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Monday, September 14, 2015

I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941)

Like a Blue Plate special with no entree under the gravy, this change-of-pace assignment for Lite-helmer H. Bruce Humberstone & musical comedy star Betty Grable is a studio-bound film noir murder mystery smothered in low-key light atmosphere. The not-quite-there plot has Grable’s waitress sister, Carole Landis, espied by a trio of NYC promoters: Victor Mature, Allyn Joslyn & Alan Mowbray; respectively hack PR guy, hack reporter & hack stage has-been. They glam her up to put her over in high society, but quickly lose her to Hollywood’s siren call. Or would if Landis hadn’t gotten herself killed first. Whodunnit? One of the trio?; stammering apartment desk clerk Elisha Cook Jr.?; large loose cannon detective Laird Cregar?; a jealous Grable? (Say it ain't so!) A perfectly doable set-up, but Post-Production conniption fits (note our Original Title poster) resulted in a heavily patched restructuring, smoothed over with two painfully overworked music cues: Alfred Newman’s MANHATTAN STREET SCENE theme (you’ll know it when you hear it) and OVER THE RAINBOW (how’d Fox ever get the rights from M-G-M?). It’s really a rather odd little film with Mature looking as young as he ever did (not much); the ill-fated Landis looking very yummy; and Grable as mysteriously underwhelming as ever.

DOUBLE-BILL: The underrated Mature is something of a forgotten noir icon. Try Henry Hathaway’s KISS ME DEADLY/’47 with Richard Widmark’s giggling psychotic debut.

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