Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Tell No Tales (1939)

A few days ago I read Kristina's review of TELL NO TALES (1939) at Speakeasy, and I thought it sounded like a lot of fun.

Fortunately I'd recorded it from Turner Classic Movies so I was able to check it out immediately. The '30s "newspaper movie" is one of my favorite types of films, and this MGM "B" film is a fun one.

Melvyn Douglas plays Mike Cassidy, editor of a newspaper which the publisher (Douglass Dumbrille) announces he's shutting down on its 75th anniversary. Cassidy, in a last-ditch effort to keep the paper a going concern, turns detective when he's presented with a key piece of evidence in a sensational kidnapping for ransom case.

Cassidy meets teacher Ellen Frazier (Louise Platt of STAGECOACH), a material witness in the case, and also tracks a hundred dollar bill which was part of the ransom money.

The film is at its best as one by one Cassidy meets each person who had handled the bill, sometimes leaving problems behind in his wake. There's the henpecked bridegroom-to-be (Hobart Cavanaugh) who appears to be ready to check out of his marriage to a dimwit (Gladys Blake) with a harridan (Esther Dale) for a mother...the wake for a prizefighter, with Theresa Harris as the widow and Mantan Moreland as a friend...the couple (Halliwell Hobbes and Jean Fenwick) who appear about to have a violent conflict when Mike leaves...and most intriguingly, a gangster (a terrific Gene Lockhart in an atypical role) who respects Mike but has to set him up to be wiped out. The scene with Douglas and Lockhart is simply riveting.

I've barely scratched the surface of the excellent supporting cast, starting with Frank Orth as a bartender, a role very similar to his part as Mike in the Dr. Kildare series. There's also Sara Haden, Tom Collins, Zeffie Tilbury, Ian Wolfe, Harlan Briggs, Madame Sul-Te-Wan, Mary Gordon, Clayton Moore, Phillip Terry, and more! The opera singer is Florence George, who was Bing Crosby's sister-in-law.

Kristina evokes the movie so beautifully I won't try to duplicate her work any further, and instead encourage my readers to head on over to Speakeasy and check out her post!

This fast-paced 69-minute film was directed by Leslie Fenton and filmed in black and white by Joseph Ruttenberg.

The trailer is at the Turner Classic Movies site.

Hopefully this movie will be released at some point by the Warner Archive.


Blogger Kristina Dijan said...

Thanks for the mentions, wasn't this a fun one? Great story and actors, creative structure and such a noir-ish feel which you don't expect for 39 and MGM. Really enjoyable movie and review. Hope people check it out.

6:54 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much for the tip! I really enjoyed it and thought there was a lot of creativity in such a short film. And that cast!

Best wishes,

8:17 PM  

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