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Thursday, September 07, 2017

More Warner Rats In A Trap


H'wood Says Hopefully, You Can't Get Away With Murder (1939)

Warner crime movies, and I mean primarily the cheap ones, could be humorless affairs. You'd open on John Garfield and Priscilla Lane happily planning a future, and five minutes later they're lamming just ahead of police sirens. What was it Bogart as Sam Spade said: The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter? Bogie says plenty that's gaudy in You Can't Get Away With Murder, so much so that he went up often on lines (see WB blooper reels) and began rebellion that characterized a career with the Shield. A miserable "B" as Bogart saw it, Murder was made for $274K, barely saw profit, and found most of its audience decades later on late and later TV berths. You have to be an HB nut, or just nuts, to watch it, even when Warner Instant offers  HD stream (one thing you can say about virtually all of oldies: They sure look good when properly presented). This was another where Bogart corrupted youth; one look (and listen) to Billy Halop and you ask, where's the loss? He was a most competent of Dead End Kids and might have made dramatic grade had they been able to cast him outside Hell's Kitchen. Knowing Bogart attitude toward the material makes it seem he's sending it up, or playing to bitter irony. Either way, time passes quicker from viewing in that/those spirits. Murder is like two featurettes strung together, a first half on pavements, the second in stir. No subtleties here: Bogart's a lowdown no-good rat, and that's the end of it. Did he plead with director Lewis Seiler for more shading?

10 Comments:

Blogger lmshah said...


You know John, years ago, I helped a re-searcher track down a copy of this film, said re-searcher was obsessed about wanting to see it for the oddest reason: he was doing his doctoral thesis on scenes in old Hollywood movies featuring libraries and librarians, and apparently it had a scene in a prison library. I did put him in contact with the film in the old pre-TCM days, but come to think of it now, I'm not sure I ever made it all the way through to see a prison library scene in it, is there one?


RICHARD M ROBERTS

6:13 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Can't recall for sure, as it's been a while since I watched the film and wrote the piece.

6:38 AM  
Blogger MikeD said...

How can you go wrong with the Warner's Stock Company; Gangster Division? I see Harold Huber there and the guy on the left whose name I always forget>

8:15 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Thought about Richard's comment some more while walking this morning. Remember when locating a SPECIFIC movie was often all but impossible? Especially one so minor as YOU CAN'T GET AWAY WITH MURDER. I had a similar situation with a researcher who needed all of Shirley Temple's films on VHS to do a book. It was sure enough a chore rounding up even ones I COULD find (THAT HAGEN GIRL was a real challenge), while a number stayed completely out of reach. Now we can see, stream, or buy virtually everything Shirley did (a few, like CAROLINA, remain missing to everyone). Do we sometimes forget how lucky we are, access-wise?

9:03 AM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

Warners gave Billy Halop a couple of shots as a solo performer and they really didn't pan out. I saw YOU CAN'T GET AWAY WITH MURDER years ago and was underwhelmed by it. It's a by-the numbers affair, with Bogart walking through it and Halop hitting his one note again and again. At least MURDER isn't SWING YOUR LADY, in which Bogart wishes he could be anywhere else.

9:21 AM  
Blogger lmshah said...


Ol' Bogie's disgruntled opinion aside, you can definitely say SWING YOUR LADY isn't YOU CAN'T GET AWAY WITH MURDER, it's a way better picture. You'd think Bogie would have been happy for the change of pace, it gets him out of the gangster/prison picture grind, he's a leading good guy for a change, and it's a solid, entertaining programmer with a good cast and some genuine laughs. It was Warner Brothers answer to Paramount's surprise hillbilly hit MOUNTAIN MUSIC, and it has it's own goofy charm (hey, Louise Fazenda plays a lady blacksmith capable of cleaning wrestler Nat Pendleton's clock, what more can one ask for in a Warner's B?).

RICHARD M ROBERTS

2:03 PM  
Blogger daveboz said...

Who can forget Henry Travers as the prison librarian with a heart condition?

5:30 PM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Isn't that guy on the left Calvin Coolidge? Stinky kids.

And doesn't EVERY prison movie have a prison liberry scene? Once again, Stinky kids.

10:38 AM  
Blogger b piper said...

Bogart liked to gripe. He hated BEAT THE DEVIL, which is some kind of skewed masterpiece. Then again he lost money on that movie, which is bound to temper one's enthusiasm.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Realist said...

Liked your take on Billy Halop and the missed opportunities to feature him outside of the "Dead End Kids" roles he played. Recently I was watching "The FBI" TV series on Warner Instant Archive (7th Season-1971-72) when who shows up but Billy Halop driving a hack and witnesses a bank robbery. It was fun to see him, but Billy looked tired and forlorn.

6:52 PM  

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