Monday, February 06, 2017

Tonight's Movie: 36 Hours to Kill (1936)

36 HOURS TO KILL (1936) is my kind of "B" movie, a fast-paced "train film" from 20th Century-Fox.

Bank robber Duke Benson (Douglas Fowley), Public Enemy No. 1, is hiding in plain sight in Southern California suburbia, along with his wife Jeanie (Isabel Jewell). (This aspect called to mind THE BIG CAPER, released 20 years later.) When Duke realizes that he's literally holding a winning lottery ticket, he's got to travel east to the point of purchase to cash it in. Duke and Jeanie split up for the trip, with Duke taking the train and Jeanie flying to their destination.

On the train Duke meets Anne (Gloria Stuart of TITANIC fame), who's evading a process server, and Frank (Brian Donlevy), a newspaper reporter. In reality Anne is a reporter and Frank is a G man on Duke's trail.

I found this 66-minute film a lot of fun, with a solid script, strong cast, and attractive setting. Donlevy and Stuart are appealing leads, with Stuart particularly good as a self-confident young woman.

Watching Anne and Frank eat breakfast on elegant china in the dining car, while rain pours on the windows, or seeing them singing under the stars on a train car's back deck, I can't help feeling a little envious of a bygone world. I'm not sure I'd ever want to get off the train!

Stepin Fetchit is prominent in the supporting cast as a slow-moving porter named Flash; I have to admit that he got me to laughing more than once, particularly as he called out the names of cities or belatedly shouted "All aboard!" after the train has already pulled out. Setting aside the well-worn debate over the appropriateness of his type of character, the man had great comic timing and deserves his due in that regard.

Also in the cast are Warren Hymer, Charles Lane, Julius Tannen, Jonathan Hale, and Dickie Jones. Lynn Bari is listed as a "traveler" by IMDb but I didn't spot her.

36 HOURS TO KILL was directed by Eugene Forde and filmed by Arthur Miller. The screenplay by Lou Breslow and John Patrick was based on a story by W.R. Burnett, who wrote the stories or screenplays for many well-known crime films, Westerns, and war movies.

The movie is available on DVD in a nice print from Fox Cinema Archives. (My experience to date with that very inconsistent line is that the '30s and early '40s prints tend to be better than some of the later prints.) I rented it from ClassicFlix.

The movie also got a thumbs up from John McElwee at Greenbriar Picture Shows.

36 HOURS TO KILL would make a great double bill with another Fox movie set aboard a train traveling in the opposite direction, SLEEPERS WEST (1941).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds great - Donlevy and Fowley are two of my favorites.

11:47 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm sure you'd enjoy it! A nice hour or so, good entertainment. :)

Best wishes,

9:00 AM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

Vienna, nice to know that I'm not the only Douglas Fowley fan around:-)

Laura, always grateful when you post about one of these little-known "B" treasures, thanks for the heads-up! I had never heard of it before, but I will definitely be checking it out.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Maricatrin, so glad I could make you aware of a new-to-you "B"! I strongly suspect you will like it as well.

Coming next will be a review of another Buck Jones film -- I'm certainly glad you and a couple other Jones fans encouraged me to see his films!

Best wishes,

8:59 PM  
Blogger KC said...

I also pine for the days of better train travel. They definitely weren't like that when I was on my Europe trip many moons ago!

Thanks for giving props to Stepin Fechit. I've been sitting on a post about him for a long time, trying to figure out how to express what I feel. I think he was so talented and that if you read between the lines, he's usually dumb like a fox in those roles that seem so offensive. I mean, yes, they are offensive, but somehow he always ends up getting what he wants. And he does have excellent comic timing.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for your thoughts, KC! If I were to go back in time I'd definitely want to try out some train travel like we see in the movies. (Was it ever really that good? LOL)

I'd be most interested to read your post if you decide to write about Stepin Fechit. It's kind of a shame that his frequent movie persona is so fraught with controversy that his talent is overlooked. I keep smiling as I think of him calling out the names of towns on the train route in sort of a mangled fashion. Being able to make people smile like that is a gift.

Best wishes,

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally saw it and echo your thoughts. Good, fast paced fun. I like Isobel Jewell more and more.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Delighted to know you enjoyed it as well, Vienna! Hope your comment will help encourage people who come across this review to try the movie!

Best wishes,

11:06 AM  

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