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Monday, March 30, 2015

THE MIND READER (1933)

‘Con Man falls for Mark’ in this Warner Bros. programmer that should have been better. It starts well enough with well-cast Warren William working dead-end scams as a carny snake-oil salesman with partners Allen Jenkins & Clarence Muse. Fortunes improve when they step up from hair-tonic & ‘painless’ dentistry to fortune-telling with William as Chandra the Mind-Reading Psychic. Fun stuff; moxie & shenanigans against small town suckers. But the story hits a snag when William falls for trusting Constance Cummings and brings her along as a new assistant without thinking he’ll have to clue her in. How’s that suppose to work? She catches on; He promises to go straight; Returns to the bad old ways; A disgruntled client gets shot (don’t ask); She takes the rap! Is this making sense? Stuck in the midst of this folderol, a striking bit of hysteria from Mayo Methot (Mrs. Humphrey Bogart, at the time) as a woman who took Chandra’s advice and got burned. Nice going, Mayo! But in spite of the cast & production team pitching in, the story refuses to hold water.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Phony fortune-telling & film just seem to go together. Try Tyrone Power, at his best, in NIGHTMARE ALLEY/’47, a film just begging to be remade. OR: For a better Warren William, take one step back for the stupendously funny/naughty EMPLOYEES’ ENTRANCE/’33 with Loretta Young and the all-time great gag line involving (wait for it) chess.

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