CRIME WITHOUT PASSION. Paramount Pictures, 1934. Claude Rains, Margo, Whitney Bourne, Stanley Ridges, Leslie Adams, Charles Kennedy, Paula Trueman. Written & directed by Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur

    On a brighter note, Crime Without Passion is a Clever, Woolrichish little thing written and directed by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, no less, about a high-powered shyster (played a bit broadly by Claude Raines in his third screen appearance) tired of his inconvenient mistress.

   When said mistress gets thoughtlessly shot, arguing over possession of a gun in her apartment, Raines knows that circumstantial evidence around her death will convict him of murder (and we know he deserves to step off for it) but being a legal mastermind, he also knows how to go about removing said circs while planting a trail of evidence that will absolve him, which he spends the rest of the film doing.


   Okay, with a premise like this, you pretty much know Raines is going to trip himself up and get hung, so it’s no surprise that’s just what happens here.

   But just how Hecht and MacArthur score is the trick of this thing, and I have to say when they put it across the plate, I wasn’t just looking the other way, I was up in the stands buying peanuts, that’s how well they misled me. It’s one of those films that I can tell you it has a surprise ending and it’ll still surprise you.

   I should also add that Crime starts with one of the most remarkable montage sequences ever committed to film: a blur of images that evokes the most febrile and lurid of the old Horror Pulp Covers and a few minutes of Cinema that will stay in my memory long after whole other films have vanished: