Sat 26 Feb 2011
UNFORGOTTEN CRIME. Republic Pictures, 1942. Originally released as Affairs of Jimmy Valentine. Dennis O’Keefe, Ruth Terry, Gloria Dickson , Roman Bohnen, George E. Stone, Spencer Charters, Roscoe Ates. Based on the play Alias Jimmy Valentine by Paul Armstrong (1910). The play itself was based on O. Henry’s short story “A Retrieved Reformation,” Cosmopolitan, April 1903. Director: Bernard Vorhaus.
Unforgotten Crime [the title under which it was shown on TV] is a rare gem, a film that takes all the standard elements of the “B” feature and works them into a surprisingly thoughtful new form.
Dennis O’Keefe is the brassy radio reporter whose promotional scheme involves ferreting out the notorious Jimmy Valentine, a once-notorious cracksman now living under an assumed name in a small town (Roman Bohnen). When he offers a reward to the first one who finds Valentine, the town goes wild with outsiders in search of fortune vs. steady townsfolk suddenly suspicious of each other and consumed by their own greed.
Through all of this, the old dependable B-movie types walk through their fusty paces with a familiarity that borders on contempt: Pretty Ingenue, Dumb Cop, Bumbling Sidekick, Wisecracking Female Reporter, Cute Kid, etc. etc, played by old dependable character actors like Ruth Terry, Roscoe Ates, George E. Stone and Gloria Dickson.
Then something weird happens: They start acting like Real People; it’s like The Purple Rose of Cairo, where the characters abandon the story and start pursuing their own interests, and it makes for a fascinating bit of Cinemah.
I should mention that Unforgotten Crime, the copy I have, suffers from more than a few continuity gaps and sudden jumps, the result of being cruelly cut from its initial running time (seventy-four minutes, rather lengthy for a “B,” to a convenient-for-TV 54 minutes) and never restored.
Editorial Comment: There are two copies of this film offered for sale on Amazon, both under this title. One lists the running time as 52 minutes, the other doesn’t say, but since it’s the TV title, I suspect that it’s also the abbreviated version. (I recently purchased a copy offered by a collector-to-collector seller under the Jimmy Valentine title, but I have yet to watch it. Hopefully it is the longer version.)