Saturday, November 14, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Night in New Orleans (1942)

NIGHT IN NEW ORLEANS (1942) is a diverting little Paramount murder mystery starring Preston Foster and Patricia Morison.

Foster plays police detective Steve Abbott, who as the movie begins has slipped into a house in the dark of night to retrieve letters from a safe. Steve notices a body on the floor but completes his mission and heads for home, seemingly unperturbed.

The letters belonged to Steve's airheaded wife Edith (Morison), whom he calls "Skipper." Edith had sent the murder victim the letters before she married Steve, and he got them back for her at her request. Edith is almost disappointed Steve doesn't want to look at the letters, telling him proudly that he might think they're "hot stuff." Edith's thought processes might be hard to follow, but Steve clearly dotes on her, as evidenced by his getting the letters back for her.

Steve is accused of the murder by the police due to witnesses spotting him near the dead man's home, so naturally he sets out to find the real killer, alternately helped and hindered by Edith and their houseboy Shadrach (Dooley Wilson).

Steve's lack of concern for nearly tripping over a body at the outset, not to mention being accused of murder multiple times, would be disconcerting in a more serious movie, but this is a lighthearted film played for chuckles. It's helped in that regard by a good supporting cast, including the always-funny Charles Butterworth, who placidly describes his murdered brother as "a stinker."

I'm partial to Preston Foster and enjoy him in this kind of good-natured role. He has a particularly amusing sequence at the police station, playing some tricks on Lt. Richards (Albert Dekker) and Sgt. Riordan (Paul Hurst).

It was a surprise to discover Morison as a goofy blonde, with her trademark long, dark hair apparently hidden under a wig. She shows once more what a good actress she was, as this character bears no relationship at all to roles she played in serious films such as PERSONS IN HIDING (1939) or THE ROUNDUP (1941), in which she also played opposite Foster.

The good cast includes Ginger Rogers lookalike Jean Phillips (DR. BROADWAY) as a nightclub singer involved in the murder investigation. She sings Hoagy Carmichael's "Small Fry" at the nightclub; IMDb doesn't confirm whether or not it's her own voice.

Look for Dorothy Dandridge in a scene as Shadrach's girlfriend. The cast also includes Cecil Kellaway, William Wright, George Chandler, Henry Brandon, Herb Vigran, and Emory Parnell. That's Lon McCallister (HOME IN INDIANA) as the boy in the car who spots Foster early in the movie.

NIGHT IN NEW ORLEANS runs 75 minutes. I was intrigued as soon as I saw that it was written by Jonathan Latimer, author of many film noir and suspense screenplays including THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME (1947) and NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948), to name just a couple.

The movie was directed by William Clemens. It was filmed in black and white by Merritt B. Gerstad and Leo Tover.

NIGHT IN NEW ORLEANS won't qualify as a great movie or even a very good one, but I found it entertaining and had a good time watching it.

1 Comments:

OpenID vienna said...

Would love to see this. I wonder why Patricia Morison didn't have a longer Hollywood career. I know she became a Broadway star with Kiss Me Kate. Still, she could do comedy and drama, plus that glorious singing voice.

7:12 AM  

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