Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone (1950) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

MRS. O'MALLEY AND MR. MALONE (1950) is the second film in the Warner Archive's new John J. Malone Mystery Double Feature set.

The other movie in the set, HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME (1950), was previously reviewed here. Please visit that post for additional background information on the character created by mystery writer Craig Rice.

HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME starred Pat O'Brien as Malone, an attorney who solves murder mysteries. This time around the role is played by James Whitmore. His Malone is a hard-living and broke attorney who chases pretty women, including his patient, plucky secretary (Phyllis Kirk of CRIME WAVE).

Malone gets wind of an old client, Steve (Douglas Fowley of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN), being released from jail; he believes Steve has some ill-gotten loot stashed away and can pay off the $10,000 he owes Malone when he gets his hands on the money.

Malone ends up on a train with a variety of characters including Steve's ex-wife (Ann Dvorak), who wants her alimony; Steve's Southern girlfriend (Dorothy Malone); a police detective (Fred Clark) on the hunt for Steve's money; and Hattie O'Malley (Marjorie Main), a small-town woman who's just won a radio contest prize and is headed to New York City to collect it.

When Steve turns up dead in Mrs. O'Malley's train compartment, she and Malone try to solve the murder along with figuring out where Steve hid the money. Soon there's another murder, and the bodies appearing and disappearing in various train compartments make for quite a wild ride.

Like HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME, MRS. O'MALLEY AND MR. MALONE is lightweight but pleasant fun, over and done in 69 minutes. The film is buoyed but its excellent cast; in addition to the actors named above, the film also includes great supporting players like Clinton Sundberg, Frank Cady, and Regis Toomey, who seemed to feel that no role was too small as long as he was working! Toomey plays a reporter in just a couple of scenes but gives his character great presence, with some funny expressions.

It's interesting to note that Whitmore was just about 28 years old when he made this film; somehow he seems older, and he's part of a fun "odd couple" with the wisecracking Marjorie Main (who incidentally was more than twice his age, though it doesn't seem that way on screen). There's a touch of Spencer Tracy in Whitmore's performance as the hard-drinking, womanizing attorney who's happy to represent crooks if they'll pay him.

I almost didn't recognize the platinum blonde Malone in this film, made the year after she starred in the recently reviewed SOUTH OF ST. LOUIS (1949), but I recognized her voice! Particular kudos go to Kirk, as the sprightly secretary who's having none of Malone's womanizing moves -- her presence was missed once the train pulled out of the station -- and Dvorak, who has a great sarcastic way with William Bowers' lines.

The talented Bowers, known for his sharp and funny dialogue, wrote this film the year after he wrote ABANDONED (1949), which I just saw at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival. It's not as good as Bowers' best work on movies such as CRY DANGER (1951) -- in which the previously mentioned Regis Toomey had a more substantial role -- but Bowers' script definitely contributes to this being an enjoyable film.

I also especially liked that most of the film is set on a train, as I can never see too many "train movies"!

MRS. O'MALLEY AND MR. MALONE was directed by Norman Taurog and shot in black and white by Ray June.

The Warner Archive print is beautiful. The single one-sided DVD in the case includes the trailer for this film along with the movie HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD set. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


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