Wednesday, September 12, 2007

This Movie is Rated PD

I've posted about before -- a treasure trove of public domain material. It's a great source of information and entertainment. And their library of older movies and serials make for great viewing on an iPod (or other digital media player).

This past week I enjoyed a breezy little mystery from 1936 entitled "I'll Name the Murderer." Produced by Puritan Pictures (a poverty row studio), it's a film that for me had a lot of unfulfilled promises. The basic characters are so engaging, it's a shame that Puritan didn't make a series of films with them (as MGM would do with The Thin Man).

Ralph Forbes plays urbane man-about-town Tommy Tilton, gossip columnist for a New York newspaper. His sidekick, girl photographer Smitty (Marion Shilling) is ever ready to lend a hand, and deliver a wisecrack. Tilton's foil is Police Captain "Pop" Flynn (John Cowell), a no-nonsense detective who, of course, goes for the obvious suspect and misses the important clues that Tilton puts together to solve the case.

While not quite on the level of William Powell and Myrna Loy, the byplay between Tilton and Smitty is engaging and witty. Here's how the film introduces Tilton to the audience (note that the budget didn't allow for the producers to actually show the car wreck).

Here's the full cast of characters gathered in Flynn's office -- one of whom murdered the blackmailing nightclub singer Nadia Renee. Ted Benson, Tilton's friend whose gone missing is "Pop" Flynn's candidate, but perhaps it was someone else. Maybe Luigi, the nightclub owner? Valerie Delroy, the dancer? Her partner, Walton?

Note how Tilton takes Flynn off-hand remark and turns it into a plan of action. Although Tilton detects more by intuition than observation and deduction, it gets the job done.

Here's another scene with Tilton and Flynn. Like his relationship with Smitty, it seems as if these two are old friends with some history between them.

I think additional movies about Tilton and Smitty solving murders on Broadway, at society gatherings, and so on with the reluctant help of "Pop" Flynn would have been great. But for some reason, "I'll Name the Murderer" remains the only appearance of these three characters. And that's too bad.

Is "I'll Name..." the greatest film mystery of the 1930's? No. Not by half. But it is a solid 70 minutes of entertainment.

So if you're looking for something to fill your iPod (or other digital media player) with, remember Sure, their public domain selections are old. But darn it, they're just a lot of fun -- and free. Look how much enjoyment I got out of this one!

- Ralph

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