Tuesday 15 May 2007

The Crime Doctor's Diary (1949) Seymour Friedman

This one sparked my interest early, if you pardon the pun, given that it's an arson case. Steve Carter always claimed that he was innocent of the charges against him for burning down Bellem Music Co, where he worked, and the Crime Doctor, Robert Ordway, believes him enough to approve his parole. It's the business that interested me most, as this is 1949 and he piped music over the phone lines to customers. They ring up and make their requests, his assistants put the records onto decks and the music broadcasts down to connected jukeboxes. The technology has updated quite a lot in over half a century but people are still upset about it.

There are other names here beyond the regular star, Warner Baxter, who returns here for the tenth and final time as the Crime Doctor. Stephen Dunne is fine as Steve Carter, but he's probably best known for playing Sam Spade on radio. He's hardly a household name, unlike Lois Maxwell or Robert Armstrong. Maxwell plays Jane Darrin, the daughter of the man who owns the company Carter was convicted of burning down, and she has a serious thing for him. Thirteen years later she became the most famous secretary on the planet, Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond series. Armstrong is the competitor, a gangster by the name of Goldie Harrigan, and he looks seriously old given that his most famous role came sixteen years before this film, as moviemaker Carl Denham in the original version of King Kong.

The man that matters most though is George Meeker as Carl Anson. He's the man who Carter suspects really did the job, along with taking both his position and his girl after he's locked up, and he turns up murdered in the company office right after Carter is seen walking in. The man who sees him is Pete Bellem, the owner's brother who is a little on the dim side but records his own music and has had runins with Anson himself.

This one was the tenth of ten Crime Doctor movies and the eighth that I've seen and it's up there with the best. No, I'm not surprised to find that Steve Carter was innocent all along and it's Ordway that proves it, and you wouldn't be either, but other than that it's a decent detective story. Given that the last couple were pretty disappointing, that's a pleasant surprise for the last one in the series. The acting was notably better than it has been for the whole of the series, Lois Maxwell especially impressing but Warner Baxter being much more fluid than usual too. There's an old entertainment industry maxim that says to 'always leave them wanting more'. Two films earlier and I was only wondering how bad it was going to get, but this one made me wonder what an eleventh instalment would have been like.

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