Moss Rose

Call a movie contrived and it immediately conjures up images of some wholly unrealistic scenario, something the hardheaded among us will insist gravely could never come to pass. And thus, with wisdom intact, we dismiss it and move on to something more credible and by inference something altogether better. Perhaps the years are encouraging me to be more contrary but I find I’m increasingly at a loss to understand why a lack of realism in any form of artistic expression  – and I’ve yet to hear a convincing answer offered as why those two concepts need to be forced into an uncomfortable marriage anyway – has to be regarded as “a bad thing” and avoided at all costs. The Gothic romance is one of those areas where the contrived situation is commonly found, and that seems to be even more apparent in the 1940s variety which frequently flirted with film noir. Moss Rose (1947) is one such movie, a murder mystery requiring the viewer to resolutely suspend disbelief and take some unlikely behavior at face value.

Edwardian London: Hansom cabs clatter over slick cobbles while tendrils of fog curl themselves seductively around softly glowing gas lamps, and our narrator breathlessly begins her tale. Belle Adair (Peggy Cummins) – it’s her stage name but it’s the one we first encounter her under so I’ll continue to use it here – is a young chorus girl who tells of a mysterious stranger she’s often spotted slipping in and out of the shadows next to the boarding house she occupies along with a number of other performers. She assumes it’s the latest conquest of one of her friends. When that same friend then turns up drugged and strangled in her room Belle is convinced the killer must be that same man and the fact she actually saw him scurrying guiltily from the scene of the crime appears to seal it. With persistence, considerable brass and a sprinkling of luck, she manages to trace the man to one of the better hotels in town. He turns out to be one Michael Drego (Victor Mature), a wealthy gent who just happens to be on the verge of wedding a well-bred beauty. To go into further details would I feel spoil it for anyone unfamiliar with the movie so I’ll confine myself to saying that Belle strikes an odd bargain with Drego, one which falls a step short of blackmail but which is every bit as risky.

Director Gregory Ratoff seems to have been one of those effortless all-rounders who could be found in classic era Hollywood, a director, actor, writer and producer. Aside from Moss Rose, I’ve only seen a couple of his movies (Intermezzo and The Corsican Brothers) and both of  those quite some time ago, although I have a copy of Black Magic with Orson Welles somewhere. Everything about his handling of the movie feels very smooth and confident, his camera seems to enjoy drinking in the rich details of the elaborate Fox sets and the melodrama at the heart of the story is fully embraced. That story is an adaptation of a Joseph Shearing novel and the script is at least partly due to Niven Busch, who was responsible for the last entry on this site Distant Drums. While that was a  somewhat flat affair, Moss Rose has a little more of the kind of off-kilter psychology one often comes across in scripts by Busch. While this doesn’t have the depth or power of some of his best writing, there is that trademark motif of a dark and disturbing past reaching out spectral fingers to toy with passions in the present.

Victor Mature took the lead in a role which was a fine fit for him, the soulful, tortured look he found so easily had served him well in many a film noir and he exploits it here to good advantage. We’re used to seeing him as a heroic figure, perhaps a pressured and hunted one but a sympathetic character nonetheless. His casting in Moss Rose as the chief suspect subverts those expectations and teases the viewer, and Ratoff’s careful shot selection, with the help of cameraman Joseph MacDonald, emphasizes this. Peggy Cummins, in her first Hollywood production, is another good pick as the vulgar ingenue straining to sample the dream she’s nurtured since her impoverished childhood. There is something touching about the frank idiocy of it and the peril she’s willing to expose herself to, although I guess it’s this aspect which those who pine for greater realism will find least appealing.

Among the many pleasures of watching movies from the major studios in this era is the depth and quality of the supporting casts. Vincent Price’s silken charm was a boon to every production he appeared in and at this stage in his career, before he’d earned the right to have the whole show to himself, my only regret is that he’s not on screen longer. The deceptively effete, flower loving, detective he plays in Moss Rose is a neat turn, and disguises the character’s cool, steely intelligence. Rhys Williams as his poker faced subordinate is the ideal foil and they make for an entertaining team every time they appear. If you had to pick one actress to project an otherworldly quality, then Ethel Barrymore would have to be among the strongest contenders. That fey persona, as of one only paying the occasional flying visit to the rest of us, is to the fore again here. Patricia Medina and Margo Woode add to the background glamor, and it has to be said that any house boasting George Zucco as the butler  should be automatically viewed with suspicion.

Moss Rose came out on DVD some years ago as part of the Fox MOD line and subsequently popped up in Europe. The copy I viewed is in reasonably good condition, perhaps the contrast is a little too harsh here and there but it looked solid enough overall. I enjoy these gaslight Gothic thrillers with a hint of noir in the background but I acknowledge they may not be everyone’s bag. As I said at the start, stories such as this have a tendency to rely heavily on contrived situations and that can present a problem for some viewers. If, on the other hand, you’re happy to take the movie on its own terms, there is a great deal of pleasure to be had viewing Moss Rose.

105 thoughts on “Moss Rose

  1. When it come to the criticism of contrivance, I think it is always down to whether you establish your own rules correctly and play by them. If you do, then plausibility is only down to the presentation to be an issue. But I do think you deserve to be hammered if you breach your rules only because it’s convenient – fair enough? But like Scatman Cruthers getting out of the locked room in THE SHINING …

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  2. ‘Hansom cabs clatter over slick cobbles……’. Enjoyed the style of your presentations as always. This reminds me of the Irish Christian Brothers(LaSalle) teaching English in the Far East in the 50s and 60s. Have not seen this. Best regards.

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    • Thanks! You have me wondering about influences now – I was taught by the Christian Brothers myself, in Ireland though in my case.

      I’m pretty sure the movie can be viewed online.

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  3. I saw this a while ago and found it to be a very moody and atmospheric Gothic/Noir piece. I mostly sought it out because of Peggy Cummins who’s very good here, but the entire cast is top.

    I agree that the viewer needs to suspend disbelief a lot. I thought there was definitively some character development missing for Cummins and Mature. Both were pretty unsavory characters, he very seedy, she without a doubt a blackmailer. And then love conquers all? OK, I’ll let that slide. 🙂

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  4. Colin
    As it so happens this one is about 5-6 from the top of the to watch pile. I think I’ll bump it up for a look see next week. Thanks for the sparkling write-up.
    Gord

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  5. Films for the weekend will be…
    1- ARMORED CAR ROBBERY – 1950 Time for a re-watch.
    2- THE GREEN EYED BLONDE – 1957 First watch of this girls reform school film.
    3 – BLOOD QUANTOM – 2019 Low rent Zombie film I heard good things about.
    4 – GREEN HELL – 1940 James Whale adventure. Saw it once when I was a teen then again about a decade ago.
    5- THE ANGEL WHO PAWNED HER HARP -1954 Diane Cilento, Felix Aylmer, Alfie Bass – Never even heard of this one before so it is a first time viewing.
    Gord

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  6. Films for the weekend …
    1- ARMORED CAR ROBBERY – 1950 This one just gets better every time I catch it. Quick, nasty and to the point. McGraw and Talman both shine in this .Richard Fleischer directed gem.

    2- THE GREEN EYED BLONDE – 1957 This low renter was a first watch for me. A bunch of reform school girls, Susan Oliver, Mel Casey and Bev Long headline. They get in various troubles as they do their time. One thing of interest here is the writer, Sally Stubblefield. Stubblefield was actually a front for Dalton Trumbo who wrote this one.
    .
    3 – BLOOD QUANTOM – 2019 Low rent Zombie film filmed in Canada. For a bottom budget film, I liked it. While of course not for everyone it filled the time ok for me.
    .
    4 – GREEN HELL – 1940 James Whale adventure. Saw it once when I was a teen then again about a decade ago. Doug Fairbanks jr, Vincent Price, Alan Hale, Joan Bennett and George Sanders headline. A group of explorers tramp through the jungle looking for a lost Inca city. Of course the usual problems rear up, swamps, less than friendly natives, running out of ammo etc. While not as good as I recall, it still makes a decent timewaster.

    5- THE ANGEL WHO PAWNED HER HARP -1954 Diane Cilento, Felix Aylmer, Alfie Bass – Never even heard of this one before so it is a first time viewing. An Angel, Cilento, gets sent back to earth to help out various people. An easy to watch film of a type they do not make any more, a smile maker.
    Gord

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    • I’ll pitch in Gord. I too, watched a few films this weekend. Colin’s review and comments of “Cloak and Dagger” co-starring Lilli Palmer set the wheels in motion. A film I hadn’t seen in decades was “Counterfeit Traitor” and that led to “Wicked City” which I had never seen. Here’s my thoughts…….

      COUNTERFEIT TRAITOR – 1962 Co-stars William Holden and Lilli Palmer. A top tier espionage thriller set during WW2 Sweden and Nazi Germany. Although, a 2-hour plus running time it was worth every minute.
      and then….
      WICKED CITY – 1949 Co-stars Maria Montez, Jean-Pierre Aumont and Lilli Palmer. Based on the novel Hans Le Marin (Hans the Sailor) by Edouard Peisson. The setting is 1920+/- in the port town of Marseilles. Much of the outdoor scenes are shot in the streets of Marseilles that give it elements of film noir. The production values have their weaknesses, but the substance of the screenplay and dialogue keep it moving at a fairly brisk pace. All three co-stars perform well……especially Montez. The beautiful alluring Montez get’s to show her acting ability and delivers a convincingly striking performance as the woman who knows what she wants and knows how to get it in the world’s oldest profession. As a whole, this film is about as real as it can get based upon my own past experiences and present day circumstances. Needless to say…..I liked it.
      Feel free to comment.

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      • The Counterfeit Traitor doesn’t get talked about a lot but it’s a sound and involving movie. Palmer is excellent and Holden rarely did much wrong, especially in that era.

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      • Scott
        Been many years since I last saw COUNTERFEIT TRAITOR, so I really need a re-watch.
        As for WICKED CITY, I caught it back in 2011 and quite liked it. So much in fact that I put up a review on IMDB. The film has a nice look, and as you say the screenplay and dialogue keep it moving. It should be seen by more folks imo. Montez is very good here and her “end” really hits the mark. Love kills.

        Gord

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        • So happy to read something nice about Maria Montez — she got off to an awkward start at Universal, reading her lines phonetically. Recently saw some harsh words about her and I responded accordingly, which does not mean I knew her, but I did know Jean Pierre, long after her death. A sweet person, and if you believe in God, which I do, the faith must be kept.

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          • Absolutely in agreement with you about Maria Montez. Why the bad wrap? She was a big name star during the war years making those adventure/escapism movies that moviegoers loved to flock to. The trio of Montez, Jon Hall and Sabu had a wonderful chemistry, thus were a fantastic box-office draw for Universal with the likes of ARABIAN NIGHTS (1942), WHITE SAVAGE (1943) and COBRA WOMAN (1944). Of the three, WHITE SAVAGE being my personal favorite.

            In my opinion both Montez and Hall were victims of unfortunate practices of Studio control as in the case with Montez; as for Hall, Samuel Goldwyn kept Hall sidelined for nearly 3-years after his big success in “The Hurricane”. Finally after getting a much deserved break only to become collateral damage when Samuel Goldwyn retracted a signed deal with Alexander Korda for Hall to play the lead in THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940) with co-stars Sabu, Conrad Veidt and June Duprez. It was thought to have been nixed because of the bitter row that split Korda and Goldwyn over the United Artist sale. Newcomer John Justin ended up with the part. It was reported, that Korda was never really happy with Justin.

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        • Gordon
          That’s a very detailed and well formulated review of “Wicked City”. Just wondering……which version of the movie was your review based on? The 76-minute cleaned-up American version or the 95-minute French version? My initial comments were derived from the American released version. Since then I’ve seen the longer French version which fills in a lot of holes, thus finding it much more to my liking. The French version has much more background into the Montez character of being a lady of the night and her motivations.

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          • Scott
            It was taken from the longer version in French with English subs. I had to chop out 3-4 paragraphs out of my IMDB review before posting it since they only allow a certain word count. Not the first time that happened with IMDB I can tell you. I have also seen a shorter US version dubbed in English. The long version I had gotten from a fellow in Germany I used to trade with. The fellow passed this last spring.
            Colin and I had a talk about the running time diff between some UK film versions and the US versions.
            With ICE COLD IN ALEX for example they chopped out over 40 minutes for the American version.
            Thanks for the comment on my IMDB review.
            Gord

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  7. I know I have seen “MOSS ROSE” but not for many years. This may have to be one to acquire sooner rather than later. Your review makes me want to hop into those Victorian scenes. The description of the rain-soaked cobbles etc…….

    Btw, you may (just about) remember I had an issue with an attempted purchase of “SPY HUNT” (aka Panther’s Moon) from a U.S. website. I had written it off actually but it turned up after more than 4 months (via Israel). Apparently I should have given them the benefit of the doubt!

    Liked by 1 person

    • International deliveries have been eccentric to say the least this year.

      I think you are fond of these gaslight thrillers, Jerry, so I imagine you would enjoy Moss Rose.

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  8. TCM is showing a collection of HAMMER horror films which I will be recording. These include, HORROR OF DRACULA 1958, THE MUMMY 1959, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN 1957 FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN 1965, FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED 1969, FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE 1973, THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA 1973, DRACULA A.D. 1972, Got a hankering for some Chris Lee and Peter Cushing.
    Last night we had our first snowfall of the year and it dipped down to minus 5 C.

    Gord

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    • I’m not really a horror fan but I have a great fondness for Hammer, as well as the output of classic Universal and Val Lewton/RKO.
      Hammer lost something as it moved into the 1970s, possibly in its attempts to modernize its movies. By the way, From Beyond the Grave is Amicus, Hammer’s rival studio. I liked their films well enough too but I think there was something not quite there with many of their films. There was good deal of crossover in terms of acting and directing personnel at both Hammer and Amicus but I think the former maintained the upper hand through some very influential behind the scenes people such as cinematographer Jack Asher, editor James Needs and, maybe most telling of all, production designer Bernard Robinson.

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      • It’s a testament of just how good those classic Universal sci-fi/horror movies were when they were holding their potency well into the 1970’s. Beyond the crop of classics by Universal, two other movies come to mind. First National Pictures/Warner Bros 1932 production of “Doctor X” with Preston Foster and a stunningly revealing Fay Wray; and Paramount Pictures 1932 production of “Island of Lost Souls” with Charles Laughton and Kathleen Burke as the Panther Woman. If I were to choose my all-time favorite, one I never tire of to this very day, it would be Universal’s 1935 BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN…….a much deserved classic movie in it’s own right. Note – What I find in astonishing disbelief is how they packed it all in, in a mere 1-hour and 15-minutes.

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          • Hi Colin
            As a point of information……my response to your above comment is under review by the Mods for some reason I cannot figure out. It’s been some 8-hours now. There was nothing derogatory or political in my comments.

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            • Don’t worry, Scott. It’s nothing to do with the content. The WordPress settings I use tend to mark anything with multiple links as in need of moderation. I have to do this manually myself and I’ve only now seen it as I’m just back in from work. I’ve approved it now and it ought to be visible.

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  9. Colin
    Ah, new info for me. I did not know about the Amicus connection. Because of the actors I just assumed it was a Hammer production.

    Gord

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    • Yes, it’s easy to get them mixed up given that crossover of acting personnel. And then when you think of Freddie Francis directing movies for both studios it can make it even more confusing.

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  10. I have just watched a surprisingly good B-movie from Paramount called “BLUEPRINT FOR ROBBERY” (1961), produced by Bryan Foy and directed by Jerry Hopper and with no ‘name’ stars. The best-known names to mossbacks like us readers of this great blog would be J. Pat O’Malley and Robert J. Wilke and that’s pretty well it. But good acting, great pacing and suspense.
    That film was shown on our Talking Pictures TV channel. Coming up in the next month from them is yet another rare Republic film – “HELL’S HALF ACRE” (1954) which stars Wendell Corey and Evelyn Keyes. But of special note for me are fave co-stars Marie Windsor and Nancy Gates. Ironically, I had just bought a copy on DVD (though not yet seen).
    Anyone else know these two films??

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      • I agree Corey wasn’t a bad actor, Margot, and in fact he could be excellent in a film like “I WALK ALONE” but other times seem wooden. Glad to have your recommendation for Hell’s Half Acre though – thanks.

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    • Jerry
      Regarding “Hell’s Half Acre”. If you enjoy being transplanted in 1953 Waikiki and Honolulu’s ‘Hell’s Half Acre’ you will enjoy this one. The locality adds much to the story in my opinion. Another thing that struck me was the uncanny similarity of physical appearance of Evelyn Keyes in comparison to Deborah Kerr in the just prior released 1953’s “From Here to Eternity”. Was this mere coincidence? I think not.

      Normally, I’m not overly appreciative of Wendell Corey’s onscreen persona. However, in this one he’s just fine in support of topped billed Keyes.

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    • I’ll have to break ranks with the others and say I found Hell’s Half Acre a bit disappointing. It looks attractive and I really enjoyed Elsa Lanchester’s role but the story didn’t engage me in the way I’d like as it progressed. It’s not a bad movie but I thought it nothing special and I was expecting something more gripping given the casting and the Steve Fisher script.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jerry

      “BLUEPRINT FOR ROBBERY” 1961 I have heard good reports about it from others besides you. I’ll need to hunt it up. Thanks for the heads up.
      Gord.

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  11. I’m going to double-bill “Moss Rose” with “Hangover Square” this weekend. Last weekend I watched Andre De Toth’s “Crime Wave” (1952) which is a superior “B” movie from Warner Brothers that is shot on location in the seedier areas of Los Angeles of the early 50s. Bert Glennon, who did a number of films for John Ford, is the man behind the camera. Sterling Hayden is a hard-nosed police detective on the trail of three prison escapees who are pulling a series of small heists for spending money. However, one of the robberies goes wrong and a cop is killed. The escaped cons turn to an ex-cellmate played by Gene Raymond for refuge. Raymond’s character has gone straight but is coerced into helping to pull off a major caper masterminded by Ted de Corsia. Gene Raymond (Oklahoma) is excellent as the beleaguered reformed con. Besides de Corsia the bad guys include, Charles Bronson, Nedrick Young, and a very creepy Timothy Carey. Nedrick Young, by the way, won an Oscar for writing the screenplay for “The Defiant Ones” (under the pseudonym ‘Nathan E. Douglas’.)

    Continuing my tour of early Charlton Heston films, I also watched George Marshall’s “The Savage” (1952). Since my expectations for “The Savage” were low (Heston himself didn’t think it was much of a movie) I found myself rather enjoying it. Heston’s character has a noble bearing that prefigures his princely portrayals as Moses and Judah Ben Hur. While Ted de Corsia was in fine form as a villain in “Crime Wave”, he was laughable as a Sioux named “Iron Chest” in “The Savage”.

    Lastly, I watched John Cromwell’s “Dead Reckoning” (1947) with Humphrey Bogart and Lizabeth Scott. I was somewhat disappointed with the performances of the two leads. However, Morris Carnovsky and Marvin Miller (“The Millionaire) are great as the heavies.

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    • Do pop back in a say how you got along with Moss Rose.

      Although I haven’t seen Crime Wave for a good few years I know I felt it was a a top class effort from De Toth and a superb example of early 50s urban noir.

      I can’t comment on The Savage as I’ve yet to view that one. It’s on my “to do” list but there’s plenty more that that are ahead of it.

      On Dead Reckoning, I watched and wrote a short piece on it here years ago – it’s older than the time stamp applied when I imported it from by original domain – and it has to be at least ten years since that last viewing. I remember being quite taken with it when I first saw it on TV, at some point in the 1980s I guess, but it felt a lot less compelling when returned to it. I thought Bogart was OK even if he was basically going through the motions but Lizabeth Scott was weak in my opinion.

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    • Frank

      I echo your comments about “The Savage”. Heston, once again, showed how he could command the screen and make his character believable. Also, I thought Milburn Stone’s role as Cpl. Martin was instrumental in lending credibility to the Heston character. Henceforth, may it be possible, because of the character chemistry between the two, that Stone once again was cast in support for the following year’s release of “Arrowhead” which had similar overtones to “The Savage”?

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      • Scott,

        As a result of working together on “The Savage” and “Arrowhead”, Heston and Stone became good friends. Heston recommended Stone for a part in “The Private War of Major Benson”. Heston brags that on the set of “Benson” he gave Stone some advice on that made him a very rich man. Stone was being offered a part in a TV western. He was afraid of being stuck in the same part for a long time. Heston told him to take a one year contract and then leave when the year was up if he wanted out. At the end of the first season of “Gunsmoke” Stone was able to renegotiate his contract with CBS. He continued to renegotiate his contract annually for 22 years making him a “substantial fortune”. Heston tells this story in his book, “In the Arena”, page 137.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Frank, thanks for that. One of the things I really like to delve into are the interpersonal relationships of those individuals of the classic Hollywood era…….most especially when it comes to casting.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. Films for the weekend are…
    1- TAMANGO – 1958 Curd Jergens, Dorothy Dandridge.
    2- THE BLUE EAGLE – 1926 George O’Brien, William Russell, Janet Gaynor. Directed by John Ford
    3- DOWN TEXAS WAY – 1942 Buck Jones, Tim McCoy
    4- SHOOT TO KILL -1947 Russell Wade
    5- THE DELAVINE AFFAIR – 1955 Peter Reynolds, Honor Blackman, Gordon Jackson

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      • Described perfectly, Colin! “THE DELAVINE AFFAIR” is one of those British Bs that have made their way to Talking Pictures TV and is indeed quite diverting.

        Interesting choices, Gord, for your weekend viewing. The Rough Riders film – Jones & McCoy together completely works for me. “SHOOT TO KILL” (Talking Pictures again!) is a quite enjoyable B from Lippert with Russell Wade and the always-enjoyable-to-see Luana Walters who brightened up several films of Wild Bill Elliott’s nice series for Columbia

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  13. Colin, jerry
    I am a fan of those UK and US b-films. Never actually seen a Roughriders film so it will be a new experience for me. The one I really want to see is the John Ford silent with George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor. This was made the year before both scored big with F.W.Murnau’s famous SUNRISE. SHOOT TO KILL is a step up from the crappy print I saw years ago. TAMANGO is a new film for me.
    Gord

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  14. Just finished watching a Showtime TV mini-series, “THE COMEY RULE” (2020). It is a U.S.-made 4 part series that I thought was a well-made and acted work. Fine example of what TV drama is capable of these days. Well worth catching up with.

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  15. I watched “Moss Rose” last night and found it to be very entertaining and well crafted. I thought that Peggy Cummins was remarkable as Belle / Rose who moves from being impish to slightly malevolent to finally blooming as the innocent Rose who, in a roundabout way, achieves the desire of her heart. Mature’s performance was highly effective in its restraint as he portrays a deeply wounded and sorrowful man. Rather than being a “lady killer”, he is effectively a man struggling to find his manhood. Vincent Price’s flower-loving inspector is deceptively single-minded in pursuing the truth and, ironically, he is more self-confident than Mature’s apparent he-man. Ethel Barrymore’s performance as a Harpy in disguise helps to maintain a palpable tension as the story moves toward its denouement. And I think this tension is a highlight of the film. Kudos to Joe McDonald’s cinematography and to the set designers. Regrettably, “Moss Rose” flopped at the box-office. I think Zanuck might have helped Peggy Cummins to become a star if the film didn’t suffer a financial loss.

    Oh, by the way, our friend Bosley Crowther actually liked “Moss Rose” — “For ‘Moss Rose’ … is a suave and absorbing mystery thriller, neatly plotted and deliciously played.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Re Peggy Cummins and Zanuck; he did help her to become a star in film after film. He can do no more than that; nor could any other production chief. Gun Crazy, which was not a Fox production, made stars out of no one. An esoteric success, which means that it was essentially a modest freak.

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      • Barry,

        This is purely my opinion and arguing about Cummins / Zanuck is not the hill I’m going to die on. Peggy Cummins made 4 films for Fox: “The Late George Apley”, “Moss Rose”, “Escape”, and “The Green Grass of Wyoming”. I don’t consider any of these to have been the meatiest offerings Fox had in its portfolio at that time, although I do think “Moss Rose” is a fine film and should have been better received. I also admit that Cummins woked in two films directed by Joe Mankiewicz. I think Peggy Cummins was a very gifted actress. Maybe she just didn’t have star power but I don’t know that Zanuck expended maximum effort to help her to “become a star in film after film”. Perhaps he was letting her play out her contract. I think Zanuck did more for the talentless and troubled Bela Darvi, casting her in the big-budget “The Egyptian” and having her work with Hathaway, Curtiz, and Fuller.

        Characterizing “Gun Crazy” as a “modest freak” is selling the movie short. The current critical consensus for the “Gun Crazy” is almost unanimously glowing. The fact that so many critics have reviewed the film in recent years is evidence that it has stood the test of time. Moreover, “Gun Crazy” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

        Liked by 1 person

        • Frank — re GunCrazy: Critics writing in modest publications or online seventy years after the fact are not a determining factor. As for Bella Darvi, her career amounted to less than Peggy’s

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          • Barry,

            I don’t know that I’d call the New York Review of Book, the New Yorker, the Guardian, or the UK Times “modest publications.” Moreover, your opinion on “Gun Crazy” is also not “a determining factor’ in the evaluation of the film. I like “Gun Crazy” and think it is a fine film.

            You can’t compare Bella Darvi with Peggy Cummins. Peggy Cummins could act, Darvi couldn’t. When she was cast as “Nefer” in the Egyptian, Jean Simmons said that Darvi was “an actress who ‘nefer’ was.” Brando quit the movie after his first read-through with Darvi. “I was guilty of egomania,” Zanuck later said about his trying to build Darvi, who was his mistress, into a star. His involvement with Darvi cost him his marriage. I hardly think he made the same effort to advance Cummins’ career. Cummins continued to work until she retired in the early 60s. She appeared in the excellent “Hell Drivers” (1957) which I think is a terrific film. Although I’ve never seen it (and probably never will) she also appeared in Tourneur’s acclaimed “Curse of the Demon” (1957).

            Liked by 1 person

    • It’s not all often I’ve found my own views and those of Crowther coinciding so it’s nice to see him being complimentary about the movie.

      I’m also pleased to learn you seem to have had a good time with it. When mood, and central performances blend well together there’s a lot to admire. And the production design at Fox is a real joy.

      Just to trail coming attractions, expect to see something on another, later, Zanuck production before long. Salud! Or maybe that should be Bung-ho, old boy!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Wholly unrelated note to anything discussed here, does anyone have an opinion on The 7th Dawn? I’ve been toying with the idea of picking up a copy recently and wondered how people felt about it.

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  17. RHONDA FLEMING R.I.P.
    Miss Fleming passed away at home on Oct. 14th at the age of 97.

    Film noir roles included, WHEN STRANGERS MARRY (1944) SPELLBOUND (1945), THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1946), OUT OF THE PAST (1947), CRY DANGER (1951), THE KILLER IS LOOSE (1956),WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS (1956), INFERNO (1953) SLIGHTLY SCARLET (1956). Her westerns included, ABILENE TOWN 1946, THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK 1950, THE REDHEAD AND THE COWBOY 1951, THE LAST OUTPOST 1951 and PONY EXPRESS.

    Rest in Peace

    Gord

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  18. “I’m increasingly at a loss to understand why a lack of realism in any form of artistic expression has to be regarded as “a bad thing” and avoided at all costs.” AMEN! You don’t know how many arguments I’ve had about the very thing you describe. Younger people, in particular, seem to be obsessed with idea of realism = greatness. I don’t get it. Anyhow, nice review of a lovely period-noir.

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  19. First things first,recently,at least in the last three weeks
    I have re-watched OUT OF THE PAST,PONY EXPRESS and
    WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS Rhonda Fleming certainly lives on as
    far as my movie collection goes,I was saddened today to hear of her
    passing,always a firm favorite as far as I’m concerned.
    GUN CRAZY is one of the best directed films ever made,the fact
    that it was possibly ignored upon release and re-discovered later is
    neither here or there..time changes everything.
    I’m still waiting for someone to “rediscover” PERSONS IN HIDING (1939)
    the template for GUN CRAZY and BONNIE & CLYDE.
    ESACPE (1948) is both interesting and worthwhile it’s short running
    time (79 mins) and modest production values almost make it look
    like a B Movie with an A List lead (Rex Harrison) and director
    (Joseph L Mankiewicz) Peggy is very good in this one.
    It was a shame that on her return to England Peggy mainly
    concentrated on generally low brow comedies but there was
    the occasional gem among the dross the aforementioned
    HELL DRIVERS and NIGHT OF THE DEMON.
    (what’s putting you off tracking down the latter Frank??)
    Peggy is also excellent in STREET CORNER (1953)
    aka Both Sides Of The Law a snappy Brit Noir/Crime Thriller
    where 28 year old Peggy is most convincing as an 18 year old
    unmarried Mum who gets involved with gangsters.
    I was amused by Margot’s comments much earlier regarding
    Wendell Corey who I also never regarded as a leading man ‘though
    he was a pretty decent Jesse James in THE GREAT MISSOURI RAID
    (a role he later spoofed in ALIAS JESSE JAMES with our Rhonda)
    and outstanding in Boetticher’s THE KILLER IS LOOSE (also
    with Rhonda..that lady made some great movies)
    Corey was a decent actor who like many had a career derailed by
    alcoholism he ended up in junk like ASTRO ZOMBIES.

    Liked by 1 person

    • John K.

      Give me your take on “Curse of the Demon”. Of course I’ve watched “The Exorcist” and Maurice Pialat’s “Under the Sun of Satan” (1987) which was a controversial winner of the Palme d’Or prize at Cannes. When the audience whistled when Pialat received the award, he raised his fist replying “I don’t like you either”. I read the novel by the great French novelist Georges Bernanos. But “Curse of the Demon” seems to explore the occult in a way I’m not comfortable with. But again, I’d like to hear your take on it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know you addressed this to John but I hope you and he don’t mind if I add my own two cents’ worth.
        If one were to sum up Tourneur’s style as concisely as possible, subtlety is arguably the most apposite term to use. Now I don’t know how you feel about the movies he made with Val Lewton at RKO – Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie and The Leopard Man – but I admire these very much. The first two are sublime pieces of work and if the third isn’t quite there it’s still a remarkable film.
        It’s been said that Night of the Demon shares some of the haunting dread that Tourneur and Lewton perfected in their collaborations. I share this view and, barring the appearance of the titular demon that he opposed, that trademark subtlety of the director is one of its greatest strengths.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thanks for sharing. I love the Tourneur and Val Lewton partnership and I hold Tourneur in high esteem as a director. As I told John K — “I love Tourneur and have seen “Cat People”, “I Walked with a Zombie”, “Canyon Passage”, “Out of the Past”, “Berlin Express”, “Stars in My Crown”, “Wichita”, and “Nightfall”. I will check out “Curse of the Demon”. Somehow, I was under the illusion that it was almost a semi-documentary on the occult.”

          Liked by 1 person

  20. Frank,
    Firstly CURSE OF THE DEMON is the shorter American
    released version of the original NIGHT OF THE DEMON which
    runs 95 minutes I believe.
    The film was based on “Casting Of The Runes” by M R James.
    As a film the style is closer to Val Lewton than THE EXORCIST,
    think light and shadows as opposed to graphic horror.
    As Blake Lucas mentioned on an earlier discussion Tourneur wanted
    “The Demon” to be understated a reflection of what was in Dana Andrews’
    mind rather than the graphic special effects sections of the film.
    Producer Hal Chester demanded extra scenes were shot introducing
    “The Demon” at the start of the film to give the audience an extra
    thrill factor.
    Despite the special effects scenes (very good for the era I might add)
    the main thrust of the film is the battle of wits between somewhat
    staid Dana Andrews and the florid occultist Niall MacGinnis ( a wonderful
    darkly comic performance)
    Apart from the special effects scenes at the beginning and end the rest
    of the film is beautifully done the sense of menace builds slowly but
    the audience is totally engrossed throughout.
    There are wonderful touches of humor to offset the many thrills and
    chills,in many ways it’s more akin to a ghost story rather than a witchcraft
    thriller.
    In closing I truly envy anyone seeing this film for the first time,
    it’s top tier Tourneur.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, John. I love Tourneur and have seen “Cat People”, “I Walked with a Zombie”, “Canyon Passage”, “Out of the Past”, “Berlin Express”, “Stars in My Crown”, “Wichita”, and “Nightfall”. I will check out “Curse of the Demon”. Somehow, I was under the illusion that it was almost a semi-documentary on the occult.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ha! Perhaps Frank you were expecting something like
        HAXAN (1922) a bombardment of weirdness or
        LEGEND OF THE WITCHES (1970) a cheapo exploitation flick.
        Do try to see the full length version NIGHT OF THE DEMON
        as far as I recall one of the key scenes axed from the shorter
        version is an engrossing seance interlude.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. Riding High In Jerry Territory 🙂

    I know this is our pal Jerry’s domain but I did watch
    on Talking Pictures TV the 1947 Trucolor Roy Rogers,
    William Witney Western SPRINGTIME IN THE SIERRAS.
    I simply cannot remember the last time a Republic Trucolor
    B Western was shown on UK TV.
    Surprising environmental issues are a subtext in this outing
    a Femme Fatale and her motley crew are slaughtering game
    out of season to sell on to fancy restaurants.
    There’s an abundance of songs and cute critters in this one
    but what really appealed to me was Stephanie Bachelor as
    the bad gal of the piece.
    Stephanie to me seemed like the Alexis Smith of B Movies
    I may be wrong but I think SPRINGTIME IN THE SIERRAS
    was her only Western she mainly appeared in B Thrillers.
    I’ve seen her in several other films and always found her
    impressive-she never had much of a movie career and had a
    thirty year marriage to a Las Vagas businessman who according
    ti imdb may have had mob connections.,
    No point to all this really but just curious if other readers,
    Gordon perhaps, have further info on Stephanie.

    Like

    • I’m not Gordon and I don’t have any further info on Bachelor, but I’ve seen her in Port of 40 Thieves which is a little gem. Stephanie is one bad dame in this movie. It’s on ok.ru and worth watching alone for her last words.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Firstly, thanks for the tip, Margot – “PORT OF 40 THIEVES” is on my radar as one to watch for.

        John, I can’t recall how long ago it was but I believe the BBC showed a short run of Roy Rogers’ Trucolor epics, “BELLS OF CORONADO” & “TWlLIGHT IN THE SIERRAS” come to mind.
        Actually, conservation of nature was a recurring theme over the years at Republic and this was from Autry and Rogers to the Three Mesquiteers.
        Whatever, it is still great to see a Rogers western (and looking that good) on TV, particularly as “SPRINGTIME IN THE SIERRAS” was believed to only exist in a truncated monochrome print for many years.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. Not much more I could add to Miss Bachelor’s life history than has already been said here. I do agree with all about her work, I love it. PORT OF 40 THIEVES, GANGS OF THE WATERFRONT and PASSKEY TO DANGER all highlight Bachelor’s work. I am a fan.
    Gord

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mighty fine to see at least some love for Stephanie here,
      I’ve only seen PORT OF 40 THIEVES through a haze
      of medieval murk so the online version seems worth
      checking out.
      PASSKEY TO DANGER is good as is Selander’s
      BLACKMAIL which has Stephanie at her slinky best but
      sadly she exits the show far too soon.

      Like

  23. Films for the weekend were.
    1- TAMANGO – 1958 Curd Jurgens, Dorothy Dandridge.- This one is set in the 1840’s on board a ship engaged in the slave trade. Jurgens is the ship’s Captain and Dandridge his mistress. The story revolves around a revolt among the slaves on board. Okay, but nothing great. First time watch.

    2- THE BLUE EAGLE – 1926 George O’Brien, William Russell, Janet Gaynor. Directed by John Ford. O’Brien and Russell are sailors in the US Navy in WW one, They are also both in love with the same girl ashore, Gaynor. They are also the leaders of rival street gangs. Once the two men are out of the Navy they go at each other again. But there is a new player in the area. A group of drug dealers have moved in. The two men, O’Brien and Russell join forces to take on the new bunch. Plenty of action is needed to settle the issue. Not what I was expecting but at just over an hour John Ford keeps it moving right along. First time watch.

    3- DOWN TEXAS WAY – 1942 Buck Jones, Tim McCoy and Raymond Hatton headline this low rent duster. This is the sixth film of Monogram’s eight-film series, “The Rough Riders”, Jones, McCoy and Hatton get mixed up with the usual collection of nasty types and crooks. Fights, shoot outs, horse chases all wrapped up in 57 minutes. First time watch.

    4- SHOOT TO KILL -1947 A quick paced bottom feeder crime-noir with gangsters, a crooked D. A., add in a woman out to prove the D.A. is a crook and a newspaper man looking for a big story. There is enough of a twisted story here for several of these bottom b films.. While not a top flight noir it does fill the 64 minute runtime well enough. Second time watch

    5- THE DELAVINE AFFAIR – 1955 Peter Reynolds, Honor Blackman, Gordon Jackson headline this modest budget programmer. It involves a newspaper type Reynolds, his wife, Blackman, and several others like the Police etc. Not bad at all if you ask me. At 64 minutes it keeps the watcher entertained. Worth a look if you are a fan of these quickies. First time watch

    Gord

    Like

  24. Back in MAY 10, 2017 I spoke of this film.
    If it has not already been mentioned, one more title for the thread would be Cy Endfield’s THE SECRET 1955 with Sam Wanamaker and Andre Morell. A good looking and quite watchable low renter shot in color.
    I just found it on YOU-TUBE at a site called, eh44returns
    It says it will only be up for a couple of weeks. I think ant Endfield fans better have a quick look before it disappears. This print is in b/w.

    Gord

    Like

  25. Not much on the idiot box tonight so I thought i would throw a disc on the dvd and see what popped up. It was a bit of tv called, “The Clay Pigeon”.

    Ken Christy, Robert Sterling, Tom Tully and Wayne Morris star in this 1956 episode of FORD TELEVISION THEATRE. Robert Sterling is an ex-con who is grabbed up by the Police when cop Christy is murdered. Christy was the cop who had sent Sterling to prison years before. So of course the Police believe it is payback by Sterling. Sterling swears he is being set up. Is he? Nicely done half hour bit of noir from director, James “NIGHT PASSAGE” Neilson. Excellent time waster.

    Gord

    Like

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