather Jr. as one of the children in the movie.
HIGH TIDE was directed by John Reinhardt, with black and white cinematography by Henry Sharp. The script by Robert Presnell Sr. and Peter Milne was based on the story INSIDE JOB by Raoul Whitfield. The movie, which was released by Monogram Pictures, runs 72 minutes.
HIGH TIDE does not appear to have ever had a release on either DVD or VHS.
There's a YouTube video of the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller recently introducing this film at the Noir City Festival in Seattle. He said this film was essentially "gone" and had only been seen on videotapes of old TV broadcasts prior to the restoration. He shares more information on the restoration and thoughts on the film. Note that he does say something mildly "spoiler-ish" about THE CHASE in this video, so save it to watch later if you plan on watching THE CHASE anytime soon.