Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Under Cover of Night (1937)

A good cast enlivens UNDER COVER OF NIGHT (1937), a fairly routine but watchable MGM murder mystery.

Janet Griswald (Sara Haden) has learned her husband Marvin (Henry Daniell) is having an affair right under her nose with Tonya (Marla Shelton).

Janet makes the mistake of telling her hubby she's leaving him to enjoy life with Tonya, but she's taking the research they've spent years working on with her in a small notebook. This will put an end to Marvin's hopes of career advancement at the university.

Marvin does not take the news well, to say the least, and does away with his wife early in the film; the movie then focuses on his ensuing misdeeds and how he's brought to justice thanks to the detective work of his friend Christopher Cross (Edmund Lowe).

Marvin kills several additional people as he searches for the notebook, managing to frame Alan Shaw (a very young Dean Jagger) while he's at it. Alan's girlfriend Deb (Florence Rice) is also in danger after she locates the missing notebook.

The film's main drawback is that it spends quite a lot of time on the plotting of Marvin and Tonya, when it's Christopher and the rest of the cast who are more interesting; when the focus switches to time spent with Christopher, Alan, and Deb it's much livelier. I also particularly enjoyed Haden who has an elegant assurance in the role of Marvin's first victim.

Edmund Lowe and Florence Rice also costarred in THE BEST MAN WINS (1935) and UNDER PRESSURE (1935). I enjoy both actors very much, and it's also fun watching Jagger when he was in his early 20s. The cast also includes Harry Davenport, Nat Pendleton, Dorothy Peterson, Zeffie Tilbury, and Theodore von Eltz (who looks enough like Lowe that it's a bit confusing).

I have really come to appreciate Lowe in films such as BLACK SHEEP (1935) and SEVEN SINNERS (1936). He has a nice urbane comedic quality, a bit reminiscent of William Powell, while also sometimes hitting deeper, more dramatic notes.

Lowe passed away in 1971. I recently learned that Lowe's gravesite at San Fernando Mission Cemetery was unmarked for decades, but thanks to an online fundraiser last month, a grave marker is now in place. A photograph may be seen at the Find a Grave website.

Warning for animal-loving viewers: Marvin's evil crimes also include murdering a pet dog. While it's not overtly shown, it's nonetheless shocking. Marvin does receive his just desserts in the end.

UNDER COVER OF NIGHT runs 71 minutes. It was directed by George B. Seitz and filmed in black and white by Charles Clarke.

This film has been shown on Turner Classic Movies. It's not available on DVD.


Blogger barrylane said...

I like Edmund Lowe a lot, but this story confirms my long held suspicion that he died behind the eight ball. Sad, huh.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I caught this on TCM within the last few months and for a short and relatively well-paced little mystery, it did need a shift in focus to pull it up to the next level.

5:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DEAN JAGGER played the dad to AUDIE MURPHY in the western SIERRA. He was also in KING CREOLE as the dad of Danny Fisher(played by ELVIS PRESLEY). He certainly had very attractive sons. HA HA. Also he was in the classic musical WHITE CHRISTMAS. I just thought of something. He worked with Elvis whose ex-wife PRISCILLA later was on DALLAS as JENNA WADE and he worked with BING CROSBY(in WHITE CHRISTMAS) whose daughter MARY was on DALLAS as KRISTIN who shot J.R. EWING(LARRY HAGMAN). Classic TV Fan

6:31 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Barrylane, it would be interesting to know the whole story. I'm glad that Lowe's grave is now properly marked after all these years. He brought a lot of people enjoyment through his film work.

Caftan Woman, thanks for your feedback, I was interested we saw this film the same way (as we so often do!).

Classic TV Fan, it was fun to see Dean Jagger in this when he was so young.

Best wishes,

6:38 PM  

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