Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Evelyn Investigates

Dangerous Blondes (1943) is a wartime film that pretty much ignores the war.  Set in New York City, it stars Evelyn Keyes as Jane Craig and Allyn Joslyn as her husband, Barry, a mystery novel author.  Barry is a bit of a show-off, and has recently bested the police team on a radio quiz show, making him not the most popular of men.  So, when Jane's friend, Julie Taylor (Anita Louise) inadvertently gets Jane involved in a murder investigation, the interference of Barry does not win him any more friends with the local constabulary. 

The script has a lot of plot; with an 81 minute running time, the film goes by very fast.  We found ourselves rerunning certain segments (the joys of DVR) to clarify plot points.  Regardless, it's a fun film and not in the least boring.  It's based on a story by Kelley Roos called If the Shroud Fits.  Roos also wrote A Night to Remember (1942); we previously discussed the film version of that book.  In Dangerous Blondes, Keyes and Joslyn are playing the same characters that Young and Aherne portrayed in  A Night to Remember; again, the character's names from the book (Jeff and Haila Troy) have been changed.   The following year, Keyes and Allyn would again play married amateur detectives in Strange Affair, though NOT the Troys (or the Craigs).

What makes the movie especially enjoyable is the relationship of Jane and Barry.  Surely, this was an attempt to make another Thin Man type of film, and while Evelyn Keyes and Allyn Joslyn are no Myrna Loy and William Powell, they are very good (they are FAR more interesting characters than those in A Night to Remember).  Jane Craig is a smart woman who loves her husband, and Barry is obviously deeply in love with her.  Evelyn Keyes makes Jane attractive and not silly; her involvement in the murder investigation is mere coincidence.  She is not the ambulance-chasing wife who MUST get in on her husband's action.  And Allyn Joslyn is able to keep Barry personable even when he is being a bit of a twit.  He too is accidentally involved, though Barry relishes the attention far more than Jane.

We have the usual married-couple banter, but it is affectionate and never over-the-top.  We discover that Jane isn't really the best of cooks (though she is dealing with the difficulties in getting food - our only reference to World War II is Jane's brief comment on the amount of food one can buy with one's points).  And we see Barry helping out around the house, which we all found to be a breath of fresh air.  Imagine, a man doing housework and not being laughed at! 
We found the costuming to be attractive;  we were especially impressed, though, with the set design.  Jane and Barry's apartment is so totally appropriate for their finances.  It is the kind of apartment one would expect young marrieds to inhabit in 1943.  It's not fancy, but it is clean and nicely furnished.  It compliments the marriage that we are being shown. 

The always funny William Demarest plays a cop - Detective Gatling.  It's established from almost the first scene that he is not very smart (he doesn't know who invented the first machine gun).  Demarest, however, serves as a good antagonist for Allyn Joslyn. He doesn't get a lot to do, but it is always a pleasure to see him.

Before we go, a quick nod to Minerva Urecal, who plays Jane and Barry's landlady in several scenes.  You probably don't know the name, but you will know the face when you see her.  With 276 film credits in film and TV (according to IMDB), she was always tiny parts, and often uncredited. She provides the first hint of trouble, and then she is pretty much gone.  Ms. Urecal worked until her death of a heart attack at the age of 71 in 1966.

Next week, we'll return with another World War II vintage film.