Monday, February 05, 2018

Tonight's Movie: The Rookie Cop (1939)

THE ROOKIE COP (1939) is a minor Tim Holt RKO "B" movie featuring a very well-trained dog.

Though THE ROOKIE COP came out in April 1939, it was already Holt's third release of the year, following THE LAW WEST OF TOMBSTONE (1939), one of his earliest "B" Westerns, and his supporting role in John Ford's STAGECOACH (1939).

THE ROOKIE COP was directed by frequent George O'Brien collaborator David Howard, and while it moves along at a brisk pace, it could have done with a better script.

It's the story of young police officer Clem Maitland (Holt), whose dog Ace follows him to work one day and helps nap a robber. The police chief (Frank M. Thomas) isn't impressed with the idea of dogs doing police work, and Clem later finds himself further in the doghouse (sorry) when crooks successfully distract him from his post and pull off a factory payroll robbery which also leads to murder.

Clem is suspended for dereliction of duty, but he and Ace continue to work on solving the robbery and other recent crimes; part of the motivation is to free Tom's friend (Monte Montague), who was arrested for the robbery. The chief's daughter Gerry (Janet Shaw) and Clem's semi-annoying young "police groupie" neighbor Nicey (Virginia Weidler) also pitch in, whether their help is wanted or not.

Young Holt definitely has charisma, and there are some nice moments here and there, particularly thanks to Ace, who was a standout in Richard Dix's BLIND ALIBI (1938) the year before. Ace appeared in several more films before his last movie in 1946.

The movie suffers from a jerky script, particularly in the first half; it's both repetitive and features characters lacking in common sense. (The police are so annoyed by the plan to distract Clem that they don't bother to pick up key evidence from that scene?) I'm inclined to like Weidler but her character here is a little much, powering through (back-projected) heavy traffic on her motorized bicycle, complete with small dog in the front basket.

It's all watchable enough, particuarly for Holt fans, but it's of lower quality than his "B" Westerns.

The movie was shot in black and white by Harry J. Wild. It runs a quick 61 minutes.

THE ROOKIE COP is not available on VHS or DVD, but it is shown from time to time on Turner Classic Movies.


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