Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Confidence Girl (1952)

When I stumbled across CONFIDENCE GIRL among the titles available via Netflix streaming, the name of writer-director Andrew L. Stone caught my eye, as I've enjoyed several of his films recently.

CONFIDENCE GIRL proved to be an interesting, if not completely successful, little "B" movie, the type of film I love to find on Netflix. For me, Netflix streaming isn't so much about the classics, which are readily available on DVD or on Turner Classic Movies, but it's about the thrill of finding interesting, relatively obscure films which can't be seen anywhere else: CONFIDENCE GIRL or EMERGENCY HOSPITAL (1956) or especially HIGHWAY DRAGNET (1954).

CONFIDENCE GIRL is low budget and fairly creaky, but in a way that's part of the film's charm. The film concerns a pair of con artists, Roger (Tom Conway) and Mary (Hillary Brooke), who arrive in Los Angeles and soon are running scams at a department store, a pawn shop, and a nightclub.

The story is told in docu-noir style, with an introduction by the L.A. County Sheriff and a narrator (Truman Bradley of CALL NORTHSIDE 777) explaining the actions taken by both the con artists and law enforcement.

One of the film's drawbacks is that for a significant percentage of the film, there's no protagonist, other than perhaps the omniscient narrator. We aren't provided much background information on Roger and Mary, and their only motivation seems to be that Roger has a sense of entitlement, not believing he can make money legally, and Mary loves Roger and continues to cooperate with him despite her desire for a quiet married life and a child.

The film gets considerably more interesting when the cops slowly start to put the pieces together. The police -- who include Jack Kruschen, John Gallaudet, Dan Riss, and Edmund Cobb -- are portrayed in a very low-key, realistic fashion which I found fun to watch.

I had trouble believing some of the plot, specifically the ultra-elaborate machinations behind the "mind reading" scam. The scam was amusing to watch unfold, though I was skeptical; for instance, how was the music communicated to Mary so smoothly? The film's somewhat abrupt, low-key ending was also a bit odd, particularly the transportation arrangements made by Detective Quinn (Kruschen).

Conway, as many film fans are already aware, is the older brother of George Sanders, and indeed, they sound very much alike. Here Conway seems to have aged quite a bit since playing the lead seven years earlier in an Anthony Mann "B" movie I liked, TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE (1945), though he was still in his 40s when this was made. Conway seems to have had a reputation in later years as a heavy drinker, so perhaps that type of lifestyle was already having an effect on him. He passed away in 1967.

I particularly remember Hillary Brooke as Blanche Ingram in the Welles-Fontaine version of JANE EYRE (1943). She accumulated over 100 credits between the late '30s and 1960, playing bit parts, supporting roles in "A" films, leads in "B" movies, and television appearances. She left the screen when she married in 1960 and passed on in 1999, at the age of 84.

The supporting cast also includes Eddie Marr, Aline Towne, Walter Kingsford, Roy Engel, Helen Van Tuyl, Tyler McVey, Paul Guilfoyle, Pamela Duncan, and many more.

The black and white photography was by William H. Clothier. (There's more info on Clothier in my post on the 1973 John Wayne film THE TRAIN ROBBERS.) Andrew Stone's wife, Virginia, handled the editing, as she did on many of her husband's films. The film runs 81 minutes.

Andrew L. Stone films previously reviewed: BEDSIDE MANNER (1945), THE BACHELOR'S DAUGHTERS (1946), A BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER (1953), JULIE (1956), and THE LAST VOYAGE (1960).


Blogger Kevin Deany said...

I've never heard of this title, but I like Tom Conway so will have to be on the lookout for it.

He was known around Hollywood as "the nice George Sanders." I do enjoy his speaking voice though, and if I close my eyes I'm hard pressed to tell the difference between the two brothers.

I'm also hard pressed to tell the difference between The Saint and The Falcon but I enjoy them both. RKO made good "B" pictures.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Kevin! I haven't seen the SAINT or FALCON series yet, but I made some tapes of both films when TCM ran marathons. I'm definitely looking forward to checking them out. The names of either Sanders or Conway in a film's credits is always a plus for me.

Best wishes,

1:54 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I have seen this movie numerous times of TCM. I love it. I find a lot of humor in it.

12:33 AM  

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