Dr. Christina J. Johns
I Love Trouble (1947-48)
I LOVE TROUBLE (1947)
Starring Franchot Tone (43 at the time), Janet Blair, Adele Jergens and a small part for Raymond Burr.
Directed by S. Sylvan Simon.
Music by George Duning
Costumes (gowns) by Jean Louis
This is a long movie (2 hours) but well worth the watch. It is the studio’s try out of Franchot Tone’s for a private detective series. While Tone is usually fun to watch, I don’t think he has the same sort of edge as the noir detective Dick Powell had or the charm of William Powell.
As most of the reviewers point out, this script is straight out of the Chandler/Hammett line of novels with the suave, wisecracking detective, but it is well worth watching.
My favorite lines from the film are:
Heavy: This is a gun in your back.
Tone: Yeah, I’ve seen one before.
The filmscript was written by Roy Huggins and was based on his novel “The Double Take.” This same character, Stuart Bailey, was played years later by Efrem Zimalist Jr. in the television series 77 Sunset Strip.
Huggins created a number of the most famout TV movie series - Maverick, The Fugitive, The Rockford Files, and 77 Sunset Strip.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I did, however, stop it at one point and noticed that there was an hour and 8 minutes more to go. I was surprised. Some of the reviewers criticized the movie for the length, but it held my attention throughout.
It’s a bit amazing that the film does hold the attention since the plot is as one reviewer noted “confounding.” He said that he could not “figure out who was who in this impossibly complex story.”
This makes the film very much like “The Big Sleep,” which created a template for the detective film noir. “The Big Sleep” is also widely considered to be impossible to decipher, but completely enjoyable nevertheless.
Part of the difficulty in understanding the story line in this film is that even though Huggins adapted his own novel, and some of the scenes are lifted directly from the book, the story (according to a reviewer who had read the novel) has been speeded up and abbreviated and some of the names changed.
It doesn’t help that most of the women look extraordinarily alike. And most of them have multiple identities in the plot. One of the reviewers noted: “I thought the various babes were all the same person.” And, there are a lot of babes all with complicated histories.
Added to this is the fact that the two foreign husbands also looked just alike to me and their accents were indeterminate.
A number of the reviewers just could not accept Tome in the role of a smart mouthed, hardnosed detective. I have always thought Tome was an acquired taste, and he is truly dreadful in films which I suspect he detested.
(Note: There is one film he made with Joan Crawford, for example, where they had him dressed up in lederhosen.)
As one reviewer noted: “All the sweeping fedoras and dangling cigarettes in the world can't make Tone fit into this role.”
Tome always considered the business of film making as invasive to the private lives of the actors. He also felt that films required a totally different pace from theatre performances. I never saw him in a theatre performance, but I suspect he never quite felt comfortable with the film pace.
When he was married to Joan Crawford she (predictably) tried to take over promoting his career. Tome, however, was always more interested in theatre, even in small productions than film. It is thought that this difference between the two was one of the reasons for their divorce.
So, to me, Tome’s performances always have a “hostage” feel to them. I get the impression that he doesn’t really want to be where he is. But, he usually manages to pull off a credible performance.
When some heavies were beating up on Tone, I thought I saw Raymond Burr lurking on the sidelines. When the man spoke (he has about three lines) there was no mistaking it was Burr. This was an extremely small part and Burr would have been 31 at the time this film was made. So, he came into prominence a lot later in his life than I remembered.
All the prints of “I Love Trouble” were thought to have been lost for decades. A restored version of it was shown in a film festival in 2007, and I think this is the first time it has been shown on television (TCM). One reviewer snarked that this movie wouldn’t have received a second glance if it hadn’t been thought lost. I disagree. I think it is a fun romp even at two hours.
One of the other things I noticed in the film and then read comments about from other reviewers is the soundtrack. As one of the reviewers put it, the soundtrack tries way too hard to give the viewer advanced notice of the tone of the scene. The soundtrack tries to be “the star of the film.” It does signal lightheartedness, like when Bailey crawls out from under a bed where he has passed out and finds a beautiful babe in the bed. And it gives advance warning of danger. It seems to me that audiences in 1948 would have been too sophisticated for this. One of the reviewers thought that this soundtrack was so invasive and insulting he couldn’t watch the movie. But, for me, it faded into the background.
The film was well directed by S. Sylvan Simon. One of the reasons that name is not more familiar is that he died only three years after making the movie at the age of 41.
|Posted on June 28, 2020 at 7:15 PM|
ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN (1938)
Director: William Clemens
Writers: George Bricker and Anthony Coldeway (screen play) from a story by George Bricker
Starring: Ronald Reagan, Sheila Bromley, Gloria Blondell, Dick Purcell
Ronald Reagan as an insurance fraud investigator with a greedy wife who gets involved with a big fraud gang.
I had no idea Joan Blondell even had a sister until I happened on this film. The lesser-known sister, Gloria, made something like two dozen Hollywood features. In the 1940s she played the voice of Disney’s Daisy Duck. She did television in the 1950s (I love Lucy and The Life of Riley)
The sisters started off as part of a vaudeville troupe “The Bouncing Blondells.”
Ronald Reagan was 27 when he made this movie, but he looks much younger. He plays pretty much his standard part – smart, cocky guy.
Shiela Bromley as the greedy wife is probably the most impressive of the actors. She had small parts in a great many Hollywood movies and then went on to do a lot of television.
This is an unambitious, but well put together B film. The honest young insurance man gets done badly by his wife and has to take on the insurance fraud gangs to get his reputation back (and a better girl).
Sociologically, the notable part of the film is a sequence involving just one of the numerous insurance fraud schemes. The fraud schemes organized by the gang involve hiring people to jump out of a car before it goes over a cliff, falling down a set of outside stairs in a bus and other faked car accidents.
But, one of these schemes illustrates just how casual and heartless the racism of the time was in films. This is the only one of the schemes to involve a person of color, the only one where the person hired is a dupe or portrayed as an object of fun (except a guy who pretends to be drunk).
The first scene to set this up is in a doctor’s office where the doctor is fooling with a wooden brace. A black man is sitting in a chair. The doctor puts the black man’s arm in the brace and starts to use a hammer to break the arm. The black man objects. The gang member says: You signed up for this job. The black may says, Yeah, but I changed my mind. The gang member offers him more money and the black man agrees asking for the doctor to break his arm gently.
Then, we see the black man standing on a street corner, waiting for a car driven by one of the gang members to come down the street. He walks right in front of the car and is sideswiped. He then gets up and complains loudly about his broken arm.
This incident involves the only real physical harm that comes to any of the stooges hired by the gang. The other people are playing parts, or in one case, an acrobat who knows how to fall.
It’s painful to watch the doctor swing the hammer as he tries to come down on the black man’s arm, and it’s disturbing to watch the man be sideswiped by the oncoming car. It’s also notable that the black man is portrayed as somewhat stupid and overly impressed by the money. The other stooges are cynical, playing a part, people obviously used to acting as stooges.
Article about racism and the early Hoillywood films.
Note: I have to correct part of the post from yesterday. Peter Lorre did have dialogue in the film just at the end right before he is hit by a truck and killed.