Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Wives Under Suspicion (1938)

WIVES UNDER SUSPICION is a brisk little 69-minute "B" movie about an overzealous district attorney who neglects his wife. The story is only so-so, but it's a pleasant way to spend time with the excellent cast, including Warren William, Gail Patrick, William Lundigan, Ralph Morgan, and Cecil Cunningham.

District Attorney Jim Stowell (William) is so enthused about obtaining convictions to send murderers to the electric chair that he keeps track of his courtroom victories on an abacus with skeleton heads! His devoted, sensible secretary (Cunningham) is none too thrilled with the abacus and warns Stowell that he's just a little too preoccupied with his job -- especially considering that he has a very beautiful young wife, Lucy (Patrick), at home who'd like him to spend more time with her.

When normally mild-mannered, respected Professor Shaw MacAllen (Morgan) shoots and kills his notoriously unfaithful wife, Stowell refuses to consider reducing the charge from murder to manslaughter, to the dismay of many in the community.

And then Stowell suddenly starts to worry about the time his own wife is spending with handsome young Phil (Lundigan); his home life seems to be unfolding in an eerie parallel to the professor's situation.

The story feels just a tad skimpy; for instance, I would have liked to know more of the characters' back story, and I was also intrigued by Lucy's habit of listening to the recordings of the murder confessions her husband extracts. More character development would have been a good thing. However, I appreciated that for the most part the story moves like lightning, except for the drawn-out scene where MacAllen confesses to the D.A.

I enjoyed this film simply because I like the cast. Gail Patrick is exquisitely lovely -- and what a wardrobe! -- and it makes a nice change of pace to see her playing a character who is genuinely sweet, rather than the sharp-tongued type of character which was a Patrick specialty.

The young Lundigan had already racked up a dozen credits since entering the business in 1937. I always enjoy him, even when he's cast in a fairly bland role, as he is here. There are those who have asserted Lundigan is a bland actor, but I've always been fond of him, with my favorite Lundigan film being I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN (1951). Plain and simple, Lundigan is likeable, and his best performances, such as the minister in I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN, convey an appealing integrity.

Gravelly voiced character actress Cecil Cunningham is quite good as "Sharpie," Stowell's blunt secretary. The film doesn't really demand a great deal of any of the actors, other than Morgan, but they're good company.

WIVES UNDER SUSPICION is a remake of director James Whale's own pre-Code film, THE KISS BEFORE THE MIRROR (1933). It's interesting to note that while Ralph Morgan plays the murderer in WIVES UNDER SUSPICION, his brother Frank played the D.A. in the original version! Nancy Carroll played the D.A.'s wife in the earlier version. The 1933 supporting cast also included Paul Lukas, Gloria Stuart, Jean Dixon, and Walter Pidgeon.

This film is in the public domain. The Alpha DVD I rented from Netflix was quite faded but otherwise played smoothly.

This film is also available for Amazon Prime subscribers to watch online.


Blogger Cliff Aliperti said...

How neat is that abacus?

Not a favorite Warren William title, but not a bad one either.

Didn't realize it was a remake and loved that bit of trivia about the Morgan brothers connecting to that!

9:34 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Glad I could provide some fun trivia! If you write this one up, please be sure to let me know! Nice little movie. :)

Best wishes,

10:13 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I adore William Lundigan as well. Let's start a fan club. Initiation will include watching "Follow Me Quietly" with the high water mark being "I'll Climb the Highest Mountain".

12:18 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm in! Wasn't FOLLOW ME QUIETLY wonderful? :)

I'm also very fond of I'LL GET BY with June Haver, Gloria DeHaven, and Dennis Day. And THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL. And...

Best wishes,

12:21 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older