Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tonight's Movie: The Walls Came Tumbling Down (1946)

Lee Bowman stars as a New York newspaper columnist trying to solve a priest's murder in Columbia Pictures' THE WALLS CAME TUMBLING DOWN (1946).

Bowman plays Gil Archer, who arrives at a rectory to visit his old friend, the priest, only to learn that the priest's body was discovered minutes earlier. It's an apparent suicide, although that should be unthinkable for a priest.

Archer is convinced it was murder and is soon entangled with a mysterious brunette (Marguerite Chapman, MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY) and some oddball characters, played by George Macready, Edgar Buchanan, and J. Edward Bromberg. Everyone is searching for a pair of Bibles, which had apparently been in the priest's possession; legend has it that the Bibles will provide clues to the location of a lost Da Vinci painting of Joshua at the Battle of Jericho.

I've always been partial to Lee Bowman, who the previous year starred in one of my favorite musicals, TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT (1945). He's fun to watch in this as the columnist turned detective.

Another plus is the film has a nice sleek black and white look, filmed by Charles Lawton Jr.

That said, I was hoping for a little more from this film. The general plot premise is intriguing, and there are some nicely staged scenes, including a rainy late-night grave digging, but the movie as a whole is on the tepid side.

The script by Wilfred H. Petitt, based on a book by Jo Eisinger, has the cast of characters basically revolving from set to set, continually coming into contact as they try to figure out who has the Bibles; it's fairly talky and yet, despite that, it's not always easy to understand everyone's motives.

Even with a second murder in the mix and goons threatening Archer's life, it's not very suspenseful. There's also not much electricity between Bowman and Chapman, although he's suddenly taken to thinking of her romantically in the last couple of scenes.

The film is enjoyable enough for fans of the cast and A-/B+ type '40s mysteries, but the script of this 82-minute film needed a little more spark to it, and the actors could possibly have also brought a little more sizzle between the lines to their performances.

Lee Patrick enlivens the proceedings as Archer's secretary. It's a nice coincidence that she was the secretary in THE MALTESE FALCON, and here again she works for someone named least he had the good luck not to suffer the fate of Miles Archer!

Jonathan Hale also does a nice job as a police detective. The cast also includes Elisabeth Risdon, Moroni Olsen, Miles Mander, and Katherine Emery.

THE WALLS CAME TUMBLING DOWN was the last film directed by Lothar Mendes, who retired after this film. He lived until 1974, dying in London. An interesting side note is that in the '20s Mendes had been married to actress Dorothy Mackaill (SAFE IN HELL).

THE WALLS CAME TUMBLING DOWN is available in a very nice print via a Sony Choice DVD. There are no extras.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

OK. If I want to spend time with those old pals, it will do the trick without giving me anything great in the way of a crime picture. Forewarned is forearmed.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Good way to look at it! It's pleasant to spend time with Lee Bowman, Lee Patrick and the cast even if it's not a super movie.

Best wishes,

5:08 PM  

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