Sunday, September 01, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Smart Girls Don't Talk (1948)

I've been enjoying a number of movies this holiday weekend, and tonight I pulled a random Virginia Mayo title out of my stack of movies to watch, SMART GIRLS DON'T TALK.

I recorded SMART GIRLS DON'T TALK when TCM had a tribute to Mayo some time back. I knew nothing about it, other than it costarred Bruce Bennett and had an interesting title, and I thought it would be fun to try a "mystery movie." It turned out to be an engrossing crime drama which I enjoyed considerably.

Mayo plays Linda Vickers, who becomes embroiled with nightclub owner/mobster Marty Fain (Bennett). Linda is so attracted to Marty she's willing to overlook the fact that his men apparently "borrowed" her car to kill another mobster.

All that changes, however, when Linda's brother Doc (Robert Hutton), a physician in training, comes to town. Linda realizes that she's lowered her standards and breaks things off with Marty. Almost instantly another issue with Marty hits very close to home for Linda, and she decides to help Lt. McReady (Richard Rober) put Marty behind bars.

I really liked this movie, which has a little bit of everything, including romance, good dialogue, music, and even an interesting "CSI" scene where Linda and McReady look at evidence with a ballistics expert (Harry Hayden).

Mayo has a nice way with her lines as the quick-witted Linda; the noncommittal, humorous way she initially deals with both Marty and the police called to mind Gloria Grahame's early scenes in IN A LONELY PLACE (1950). Mayo's Linda is a constantly evolving character, starting out as a mercenary woman on the take, then a woman in love, next a woman with a conscience, and finally a woman willing to risk all for justice. Mayo keeps her believable -- and increasingly sympathetic -- throughout.

Bennett isn't a flashy actor but he's effective as the smooth-talking, college-educated mobster. Marty usually has his men mete out mob justice, but then things go terribly wrong when he tries to collect on a debt himself, setting in motion the events that will lead to his downfall.

Helen Westcott, recently seen in GUN BELT (1953), plays Toni, a singer in Marty's club who shares a couple of brief meetings with Linda's brother Doc. Westcott performs the song "The Stars Will Remember"; the voice sounded as though it could be Westcott herself singing, and IMDb lists her, rather than a voice double, so perhaps it actually was her performing.

Also noticeable on the soundtrack is the use of "The Very Thought of You" as background music; the song dated from the '30s and had notably been used in Warner Bros.' film of the same name, THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944), four years previous to SMART GIRLS DON'T TALK.

Helen Westcott turns up briefly later in the film in a rather shocking moment where it's revealed she's been beaten to ensure she doesn't talk to the police. It's a small role but Westcott does well in it. This was one of the 20-year-old Westcott's first couple of films as an adult actress. Westcott had previously been a child actress in several films of the '30s and early '40s. Her father was actor Gordon Westcott, who died tragically in 1935 due to injuries suffered in a polo match. Helen passed on in 1998.

I'd never heard of Richard Rober, who's quite good as the police lieutenant who initially spars with Linda and later teams up with her to build a case against Marty. I was sorry to learn he died just four years later, age 42, due to injuries from a car accident.

SMART GIRLS DON'T TALK was directed by Richard L. Bare, whose best-known work was as the director of countless "Joe McDoakes" shorts at Warner Bros., a series which ran from 1942 through 1956. He later did considerable episodic TV work directing Warner Bros. series, including numerous episodes of MAVERICK.

It appears Bare is still alive -- I found a video of an interview recorded last year at the Cinecon Festival at the Egyptian Theatre; Bare was a spry 99 at the time. Bare just turned 100 on August 12th! Bare's ex-wife Phyllis Coates, who was a cigarette girl in SMART GIRLS DON'T TALK, was also present for the interview; she appeared in a number of the Joe McDoakes shorts.

This 81-minute movie was written by William Sackheim and photographed by Ted D. McCord. The supporting cast includes Tom D'Andrea, Richard Benedict, Ben Welden, and Richard Walsh.

SMART GIRLS DON'T TALK isn't available on DVD or video, but it's a Warner Bros. film so there's a good possibility it will show up in the future on a Warner Archive DVD, and it might also play on the Warner Archive Instant service at some point. (October 2015 Update: SMART GIRLS DON'T TALK is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive; my review of the DVD is here.)

It's also very likely it will turn up again on Turner Classic Movies at some time in the future. Fans of Mayo and Warner Bros. dramas of the '40s should make it a point to catch this one.


Blogger Vienna said...

This sounds great and one I have never heard of.
I've seen Richard Rober a few times, mainly as a gangster.He has a few scenes in Any Number Can Play.

12:20 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Vienna, this is our kind of movie. :) I'd love to hear your thoughts if you see it. I'll be watching for Rober in the future. I haven't yet seen ANY NUMBER CAN PLAY but have been interested since reading a review by Jacqueline at Another Old Movie Blog some time back.

Best wishes,

9:16 AM  

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