Betty Blythe

Before Midnight (1933, Lambert Hillyer)

Ralph Bellamy gets top billing here, but he doesn’t deserve it. I’m always stunned when, with a reasonably early feature motion picture like Before Midnight, the filmmakers are clearly exhausted with the genre.

Midnight‘s a big house mystery (enclosed setting, certain number of suspects) but the opening establishes the majority of the film is set sometime in the past. Bellamy’s character could have died of old age for all the audience knows, as there’s one guy telling another a story about this great mystery, which we then see.

The mystery seems like it might be an interesting one for a while, as Bellamy interrogates each suspect, one by one; it seems like he’s going to solve the case out based on the interviews, a unique film approach.

Instead, Bellamy amiably investigates in the standard mystery fashion, giving some of the supporting cast a little time to themselves. Unfortunately, the supporting cast is boring and–even at only an hour–the film feels way too long. Because of the structure, the suspects don’t have any subplots not related directly to the murder and, because he’s not really a character, Bellamy doesn’t get a love interest. It’s all about the mystery.

And the mystery isn’t bad, just not good enough to carry the entire hour.

Hillyer’s a rather indistinct director. I don’t remember a single well-directed moment in the film (but no badly directed ones either).

Good performances from June Collyer, Claude Gillingwater, Betty Blythe and Otto Yamaoka help a lot.



Directed by Lambert Hillyer; written by Robert Quigley; director of photography, John Stumar; edited by Otto Meyer; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Ralph Bellamy (Inspector Steve Trent), June Collyer (Janet Holt), Claude Gillingwater (John Fry), Bradley Page (Howard B. Smith), Betty Blythe (Mavis Fry), Arthur Pierson (Doctor David R. Marsh), George Cooper (Stubby), William Jeffrey (Edward Arnold), Joseph Crehan (Captain Frank Flynn) and Otto Yamaoka (Kono).

Murder at Glen Athol (1936, Frank R. Strayer)

Murder at Glen Athol should be just a little bit better. The script has a number of twists, with Strayer handling them ably, but it’s just too short as it turns out. The film runs under seventy minutes, which would be fine for a B mystery, but Glen Athol (the title is problematic–Glen Athol is never said in the film) has a lot more going on.

First, just because it opens the film, there’s detective John Miljan and his sidekick, James P. Burtis. Miljan’s a debonair detective of the Nick Charles variety and Burtis is a rough and tumble ex-prizefighter. There’s some really funny bickering between them at the beginning and some throughout the film (Burtis’s performance isn’t quite good enough to make it work as well as it should), but once Irene Ware shows up as Miljan’s love interest… her effect on the hetero life mates isn’t really explored.

Second, the murder investigation reveals a complicated situation of blackmail and cover-up. Since the murder occurs twenty plus minutes into the film, there’s not much time for Miljan to make discoveries. Instead he does it mostly in summary–he explains the entire solution without the audience having seen key features on screen.

Strayer keeps a tight pace, so I doubt he would have needed more than ten more minutes to fill the story out.

Still, it’s a decent mystery; Miljan turns in a great performance.

Speaking of Strayer, he does wonders with a visibly tiny budgeted production.



Directed by Frank R. Strayer; screenplay and adaptation by John W. Krafft, based on the novel by Norman Lippincott; director of photography, M.A. Anderson; edited by Roland D. Reed; produced by Maury M. Cohen; released by Chesterfield Motion Pictures Corporation.

Starring John Miljan (Bill Holt), Irene Ware (Jane Maxwell), Iris Adrian (Muriel Randel), Noel Madison (Gus Colleti), Oscar Apfel (Reuben Marshall), Barry Norton (Tom Randel), Harry Holman (Campbell Snowden), Betty Blythe (Ann Randel), James P. Burtis (Mike ‘Jeff’ Jefferies), Lew Kelly (Police Sgt. Olsen), Wilson Benge (Simpson) and E.H. Calvert (Dist. Atty. McDougal).

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