Thursday, May 23, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Lady Scarface (1941) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

LADY SCARFACE (1941) is a peppy little RKO crime film just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

The movie begins as Slade (Judith Anderson), aka "Lady Scarface," and her gang rob a securities brokerage. Soon both Lieutenant Bill Nelson (Dennis O'Keefe) and crime reporter Ann Rogers (Frances Neal) are on the gang's tail, following their trail from Chicago to New York.

This fast-moving 66-minute film starts out in somewhat disturbing fashion, with Slade mercilessly executing her robbery victim -- heard but not seen -- but after the getaway very little is seen of Anderson's character, more's the pity. At that point the movie transforms into a more lighthearted romantic mystery, as Bill and Ann simultaneously spar and fall for each other while solving the crime.

There's nothing very special about the film, but it's pleasant entertainment, with congenial leads and nicely shot in black and white by Nicholas Musuraca.

Dennis O'Keefe is a longtime favorite, though I generally find his work better later in his career, between stronger scripts and his developing into a more nuanced actor. Neal is pleasantly spunky as the reporter; the following year she became Mrs. Van Heflin, a union which lasted for a quarter century.

Along with the O'Keefe-Neal relationship, which reminded me a bit of Lee Tracy and Gloria Stuart in RKO's earlier WANTED! JANE TURNER (1936), the most distinctive thing about the film is the women's roles; not only is the chief villain a female, which the lieutenant doesn't even initially consider as a possibility, but at times Ann is much more on top of the case than the police!

Rand Brooks and Mildred Coles play a honeymooning couple inadvertently caught up in the case when they receive the loot in the mail by mistake. The robbery gang includes Arthur Shields; the cast also includes Eric Blore, Marc Lawrence, Marion Martin, Damian O'Flynn, Lee Bonnell, and Stanley Andrews.

The movie was directed by Frank Woodruff.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good print with a solid soundtrack. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


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