Tuesday 17 April 2007

Adventure in Manhattan (1936) Edward Ludwig

A valuable ruby is stolen, people die and the police chase the criminals all over the country without any luck whatsoever. And that's just the introductory sequence, because the film is only 73 minutes long. What we're really paying attention to is George Melville, criminologist and crime writer, who gets picked up by Phil Bane, newspaper editor. Bane wants circulation and given that he's played by Thomas Mitchell, he's rather vocal about it. Mitchell was one of Hollywood's most dynamic supporting actors and it stuns me that he never became a star. Joel McCrea was far less dynamic and far more of a star and he's fun here too as Melville, who is a serious expert who keeps predicting the next crime. The thing is that he knows how good he is.

To pull him up by his bootheels, his colleagues set up a complex trap for him involving a beautiful actress played by Jean Arthur. However a painting is stolen from the house next door as the trap is being sprung and there's a ral mystery on. Melville and the actress investigate in what has to be one of the most offbeat mystery movies of the thirties. The setup of it is joyous though the resulting mystery is pretty transparent. Rather than the story, it's the quirkiness that makes it work, that and the performance of Jean Arthur who is far more believable in her role than Joel McCrea is in his. Thomas Mitchell is wonderful but unfortunately he gets very little to do.

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