Fri 25 Mar 2011
THE CRIME NOBODY SAW. Paramount Pictures, 1937. Lew Ayres, Ruth Coleman, Eugene Pallette, Benny Baker, Vivienne Osborne, Colin Tapley, Howard C. Hickman, Robert Emmett O’Connor, Jed Prouty, Hattie McDaniel. Based on the play Danger, Men Working, by Manfred Lee & Frederic Dannay. Director: Charles Barton.
As I understand it, the play (mentioned above) that the Ellery Queen cousins wrote never made it anywhere near Broadway, and if the movie that it was made of it instead resembles it in any way, it’s no surprise.
Not that the movie is bad, if you’re in the right frame of mind, and forgiving. It just isn’t very good. It opens with three frustrated playwrights (Ayers, Pallette and Baker) struggling with their latest opus, a mystery play that’s supposed to start next week, and they, in spite of all their efforts, can’t get any farther than Page One.
Enter their drunken neighbor from the apartment across the hall. When he collapses on the floor and passes out, they go through his pockets. A little black book is filled with names and suspicious numbers. He’s not a lecherous lothario, they quickly decide, he’s a blackmailer!
Call the police? No, not they. Determined to take the situation and turn into the play they have not been able to right, they… Did you guess? They disguise themselves as policemen and call three of the names in the black book, important individuals all, and invite them over to hear the final accusation from the man who owns the book.
Well, OK, this is really a lot of fun – if you’re in the right frame of mind – but things get out of hand when (you guessed it) the lights go out (and guess again) the unconscious man is mysteriously murdered.
There are a few twists that follow, and now that I think about it, perhaps more than a few, but (still thinking about it) none that make any sense. I might have to watch the movie again, if you wanted me to be more definitive than that, and I probably will, someday, and even perhaps someday soon, but not immediately. Forgive me.
One last thing. Hattie McDaniel, a black actress who often played the same variety of lady’s maid as she does in this movie, is also a key witness. Without her, the three wanna-be playwrights wouldn’t have had a clue.