William Powell of course had a day on TCM’s Summer Under the Stars. Is anyone more witty and urbane? We caught a some movies we hadn’t seen, including the two in this post. Stay tuned for the third, as it was mentioned in the Movie Palace Mysteries (we promised we’d review a few of those that hadn’t merited a review in moviesmyfriendsshouldsee.com. )
First up from Jerry – “The Senator Was Indiscreet”. The only film directed by George S. Kaufman (known best for his works on Broadway), this 1947 movie stars Powell and Ella Raines. It had never been shown previously on TCM, so availability was a treat. (Note: If you missed it on TCM, this film is available only in VHS format through Amazon). We are big fans of Powell (and his co-star Myra Loy in The Thin Man series) and, because we had not heard of this film decided to view it. We were not disappointed! This is a political satire about a Col. Sanders-ish looking US Senator Melvin G. Ashton (Powell) who wants to run for President. His girlfriend, Poppy McNaughton (played by Ella Raines), a local newspaper reporter is disappointed with stunts he agrees to engage in to get attention for his candidacy. The “foil” in the firm is political boss Fred Houlihan (played by Ray Collins, of Lt. Tragg fame on the original Perry Mason TV series) who doesn’t want Ashton to run because he is viewed as a dim-witted, bumbling fellow. However, Ashton is not as dumb as he looks! He tells Houlihan about a diary he has kept over 30 years that documents all the political misdeeds of his colleagues thereby blackmailing Houlihan (and his cronies) to back a tour cross country promoting his candidacy. Along the way, you guessed it, the diary goes missing and the film’s focus turns to who stole it, will its contents be published in the newspaper and will all those involved be politically ruined? The hunt to find the diary involves several amusing scenes and, yes, it ultimately is found by Poppy, lost again, and published! Its publication results in “all” fleeing to a South Sea Island (where Aston has become the “chief”) and there is a very surprising (comedic) cameo star appearance in the final ten seconds of the film. The cast turns in first rate performances and the story is entertaining – it was well worth the time to watch. We give it a Worth the Search rating!
Next up is “The Kennel Club Murders” (Mary’s contribution). One of my favorite podcast genres is Old Time Radio Detectives, and Philo Vance is one of the most enjoyable entries of the 1940s. He was introduced in a series of novels by S. S. Van Dine in the 1920s and carried on through several movies in the 30s and 40s. Saw that William Powell Day on TCM Summer Under the Stars included this 1933 movie which was one of the several that starred Powell as Philo (and directed by Michael Curtiz!), so couldn’t resist. While not for everyone, William Powell played Philo with just the right air of foppish aristocratic intellectualism. The cast also includes Mary Astor (a staple of 1930s detective films) and several actors familiar to old time movie buffs (Eugene Pallette’s voice is at least as familiar as his face). A detective who is a dandy rather than hard boiled, Philo is also a dog breeder, which provided the milieu for the murders. The story is a traditional “whodunit” with the murder of Archer Coe, a fellow dog breeder and competitor. There is no shortage of suspects, as Coe has more enemies than friends, and is the wealthy uncle of Hilda Lake (Mary Astor) over whom he exerts total financial control. Of course, because this is a 30s movie about wealthy people, there has to be an aristocratic boyfriend, a suspicious butler, a secretive cook and an obsequious male secretary. Another murder, a stabbing, and finally the neighbor’s dog helps Philo confirm the identity of the murderer. The movie is great fun for those who enjoy films that are clearly period pieces but include familiar characters and just enough questions that the murderer is not immediately obvious. As fans of old movies, we give this Good for An Afternoon because it’s Top in Genre.