I recently finished watching all four films in the Warner Archive's Lee Tracy RKO Collection.
Having enjoyed all of them, I had a yen to see more of Tracy and pulled WANTED! JANE TURNER (1936) out of my "to be watched" stack (tower!). It's another RKO film which I recorded from Turner Classic Movies some time back.
WANTED! JANE TURNER is a most engaging film which would be a great candidate for a Volume 2 collection of Tracy's films. He and Gloria Stuart (TITANIC) play Tom Mallory and Doris Martin, sparring postal investigators on the trail of a crook (Paul Guilfoyle) who murdered a mail delivery driver.
I sometimes think no studio made better programmers than RKO, and this 66-minute film is a great example. Tracy and Stuart are a lot of fun as the dueling detectives, who constantly bicker but clearly enjoy doing so and are actually crazy about each other. There's a fun bit near the end when, after Tracy tells her to just open a couple of cans for dinner, Stuart serves him a rather nasty-looking dinner of sardines and spinach -- then to his great joy later replaces it with his real meal, steak and a baked potato.
Some may not think of Tracy as leading man material, but I admit that on occasion I find him rather appealing, and that's the case in this film. He and Stuart have a nice bantering style. It's also interesting to see Stuart and Tracy acting as professional equals in a '30s film; indeed, it's Stuart who ultimately fires a key shot, right through her purse! Though she's a good cook, there's no talk of her retiring after marriage; instead, Tracy tells his boss that he'll always be able to count on the Mallorys, plural.
WANTED! JANE TURNER also boasts some of RKO's trademark Art Deco style, with a gorgeous hotel sequence. Even RKO's lower-budget films look good! There are some interesting L.A. locations which give the film added interest.
The movie has a solid cast, including Guilfoyle, who I've commented before seems to have been in every other RKO film of the '30s! Frank M. Thomas has a nice role as a mail clerk, with some touching scenes in which he and Tracy conspire to help a hard-up elderly man (Lee Kohlmar). Barbara Pepper has a good role as a blond "bad girl"; there's a fun scene where the police get her to crack and spill what she knows simply by annoying her making odd noises!
Bess Flowers has a couple of lines as a hotel mail desk clerk. The idea that a hotel would have its own mail desk was an interesting look back into the past, in and of itself. I also loved the hotel mail chute; that's a fixture which has disappeared just like pay phones.
WANTED! JANE TURNER was directed by Edward Killy and filmed by Robert de Grasse.
As much as I love better-known classic films, I really enjoy "treasure hunting" through movies such as this and discovering what they have to offer. WANTED! JANE TURNER was a particularly worthwhile find. It's never had a VHS or DVD release, but hopefully the Warner Archive will make it more widely available at a future date.
April 2017 Update: WANTED! JANE TURNER is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive! My review of the DVD is here.