Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bad Blonde (aka The Flanagan Boy, 1953).

The Bad Blonde of the title, Barbara Payton, wants to be rid of her husband and uses her wiles to get a prizefighter to do the deed. The film was adapted from the novel The Flanagan Boy by British writer Max Catto.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The darker side of the mind.

Ad for Svengali (1954)
The Wellcome Trust's online presentation Mindcraft: A Century of Madness, Murder, and Mental Healing includes the evil power of mesmerism such as that exhibited by Svengali in George du Maurier's Trilby (1894) and the 1889 trial of Gabrielle Bompard, who asserted that her male associate had hypnotized her and that she had no memory of committing murder.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Grand Central Murder (1942).

There is no shortage of suspects when a showgirl with a fondness for money is murdered. On hand are Van Heflin (as PI Rocky Custer), Tom Conway (a producer), and Virginia Grey (Custer's wife and fellow investigator). The film is based on the novel by Sue MacVeigh (pseudonym of journalist Elizabeth Custer Nearing, a descendant of George Armstrong Custer who wrote four mysteries).

Monday, December 08, 2014

The mayor, the gangster, the waterfront boss.

William O'Dwyer, ca. Oct. 1949
Truman Library
The New York Public Radio Archives looks at the checkered career of New York mayor William O'Dwyer, who as district attorney convicted several men involved in "Murder Incorporated" but had some shady associations. The tale involves mafioso Frank Costello.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Private Detective 62 (w/William Powell, 1933).

In Private Detective 62 (dir. Michael Curtiz), private investigator William Powell tries to protect a socialite from a blackmail plot.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Presidential mistress and spy?

Carrie Fulton Phillips, LOC
The Prologue blog of the National Archives discusses whether Carrie Fulton Phillips, recipient of racy love letters from Senator (later president) Warren G. Harding, was a German spy, including intelligence and Department of Justice reports.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Exhibition: "Mystery Writers Past and Present."

Frances Fyfield
There is a photographic exhibition from UK's National Portrait Gallery, "Mystery Writers Past and Present," on view at Darlington's Head of Steam Museum until December 14. The photos feature contemporary writers such as P. D. James taken by Nicola Kurtz as well as Victorian photos of authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens. The list of Kurtz's photographic subjects in the gallery's collection includes Clare Curzon, Stella Duffy, Frances Fyfield, the late H. R. F. Keating, Val McDermid, Andrew Taylor, and Minette Walters.

A similar 2002 exhibition included photos of Colin Dexter and Ian Rankin.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"The Long Count" (1955).

In this March 1955 episode of Stage 7, a private eye believes more lies behind a boxer's hit-and-run accident than meets the eye.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

TLS recalls Jesse's A Pin to See the Peepshow.

F. Tennyson Jesse
The Times Literary Supplement has posted Orlo Williams's 1934 TLS review of F. Tennyson Jesse's A Pin to See the Peepshow (based on the Thompson-Bywaters case of 1922). He lauds "the solidness of Miss Tennyson Jesse’s construction, her intense sympathy with her characters, and the vividness with which she paints the scene of London life during the present century." Jesse—the great-niece of Alfred, Lord Tennyson—is also known for her plays, her volumes in the Notable British Trials series, and her psychic detective Solange Fontaine.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Should women serve on juries?" (1918).

After women in New York obtained the vote in 1917, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle published a January 1918 article discussing the question of whether women should serve on juries as part of their civic duty. Some interesting quotes from the piece:
"in many things women could render a verdict more logical and more consistent than that of men."—Harry E. Lewis, district attorney, Kings County (NY); later presiding justice, New York State Supreme Court

"there are many cases where the intuition and experience of a woman would lead to the rendering of a better verdict than is sometimes rendered under the present system"—Russell Benedict, justice, New York State Supreme Court
Helen P. McCormick
(later married Patrick Toole,
but kept her maiden name)
"with votes for women goes jury duty for women"—Alice Hill Chittenden, former president, New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage

"There has been the point raised, I know, as to whether women can stand the nervous tension. Personally I think it rather absurd..."—Helen P. McCormick, asst district attorney, Brooklyn; first female asst district attorney in any U.S. city

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Armchair Theatre:
"The Criminals" (with Stanley Baker, 1958).

In this Dec 1958 episode of the British anthology series Armchair Theatre, the charismatic Stanley Baker (Hell Is a City, The Guns of Navarone, etc.) is one of several men forced to rob a bank.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Academe: Still more notable espionage novels.

Wright State University's Martin Kich has finished his series on "National (In)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels" on the Academe blog. Some of the latest entries:
Upton Sinclair, ca. 1906. NYPL
• Holly Roth, The Content Assignment (aka The Shocking Secret, 1954). When a female CIA agent disappears, a British journalist sets out to find her. Sadly, Roth died at age 48 after falling off a boat.
• Upton Sinclair, World's End (1940). The first in a series with spy Lanny Budd by the author of The Jungle.
• Ross Thomas,  The Cold-War Swap (1966). Thomas's Edgar-winning debut.

• Trevanian, The Eiger Sanction (1972; film 1975). The first in a series with assassin Jonathan Hemlock.
• Leon Uris, Topaz (1967, Hitchcock film 1969). A Soviet spymaster defects.
All of the posts can be found here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New releases: Poe, Woolrich film scores.

Clues 26.4 (2008), w/Barbara Stanwyck
and John Lund from No Man of Her Own
Scott Bettancourt of Film Score Monthly highlights the following new releases:
  • Hugo Friedhofer's score for No Man of Her Own (film with Barbara Stanwyck based on I Married a Dead Man by William Irish, aka Cornell Woolrich)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Green Glove (aka The White Road, 1952).

For Veterans Day: The Green Glove (with story and screenplay by frequent Hitchcock collaborator Charles Bennett) stars Glenn Ford as a former paratrooper seeking a valuable medieval artifact in France (along with more avaricious adversaries). The film also features Geraldine Brooks and Cedric Hardwicke.

The Canadian-born Ford served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve during World War II and joined the Naval Reserve in 1958, eventually attaining the rank of captain.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Guy Noir: Dancing detective?

Garrison Keillor's Midwestern private eye Guy Noir from Prairie Home Companion is now featured in a ballet by James Sewell Ballet in the Twin Cities.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Nefarious professors:
BYU's guide to (fictional) campus crime.

Edith (Lent) Taylor,
Buffalo creative writing teacher
and author of
The Serpent under It
(1973)

Swarthmore Class of 1935
Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library has just updated its annotated bibliography on "colleges, universities or professors in murder mystery fiction." Although limited at present to materials available at BYU that were published before 2001, it may be useful to those who enjoy mysteries set in academia.

The expected authors are covered (e.g., Robert Barnard, Amanda Cross, Helen Eustis, Michael Innes, Jane Langton, Dorothy L. Sayers), as well as lesser known names and authors with unexpected academic milieus (e.g., Helen McCloy, David Frome, Emma Lathen, Richard and Frances Lockridge, Peter Lovesey, Gladys Mitchell, S. S. Van Dine, Hillary Waugh).

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

A Life at Stake (1954).

In A Life at Stake, an architect (Keith Andes), attracted to wealthy— and married—Doris Hillman (Angela Lansbury), finds that a large life insurance policy has ramifications for himself and others.

Monday, November 03, 2014

BBC Radio's focus on SH, the gothic.

BBC Radio 4 Extra hauls out of its vault a series of programs (dubbed "the Holmes Service") that feature various incarnations of the Great Detective. These include:
Horace Walpole, NYPL
A separate series of programs focuses on the gothic, which includes:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bibliography, early occult detectives in fiction.

Willa Cather, NYPL
In time for Halloween, Clues contributor Tim Prchal (under his pseudonym Tim Prasil) is compiling a "chronological bibliography of early occult detectives" that begins in 1817 with Doktor K in E. T. A. Hoffman's "Das oede Haus" and runs to 1938 with Judge Keith Hillary Pursuivant in works by Gans T. Field. Authors include Alice and Claude Askew, Willa Cather, Arthur Conan Doyle, F. Tennyson Jesse, Arthur Machen, Sax Rohmer, and the obligatory Bram Stoker.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shadows on the Stairs (1941).

Frank Vosper
In Shadows on the Stairs, a London boardinghouse is the site of murder. The basis for the film is the play "Murder on the Second Floor" by actor-playwright Frank Vosper (The Man Who Knew Too Much; adaptation of Agatha Christie's "Philomel Cottage" as Love from a Stranger). He died at age 37 in 1937 when he fell from the liner Paris after a party. The death was ruled accidental.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rathbone, Colman, Marshall, Rains:
WWI regiment fellows.

"There's an east wind coming,
Watson": Basil Rathbone, left,
and Nigel Bruce in
Sherlock Holmes and
the Voice of Terror
Using primary documents, James Cronan discusses on the UK National Archives blog the WWI service records of actors Ronald Colman (injured by an exploding shell), Herbert Marshall (lost a leg), Claude Rains (gassed), and Basil Rathbone (decorated). They served in the same regiment, albeit at different times. The comments mention the war records of Nigel Bruce (Rath-bone's Watson) and Victor McLaglen.

Part 1 of the blog post (Colman, Rathbone)
Part 2 of the blog post (Rains, Marshall)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Alley Oop and his legacy.

Alley Oop: The Complete Sundays (vol. 1)
Dark Horse Comics
There is an online exhibition on cartoonist V. T. Hamlin at the Univ of Missouri Libraries' Rare Books and Special Collections, which shows the influence of his caveman comic "Alley Oop" (chosen as a mascot by the Army Air Corps' 92nd Bomb Group and adapted as board games and a hit song). It mentions Frank Miller's noir comic "Sin City" (first published in 1991, adapted as a film in 2005).

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"The Case of the Screaming Bishop" (1944).

In this Sherlock Holmes parody, Hairlock Combs is on the trail of a missing dinosaur skeleton.

Monday, October 20, 2014

From the Vault: Sorry, Wrong Number.

Ad for 1948 film Sorry, Wrong Number
The archival program From the Vault of Pacifica Radio Archives offers an episode from 2003 on Sorry, Wrong Number; Shirley Knight and Ed Asner star in Lucille Fletcher's classic radio drama about a woman who overhears a murder plot that hits close to home. The program includes background on Fletcher (the first wife of film composer Bernard Herrmann), a clip from the first broadcast (in 1943) featuring Agnes Moorehead, and a discussion with Knight.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Van Dine's Calling Philo Vance (1940).

Clues 30.1, with Brooks Hefner article
on S. S. Van Dine
Willard Huntington Wright, aka Philo Vance creator S. S. Van Dine, was born on October 15, 1887, in Charlottesville, VA. Calling Philo Vance was adapted from Van Dine's The Kennel Murder Case (1933).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Great Lives: Dorothy L. Sayers.

A recent episode of BBC Radio 4's series Great Lives focused on Dorothy L. Sayers, selected by ex-MI5 chief turned novelist Stella Rimington and discussed by Sayers Society chair Seona Ford. Subjects covered include the obligatory Lord Peter Wimsey and the controversial series of radio plays penned by Sayers, The Man Who Would be King.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

"The Deceiving Eye" (TV, 1955).

In this episode from Stage 7, a criminology professor teaches about the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, only to find himself accused of murder.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Ed McBain speaks.

Evan Hunter, NYPL
In November 2001, the radio program Focus 580 from Illinois Public Media featured Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter, 1926–2005) discussing his early career and his pseudonyms; his writing routine; his series with his "conglomerate hero," the 87th Precinct (including Money Money Money); his aborted book tour in the wake of 9/11; and his differences in approach between McBain and Hunter works. During the program the granddaughter of mystery author Craig Rice calls in; McBain finished Rice's The April Robin Murders after her death, and he explains how he came to be involved with the book.