Dr. Christina J. Johns


I Love Trouble (1947-48)


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.


Wikipedia, IMDB




Posted on January 29, 2021 at 1:40 PM


Dombey and Son (2007)


Amazon Prime (in French with subtitles)


Based on the novel by Charles Dickens

An extremely handsome but annoying very rich man proceeds to ruin his life and the lives of those around him before finally coming to terms with his sins.

Dombey and Sons is not considered to be one of Charles Dickens’ best novels, but I found it to be worth watching both adaptations and getting the novel on Audible.

The name “Dombey and Son” is a clever turn about for a novel essentially about very strong women, Dombey’s daughter, his second wife and a housekeeper. The son who is the focus of “Dombey and Son” doesn’t last long. He dies as a child.

The father, Dombey, is obsessed not so much with the son, as with the idea of a son. The idea of “Dombey and Son” dominates his life and causes him to largely dismiss and ignore the women around him and be fooled by various men.

Dombey is obsessed with the idea of carrying on the “Dombey and Son” business. He virtually ignores his daughter, obsesses on the possibility of a son, largely ignores the death of his first wife so focused is he on the birth of a son.

But, even though he is almost exclusively focused on this idea of a son, he is so oblivious to his actual son, it takes years before he finds out (from the little boy) that the boy is sick. He has to go to his sister (Dombey’s sister) to ask if there is something wrong with the boy.

I have a feeling this is an overshadowed Dickens novel that deserves more attention. Other people evidently thought so as well. There was a 1983 version made by the BBC, and the 2007 French version.

Having watched both, I would highly recommend the French version. First, Dombey is a much more attractive man in the French version. He is infuriating as a character because he can’t seem to see what is going on in front of his face, and yours since you are watching. But, at least he is pleasant to watch. The actor playing Dombey in the 1983 version is stilted and unlikeable.

Now, having said that, had I watched the 1983 version first, I might feel differently. I don’t know.

But, if you are less obsessive than I am and only want to watch one version, the French version is much better. There are a few reasons why:

• The costumes are better.

• Dombey is better looking and I think the actor does a better job of interpreting Dombey. This would not be an easy part. Dombey the character is reserved to the point of being stony, so obtuse as to be infuriating, but he has a lot of screen time. The English Dombey seems to play the part at one level. The French Dombey manages to work all kinds of nuance into a part that is written to be emotionally unavailable.

• The French version is just beautifully filmed. The sets are lovely, much of the action takes place within houses.

• The choices of which scenes to include in the film is better in the French version. Some of the characters are combined (two of the nannies, for example) in a way that makes the story flow better.

Review Comments of 2007 Version

• “a great adaptation”

• “one of my favorites that are based on Dickens’ work”

• “beautifully realized adaptation:

• “engaging plot and interesting characters draw you in.”

• “script was tight”

• “This is a wonderfully dense book about families and gender roles…”

The Novel

Left out of the 2007 version is the fact that the great power of Dombey and Son is that of the railways. The way Dickens envelopes the story inside the growth and development of the railway and what it does to life. The advent of the railway is described on one of the early chapters as a kind of “earthquake.” By the end of the story, trains have taken over life.

"There were railway hotels, office-houses, lodging-houses, boarding-houses; railway plans, maps, views … There was even railway time observed in clocks, as if the sun itself had given in."

This back story is absent in both the film adaptations.


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