Friday, July 23, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Step By Step (1946) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The very enjoyable RKO "B" crime thriller STEP BY STEP (1946) has just been released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

STEP BY STEP is one of a pair of newly released "never on DVD" "B" films from the Warner Archive; the other is Monogram's I WOULDN'T BE IN YOUR SHOES (1948), which I'll be reviewing here in the near future.

I'm especially thrilled by these new releases as I had thought we might not see any more of these types of relatively minor films from the Warner Archive Collection, which has recently focused on reissuing previous DVD releases on Blu-ray. It's been great seeing gorgeous prints of films such as classic MGM musicals on Blu-ray, and adding releases of fun little films like STEP BY STEP into the mix gives classic film fans the best of both worlds.

STEP BY STEP, which I first reviewed via Turner Classic Movies in 2014, reunited Lawrence Tierney and Anne Jeffreys, who had starred in the classic crime film DILLINGER (1945) the previous year.

The 62-minute STEP BY STEP isn't as good a film as DILLINGER, but at the same time it's probably more fun, a crime romp with tough guy Tierney in a surprisingly lighthearted role.

Jeffreys plays Evelyn Smith, who has wangled a secretarial job with a senator (Harry Harvey) and accompanied him to an isolated California mansion where he plans to conduct business.

When the senator plans to hold a confidential meeting he suggests Evelyn go for a swim at the nearby beach, where she meets Marine veteran Johnny Christopher (Tierney), who is quite smitten.

When Johnny later accidentally locks himself out of his car he goes to the mansion, only to find a completely different woman (Myrna Dell) claiming to be Evelyn. Johnny is also unaware that the senator he meets is an imposter (Jason Robards Sr.).

Eventually Johnny finds and rescues Evelyn, only for them to learn they're wanted for murder! Fortunately a kindly motor court owner (George Cleveland) believes their crazy story and decides to help them.

I really enjoy this film. For viewers used to seeing Tierney playing menacing characters such as Dillinger or the murderer of BORN TO KILL (1947), it's fun to see him relatively "unwound" in this role, though his staccato speech and references to places like Guadalcanal still make clear Johnny is a tough customer.

While the chemistry between Tierney and the lovely Jeffreys was more electric in DILLINGER, they have a comfortable, teasing ease here which is fun to watch. They're a good team, and I wish they'd made more films together.

With false identities and a spooky coastal mansion, the movie has a bit of the vibe of a film like MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (1945), mashed up with touches of "couple on the run" films such as THE 39 STEPS (1935), PACIFIC BLACKOUT (1941), FLY-BY-NIGHT (1942), or SABOTEUR (1942).

A significant chunk of STEP WAS STEP was filmed at Leo Carrillo State Beach, named for the actor who was also a key player in California history. Carrillo spent many years serving on the state Beach and Parks Commission and, among other things, played an important role in the state's acquisition of Hearst Castle.

Leo Carrillo State Beach has served as a location in many films; in 2009 Huell Howser filmed a show on the area, "Movie Beach," which may be watched online at Howser's Chapman University archive. For that matter, Howser also filmed a 2007 episode on Leo Carrillo Ranch. I recommend watching both as informative "extras" along with this movie.

STEP BY STEP was directed by Phil Rosen and filmed in black and white by Frank Redman. Stuart Palmer's screenplay was based on a story by George Callahan.

The supporting cast includes Ray Walker, Lowell Gilmore, Addison Richards, John Hamilton, and Ralph Dunn.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray looks and sounds great. The disc contains two extras, the short THE TRANS-ATLANTIC MYSTERY (1932) and a Daffy Duck cartoon, THE GREAT PIGGY BANK ROBBERY (1946).

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection Amazon Store or any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold.

7 Comments:

Blogger dfordoom said...

I WOULDN'T BE IN YOUR SHOES and STEP BY STEP both sound fairly interesting. But I have to stop buying DVDs and Blu-Rays. I should do something radical, like actually watch all the ones I already own!

12:02 AM  
Blogger Lyson said...

@dfordoom - couldn't agree with you more. I have so many unwatched movies - yet I'm still drawn to buying new ones!

6:54 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I saw Step By Step on its initial release and on the big screen Tierney locked out wandering around in his bathing suit was extremely memorable. I saw it again later, and while some of the shenanigans seemed contrived, it was still a good watch. And Jeffrey was good too but the show belonged to Larry.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

DforDoom and Lyson, I certainly understand where you're coming from on unwatched DVDs and Blu-rays -- though I admit it doesn't stop me from acquiring more, at least yet!

Barrylane, I love knowing that you saw this film on original release. What a fun memory! I agree, it may be a bit contrived but it's quite a fun hour. Hope more people will enjoy spending time with it thanks to this release.

Best wishes,
Laura

1:34 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Anne Jeffreys is pretty near the top of my They-Should-Have-Been-Bigger-Stars list. She was a good actress, an excellent singer, and a truly extravagant beauty.

She had a fine career in movies, TV, and on stage, but with all she had going for her, she should have been Bigger. If she'd been at MGM or Fox and just gotten the right break... oh, well. If if if...

3:50 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Rick, Usually I don't agree with observations along the Anne Jeffreys line that you make, but yes -- Fox or Metro might have done it for her, not at the Irene Dunne,
Claudette Colbert or Myrna Loy level, but right behind them.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Glad to hear the props for Anne Jeffreys who I agree had a really fine career, but in the right setting might have gone even further in films. Wish she'd had more of a chance to sing on screen; I've seen a couple of her early Bill Elliott Westerns and she sings in at least one of those but it would have been great to see her in a full-scale musical. To that end I have picked up discs of her TV productions of THE MERRY WIDOW (1955) and DEAREST ENEMY (1944) to check out.

I find her especially engaging in DILLINGER and RIFFRAFF.

Best wishes,
Laura

11:51 PM  

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