Friday, July 04, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Step By Step (1946)

The third film streamed on my recent trip was STEP BY STEP (1946), watched thanks to the fantastic Watch TCM app.

Like another movie seen last weekend, the similarly titled 5 STEPS TO DANGER (1957), STEP BY STEP is the tale of a couple on the run, mixed up with top secret data and murder.

Evelyn Smith (Anne Jeffreys) has just landed a job as secretary to Senator Remmy (Harry Harvey) and accompanied him to his oceanfront mansion to assist with some confidential work. While swimming at the beach Evelyn meets Johnny (Lawrence Tierney), a recently discharged Marine who makes no secret of his attraction to her.

When he accidentally locks himself out of his car Johnny goes up to the mansion to phone for help, and he's baffled to be met at the door by a completely different woman (Myrna Dell) claiming to be the senator's secretary Evelyn.

Unbeknownst to Johnny, the man (Jason Robards Sr.) who introduces himself as Senator Remmy isn't the senator! Johnny is mystified by the new "Evelyn" but there's a portrait on the wall of the Senator so it must be him... It was interesting to me that in the pre-TV '40s, someone wouldn't necessarily know what a senator looked like unless he'd happened to see his photo in the paper, or perhaps in a newsreel!

Criminal matters at the mansion escalate quickly and Johnny manages to rescue the real Evelyn, who had been tied up in another room. They flee the mansion, only to learn on the radio that they've been charged with murder!

I found this short little 62-minute film most enjoyable. It's from the MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (1945) school of movie-making, with crooks "gaslighting" someone about a changed identity in a creepy old mansion on the coast, all wrapped up neatly in just about an hour.

There are some nice bits of business scattered throughout the film, including Johnny's clever way of signaling for help near the end of the movie. I also enjoyed the "eloping" couple's rapport with the Captain (George Cleveland) who runs a motor court. (I loved the moment when the Captain asked Johnny to return his "missing" radio part so he could hear DICK TRACY.) Johnny has a very cute little dog who in movie shorthand quickly illustrates that Johnny's a nice guy, and the dog is also integral to helping expose the bad guys.

STEP BY STEP reunited leads Lawrence Tierney and Anne Jeffreys of DILLINGER (1945), and while their performances don't have the electric sizzle of that film -- partly because this time they're good guys -- I find them an appealing team with a nice rapport. The characters being stuck wearing bathing suits while navigating their way through life-threatening crises was a unique and amusing touch, while also logically providing an excuse for Johnny to grab a jacket which -- unbeknownst to him -- has top-secret information sewn inside.

STEP BY STEP was directed by Phil Rosen from a screenplay by Stuart Palmer. It was shot in black and white by Frank Redman.

The supporting cast includes Lowell Gilmore and Lee Bonnell.

STEP BY STEP is an RKO film which has been released on a Region 2 DVD. How'd they get so lucky to have this released in Europe? It's not yet available in the U.S., but hopefully it will turn up from the Warner Archive one of these days.

In the meantime, it's been shown on Turner Classic Movies so watch for it to be shown there again in the future.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jerry E said...

Hi Laura

RKO made a wonderful series of basically B-movies in the 40s that were 'A' in casting and quality of finished product generally. I have seen all the films in the series that featured Lawrence Tierney except this one. And you say it is a UK release? A must have!

Anne Jeffries, for me, was one of the most beautiful actresses from those days. She added much to the 8-film series of "Wild Bill Elliott" westerns for Republic 1943-4 that also co-starred Gabby Hayes and she was in every one.

The Tierney brothers did have a similar look, didn't they, but somehow Lawrence seemed a natural as a "heel" while Scott Brady had the clean-cut look more (though he was very adept at playing a mean bad guy at times).

You really made some great choices to watch on your Sierras trip.

Best wishes,
Jerry

5:04 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jerry!

I'd love to know what you think when you've seen this!

I have so enjoyed Jeffreys in the two Lawrence Tierney films she did that I would really like to find more of her early work, such as the Westerns you mention. I did see her in NEVADA (1944) with Robert Mitchum. It was a thrill to see her up close at a reception prior to the Loretta Young tribute I attended earlier this year!

Best wishes,
Laura

11:21 PM  

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