Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Shadow of Doubt (1935)

SHADOW OF DOUBT (1935) -- not to be confused with Hitchcock's classic SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943) -- is a delightful little mystery with a good cast and a nice sense of humor. The many familiar faces make this movie a most enjoyable way for a classic film fan to spend 74 minutes.

New York businessman Sim (Ricardo Cortez) wants to marry Hollywood actress Trenna (Virginia Bruce), but when he makes hamhanded comments about her career, she tells a no-good scoundrel named Haworth (Bradley Page) she'll marry him instead. One problem: Haworth is already engaged to Lisa Bellwood (Betty Furness). And then Haworth turns up dead, with Sim and Trenna each considered likely suspects by the police (led by Edward Brophy).

Sim's wealthy Aunt Melissa (Constance Collier), who hasn't left her house in years, then teams up with her long-suffering butler and cribbage partner Morse (Ivan F. Simpson) and Sim's reporter friend Ryan (Regis Toomey) to find the real killer.

This movie was a nice little surprise, well-plotted and acted by an amiable cast. Despite being a murder mystery, the movie is quite funny at times; my favorite moment was when the reclusive Melissa (Collier) decides to leave her home and calls for the car, to which her shocked butler replies "But Madam, the chauffeur's been dead for years!"

The film provides a number of good roles for the supporting cast. This was the first sound film appearance by Constance Collier, playing the plucky Aunt Melissa, and she's terrific. Regis Toomey has an amusing role as Sim's enterprising reporter sidekick, whose girlfriend Inez (Isabel Jewell) sings in a great Art Deco nightclub. (Love the portholes!) Wonderful character actors like Brophy, Samuel S. Hinds, and Arthur Byron are scattered throughout the film and add considerably to its quality.

The screenplay, from a story by Arthur Somers Roche, was by Wells Root. Root wrote many films of the '30s and '40s, with "B" titles mixed with "A" credits such as the adaptation for both versions of THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (1937). He would go on to a busy career writing for TV Westerns in the '50s, including MAVERICK, BAT MASTERSON, and CHEYENNE.

SHADOW OF DOUBT was directed by MGM "B" unit director George B. Seitz. That same year Seitz directed Virginia Bruce in SOCIETY DOCTOR (1935) and TIMES SQUARE LADY (1935).

SHADOW OF DOUBT was recently shown on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is at the TCM website.

Hopefully this will be released by the Warner Archive at some point. Recommended as an enjoyable film.

December 2012 Update: That didn't take long! SHADOW OF DOUBT has just been released on DVD-R by the Warner Archive.


Blogger Vienna said...

Sounds good fun, Laura. Hope we get to see it soon

1:07 AM  
Blogger The Creative Tinkerer said...

Love Constance Collier!! (She and her role take over the film as soon as she enters) And any movie from the 30's that has a decent sense of humor should always rate an extra star, by my standards.

5:02 AM  

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