Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"Deception" (with Linda Darnell and Trevor Howard, 1956).

Linda Darnell, ca. 1940
Based on the Alec Waugh Esquire story "A Small Back Room in St. Marylebone," this episode of the 20th Century-Fox Hour features a British plot to misdirect the Nazis through the capture of an Allied agent and the agent divulging information under torture. It is agent Linda Darnell's job to choose the person for the mission. Of course, the agent selected (Trevor Howard) cannot be informed about the real mission and the falsity of his information, so he ultimately believes that he is a traitor. John Williams and Alan Napier costar.

A later incarnation of the Waugh story is Circle of Deception (1960) with Bradford Dillman and Suzy Parker (later real-life spouses).

Monday, August 22, 2016

The female heist film.

In the spring 2016 issue of Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, Aya de Leon provides an interesting discussion of the female heist film, stating "women's heist narratives are comparatively rare" and outlining characteristics of male-centered heist films versus ones with female characters. She mentions How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980), Set It Off (1996), Bound (1996), Sugar & Spice (2001), Demi Moore in Flawless (2007), Mad Money (2008), and the TV series Leverage (2008–12). However, some might point out omissions that have important female characters such as The Big Caper (1957) and Modesty Blaise (1966). (Thanks to the latest issue of Feminist Periodicals for bringing this article to my attention.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Shed No Tears (1948).

June Vincent in
Shed No Tears
In Shed No Tears, a couple (Wallace Ford and June Vincent) collude to fake the husband's death for the life insurance payout, but little does the husband know of his wife's plans for the money. The film is based on the novel of the same name by screenwriter Don Martin (1948), with a screenplay by Brown Holmes (The Maltese Falcon, 1931) and Virginia Cook (Lassie).

Monday, August 15, 2016

"Twelve Angry Men" by LA Theatre Works.

LA Theatre Works, which nabbed the 2015 Audie Award for Audio Drama with its production of The Hound of the Baskervilles, has a past program of interest to mystery fans on its SoundCloud channel: a production of Reginald Rose's juror drama Twelve Angry Men (1954) featuring actors such as Hector Elizondo, Robert Foxworth, and Joe Spano. It was directed by John de Lancie (Star Trek: The Next Generation, etc.), and he can be heard on the program as the judge in the case.



Tuesday, August 09, 2016

"Blind Spot" (w/Charles Bronson, 1958).

Charles Bronson, the
man with a camera
The TV series Man with a Camera (1958–60) starred Charles Bronson as a former combat photographer freelancing in New York and getting involved in crime-related cases. In "Blind Spot" (1958) he looks into the murder of a friend and fellow photographer in Lisbon. The screenwriter is Donn Mullally (Mr. and Mrs. North; 87th Precinct; Richard Diamond, Private Detective); F Troop's Frank DeKova appears in a supporting role.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Edgar Wallace's PC Lee on BBC's Radio 4 Extra.

Edgar Wallace, from
Wallace's My Hollywood
Diary (1932)
"England," said Police Constable Lee presently, "is the home of the free, an' the half-way house to liberty." (Wallace, "Pear-Drops" 1909)
This week, BBC Radio 4 Extra is airing stories featuring Edgar Wallace's London police constable P. C. Lee (1909). Actor Toby Jones stars, and the production company is Greenlit, which is responsible for Foyle's War.

The P. C. Lee stories can be found at this Web site; the ones noted below with an asterisk are the BBC Radio 4 Extra episodes:

• "Mr. Simmons' Profession"*
• "Change"
• "A Man of Note"*
• "A Case for Angel, Esquire"* (aka "The Inspector Gets a Brainwave" and "The Impossible Theft")
• "For Jewey's Laggin"
• "Pear-Drops"
• "How He Lost His Moustache"*
• "Sergeant Run-a-Mile"*
• "The Sentimental Burglar"
• "Contempt"
ยช "Confidence"
• "Fireless Telegraphy"
• "The General Practitioner"
• "The Snatchers"*
• "The Gold Mine"
• "Mouldy the Scrivener"
• "Mrs. Flindin's Lodger"
• "The Derby Favourite"
• "The Story of a Great Cross-Examination"
• "Tanks"
• "The Silence of P.-C. Hirley"
• "The Power of the Eye"
• "The Convict's Daughter"
• "The Last Adventure"

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The Fat Man, 1951.

J. Scott Smart
Based on a radio character created by Dashiell Hammett that has been described as a cross between the Thin Man and the Continental Op, The Fat Man features J. Scott Smart as private detective Brad Runyon, who looks into the murder of a dentist. The film is directed by William Castle, and its costars include Rock Hudson, Julie London, Jayne Meadows, Emmett Kelly, and Jerome Cowan.

Monday, August 01, 2016

The Armed Services editions and mysteries.

Cover of Armed Services edition
of Rex Stout's Not Quite Dead
Enough
(1945)
I just finished Molly Guptill Manning's When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II, which provides a lively and often poignant discussion of the importance to service members of the Armed Services editions in World War II. They were produced to be sturdy, lightweight, and sized for a pocket, and the Council on Books in Wartime, in charge of the effort, tried to supply a book "to fit the tastes of every man" (79). (One of the council's members was Farrar & Rinehart's Stanley Rinehart, son of Mary Roberts Rinehart). The council printed more than 123 million copies of Armed Services editions.

To mention a few mystery-related elements in the book:
  • One of the authors listed as banned in Germany:
    G. K. Chesterton
     
  • "The most popular genre was contemporary fiction . . . followed by historical novels, mysteries, books of humor, and westerns" (79–80).
Related:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Huxley's "The Gioconda Smile" (radio, 1945).

Charles Boyer and Ann Blyth in
A Woman's Vengeance (1948)
There have been several film, TV, play, and radio versions of "The Gioconda Smile" (1921) by Aldous Huxley, who was born today in Surrey in 1894. "The Gioconda Smile," listed as one of the best mystery short stories of all time, was adapted as the film A Woman's Vengeance (1948) with Charles Boyer and a 1950 play with Basil Rathbone. The story involves a man who faces questions after the death of his wife and his marriage to a much younger woman. This 1945 radio version is from the Molle Mystery Theater.

Monday, July 25, 2016

UCLA celebrates the films of Kirk Douglas.

Kirk Douglas and Eleanor Parker
in Detective Story (1951)
The UCLA Film & Television Archive is marking Kirk Douglas's upcoming 100th birthday in December with showings of Douglas films through Sept. 30. They include Posse and Tough Guys (Aug 14), Lonely Are the Brave and Strangers When We Meet (Aug 20; the latter written by Evan Hunter), and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and Out of the Past (Sept. 18).

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Web of Evidence
(aka Beyond This Place, 1959).

https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/a-j-cronin/beyond-this-place
In Web of Evidence Van Johnson returns to the United Kingdom after a long absence to find his father imprisoned for murder and becomes convinced of his father's innocence. Based on the novel Beyond This Place (1950) by A.J. Cronin (The Citadel, The Keys of the Kingdom, etc.), the film costars Vera Miles, Bernard Lee, Emlyn Williams, and Leo McKern.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Happy birthday, Donald Westlake:
Bank Shot (1974).

Versatile mystery author Donald Westlake (aka Richard Stark) was born today in Brooklyn in 1933. This adaptation of Westlake's 1972 Dortmunder novel Bank Shot by screenwriter-producer Wendell Mayes (Anatomy of a Murder, Death Wish, Von Ryan's Express) features criminal mastermind Walter Ballantine (played by George C. Scott), who decides to pull a bank heist by removing an entire bank from its location. Dancer-choreographer Gower Champion directed the film; co-stars include Bob Balaban, Sorrell Brooke, and Joanna Cassidy.

Of related interest: clips from the soundtrack for Bank Shot.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Found! The grave of Australia's Mary Fortune.

Wildside Press edition of
stories by Mary Fortune
Lucy Sussex, who has recently published a book on Fergus Hume (author of The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, 1886) and was instrumental in recovering the work of early Australian mystery writer Mary Fortune, has discovered Fortune's grave. Although Fortune wrote more than 500 detective stories in her lifetime, she is not the first female detective-story writer; New England's Harriet Prescott Spofford predates her with works such as "In a Cellar" and "Mr. Furbush."

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

The life and times of Clarence Darrow.

Clarence Darrow, c. 1922
Library of Congress,
Prints & Photographs Div
On the radio program University of the Air, lawyer-professor Dean A. Strang (author of Worse Than the Devil: Anarchists, Clarence Darrow, and Justice in a Time of Terror) discusses the career of Clarence Darrow (1857–1938), who was defense counsel for Leopold and Loeb in 1924.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

"The Petrified Forest" (w/Bogart/Fonda/Bacall, 1955).

Humphrey Bogart as
Duke Mantee,
"The Petrified Forest" (1955)
This 30 May 1955 episode of Producers' Showcase features Humphrey Bogart reprising his 1936 role as gangster Duke Mantee, who takes as hostages Henry Fonda (in the Leslie Howard part) and Lauren Bacall (in the Bette Davis role). Jack Warden, Richard Jaeckel, and Jack Klugman appear in supporting parts. Directed by Delbert Mann, the episode is based on a play by Robert E. Sherwood.

See other related clips:
• Delbert Mann discusses Producers' Showcase, including "The Petrified Forest"

• Jack Klugman talks about working with Bogart and Bacall in "The Petrified Forest"

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Illegal (w/Edward G. Robinson and DeForest Kelley, 1955).

Edward G. Robinson and Nina Foch
in Illegal (1955)
In Illegal, district attorney Edward G. Robinson convicts an innocent man (DeForest Kelley) and becomes entangled with racketeers. Costars include Nina Foch, Hugh Marlowe, Edward Platt (of Get Smart fame), and Jayne Mansfield. The director is Lewis Allen (The Uninvited, The Unseen, Appointment with Danger, etc.). One of the film's screenwriters is W. R. Burnett (Little Caesar, High Sierra, etc.), adapting Frank J. Collins's play The Mouthpiece (allegedly based on William J. Fallon, a former Westchester [NY] prosecutor and lawyer for Arnold Rothstein and Nicky Arnstein, who was dubbed "The Great Mouthpiece" by the press).


Monday, June 27, 2016

Update, Westminster Detective Library.

Mark Twain, ca. 1907.
Library of Congress, Prints
and Photographs Div.
Since I last posted about the Westminster Detective Library—the effort by Edgar winner LeRoy Lad Panek (Introduction to the Detective Story) and Mary Bendel-Simso (McDaniel College, MD) to compile an online repository of short detective works published in the United States prior to 1891, some 300 pieces have been added, and there is a new Web interface. The pieces include 87 stories by 48 female authors, and Panek states, "There are no doubt many more as the majority of the stories we have cataloged have no author listed in the original." Panek also notes that he and Bendel-Simso will be issuing a book based on the works in the library.

A sample from the Westminster Detective Library:

• "The Female Assassin" (1850) by Prince Cambaceres, archchancellor of the French Empire and Duke of Parma

• "Who Is the Thief?" (1864) by Elizabeth Campbell (a writer and actress trained by Edwin Booth)

• "The Stolen Letter: A Lawyer's Story" (1855) by Wilkie Collins

• "Mrs. Fitzgerald's Life Policy" (1863) by Andrew Forrester Jr. (pseudonymous author of The Female Detective  [1864] unmasked by Judith Flanders in The Invention of Murder)

• "The Murder at Carew Court" (1868) by Amy Randolph

• "Edward Mills and George Benton" (1880) by Mark Twain

For the project, Panek and Bendel-Simso seek help from students and others with tasks such as editing, proofreading, and locating materials; clues to finding additional stories and sources; and comments on the materials in the library. Contact Bendel-Simso.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Detective Kitty O'Day (1944).

Jean Parker, ca. 1937
Jean Parker plays the title role in this screwball mystery, seeking the murderer of her crooked boss.

Monday, June 20, 2016

"The Artists Who Make Argosy."

4 Nov 1922 Argosy cover by
Stockton Mulford
In advance of July's PulpFest in Columbus, OH, Mike Chomko gives a preview of "The Artists Who Make Argosy," the upcoming session with David Saunders that will celebrate the contributing artists to the legendary pulp magazine launched in 1882. The magazine's contributing writers included Max Brand, Norbert Davis, Erle Stanley Gardner, Robert E. Howard, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Cornell Woolrich. Saunders is the son of illustrator Norman Saunders.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"The Kids Who Knew Too Much" (1980).

This episode for Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color is based on The Whisper in the Gloom by Nicholas Blake (aka poet Cecil Day-Lewis) and features a band of smart kids and Sharon Gless looking into a murder and discovering ties to a political conspiracy. It is bittersweet to see the gifted actress Dana Hill (Shoot the Moon, Cross Creek, etc.), who died much too young at age 32 from diabetes-related complications.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Intl Centre for Victorian Women Writers.

Cover of Wyllard's Weird (1886)
by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
There's a newish International Centre for Victorian Women Writers at Canterbury Christ Church University in the United Kingdom; one focus is crime and sensation fiction (especially by Mary Elizabeth Braddon). The center, which seeks to be a nexus for researchers on the writing of Victorian women and is hosting conferences and projects, is seeking information on birthdays of Victorian female writers for a list it is compiling.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Gangster Story (dir. Walter Matthau, 1959).

Walter Matthau
in Gangster Story (1959)
This low-budget, somewhat stilted film is the only one directed by Walter Matthau, who also stars as a wanted man who becomes involved with a crime syndicate. His co-star is his real-life wife, Carol Grace (who was previously married to William Saroyan).

Monday, June 06, 2016

Victorian yellowbacks in Canada.

Strange Secrets, a collection of ghost stories
(London, 1890). Image from the
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Toronto.
The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library of the University of Toronto offers a nice online collection of cover images from Victorian yellowbacks—most notably from works by Canadian-born Grant Allen (mystery writer as well as friend and neighbor of Arthur Conan Doyle).

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Blochman's "A Case of Radiant Wine" (1960).

Lawrence G. Blochman from
UC-Berkeley's The Blue and
Gold (
1922)
The series Diagnosis: Unknown featured Patrick O'Neal as pathologist Daniel Webster Coffee (created by Edgar winner Lawrence G. Blochman) who investigated cases of murder. This episode, "A Case of Radiant Wine," focuses on the suspicious suicide of a model. Costars are Tom Bosley and Phyllis Newman.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Rod Serling at war.

I want you to know what shrapnel and "88s" and mortar shells and mustard gas mean.

—The dedication of an unpublished short story by Rod Serling to his children, quoted in Anne Serling's As I Knew Him
Rod Serling with his 1960 Emmy
for outstanding writing
(for The Twilight Zone)
Rod Serling served as a paratrooper in World War II and was profoundly affected by his experiences. In Vincent Casaregola's thoughtful discussion "War in The Twilight Zone: Rod Serling's Haunted Visions of World War II" in Horrors of War, he notes that one-sixth of Twilight Zone episodes are about war (these include "The Purple Testament" with William Reynolds and "The Quality of Mercy" with Dean Stockwell; other examples from Serling's oeuvre are "The Time Element" aired on Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, "The Strike" for Studio One, and The Rack). In the episode below from Writing for Television: Conversations with Rod Serling, Serling states, "I was traumatized into writing by war events."

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Night Ride" (1953).

In this episode of Four Star Playhouse, subway passengers wonder which one of them is a murderer sought by the police. Costars include David Niven and Rhys Williams, in a story by Lawrence B. Marcus and a screenplay by Seeleg Lester and Merwin Gerard.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Historic images of counterfeiters.

John S. Bell, chief of
the Secret Service (1888–90);
Newark (NJ) police chief (1884)
The Unwritten Record blog of the National Archives highlights historic mugshots of counterfeiters—both men and women—from the Secret Service files in its collections.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"Fraction of a Second" (w/Bette Davis, 1958).

Adapted by Kathleen Hite from the story "Split Second" (in Kiss Me Again, Stranger, 1953) by Daphne du Maurier, this episode of Suspicion features Bette Davis finding strangers in her house, although they insist they are the owners. Costars include Marian Seldes.