Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Persons in Hiding (1939)

After the disappointment of COME ON DANGER! (1932) earlier today, what a pleasure to watch another lesser-known film which was a real discovery, PERSONS IN HIDING (1939).

PERSONS IN HIDING anticipates GUN CRAZY (1950) by over a decade. Patricia Morison is riveting as Dot, who marries a small-time crook, Freddie Martin (J. Carrol Naish, of all people), and attempts to mold him into a big-time gangster she dubs "Gunner."

Morison's Dot is one cold dame, willing to set her mother's house on fire (with a G-man inside) or turn her husband over to the feds to get what she wants. The only chink in Dot's armor is expensive perfume, which ironically is responsible for her ultimate downfall.

Morison, who is now 99, should have had a much bigger film career, but she did have a great Broadway career to help compensate. She's beautiful, with stunning eyes and unusually long, dark hair, and she's a compelling screen presence.

Naish, who was close to two decades older than his leading lady, is an unlikely leading man; he frequently calls Morison "Kid," which appears to have been an attempt to acknowledge the age gap. Someone more charismatic in the role would have been nice but Naish is solid in the final scenes.

The film has an excellent cast, including Lynne Overman as an FBI man. His young partner is played by William Henry; Henry's bride in the film is played by Janet Waldo, who is now 90 years old. Waldo has had a long, successful career as a voice artist, notably as Judy Jetson in THE JETSONS.

Best of all, big-time gangster Mike Flagler is played by Richard Stanley, who'd previously been known at MGM as Stanley Morner and who would soon be much better known at Warner Bros. as Dennis Morgan! This was his last film under the name Richard Stanley.

Flagler's moll Flo was played by Dorothy Howe -- who later that year would begin acting under the name Virginia Vale and make the first of her half-dozen RKO films with George O'Brien, THE MARSHAL OF MESA CITY (1939).

Morgan and Vale are both real favorites of mine so it was a wonderful surprise discovering them in this film, "hiding" under different names.

The cast also includes William Frawley, John Eldredge, Leona Roberts, Richard Denning, and Helen Twelvetrees, who has a brief role as Overman's wife.

PERSONS IN HIDING was directed by Louis King, younger brother of director Henry King. It was filmed in black and white by Harry Fischbeck.

This was the first of multiple films based on J. Edgar Hoover's book, also named PERSONS IN HIDING. The script of this 70-minute film was by William Lipman and Horace McCoy.

It's the same sad old story, but this is a Paramount film which is not easily obtainable. Hopefully that will change at some point.

My thanks to John Knight for making it possible for me to see this very interesting film.

January 2015 Update: For more on this film, please check out Cliff's post at Immortal Ephemera.


Blogger john k said...

I don't normally choose to comment on films that you most kindly
review from the "John Knight Archives" :) but this film is so
special to me I just could not resist this one time!
As you say Patricia Morison should have had a far better film career,
she should have been one of the screens all time great "dangerous
dames" of Film Noir.
Sadly her career did not pan out that way but the Great Lady does
not seem to have any regrets on the various paths that her career took.
I am so glad you noticed the perfume that the Morison character craves
in the film.It's called "tantalising" and costs stacks for a tiny
bottle.We in turn though are "tantalized" by Morison's magnetic
screen presence.
I also love the way,in the film,even in defeat she is totally defiant!
This film is owned by Universal,I guess,who own Paramount's pre-
1949 library.I do wish the cats at Universal had the same attitude
to lesser known Film Noir as Warner Archive do.
Thanks you so much Laura for bringing this unheralded gem to everyone's

7:22 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

John, I always welcome your comments! This film was such a treat for me. It really delivered the goods, so to speak.

I wish this movie could come out via a TCM Vault set or some other way...I think a lot of GUN CRAZY fans would find this one fascinating.

Best wishes,

3:14 PM  
Blogger Kristina said...

VERY interesting! (says the Gun Crazy fan) Everything about this sounds fun

3:53 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I think you would really like this one, Kristina!!

Thanks for stopping by! :)

Best wishes,

12:33 AM  

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