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Tuesday, 25 December 2007

The Falcon in Hollywood (1944) Gordon Douglas

This time around the Falcon's at the Hollywood Turf Club. He's losing money on the races, but gaining young lady friends right and left. One of them is Peggy Callaghan, played by Barbara Hale who is best known for her work as Della Street opposite Raymond Burr's Perry Mason. Peggy is the girlfriend of Louie Buchanan, who has been a guest of the state for quite some time but who has left early, and she walks off with the bag of Lili D'Allio, a Hollywood actress and amateur numerologist. The Falcon naturally has a field day with them all, but the one who gives us most fun is Billie Atkins.

She's a Yellow Cab driver and aspiring actress, played by the delightfully sassy Veda Ann Borg, and she takes the Falcon to an independent studio called Sunset Pictures where they discover the corpse of Ted Miles, rich playboy ex-husband of the studio's costume designer Roxanna Miles. Borg was married to Victor McLaglen's son Andrew, the director of The Wild Geese, plenty of John Wayne movies and plenty of episodes of Have Gun - Will Travel and Gunsmoke. I've seen her in a few movies and while she never seemed to be a major part of them she was always a memorable addition to the show and she contributed much to the enjoyment side of things. She would have been great playing Torchy Blane and I'm sure she was great fun to be around in real life.

Anyway, Peggy Callahan is working at the studio on The Magic Melody, the same film as the victim and the suspects and everyone else, though nobody knows who she is behind her false stage name. The film seems to be cursed, with someone causing no end of trouble to throw it over budget, behind schedule and on the road to cancellation. The suspects are plenty and it's a solid puzzle working out whodunit. Certainly Mel Brooks was paying attention, because some of this resurfaces in The Producers. As much as Billie Atkins is delightful fluff, there's plenty of substance behind the fluff parts of the plot and it's always good to see a movie filmed on a movie lot. It's just a little hard keeping track of which of the many women is which, and there are more than a few incredibly convenient coincidences.

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