Sam Katzman

Brenda Starr, Reporter (1945, Wallace Fox), Chapter 4: A Ghost Walks

Unfortunately, most of A Ghost Walks is missing. What remains–some audio, a couple stills–isn’t really enough to sustain the narrative. After the cliffhanger resolution (not too noisy and apparently not injurious to Joan Woodbury), there’s some treading water while cops Kane Richmond and Joe Devlin catch up to Woodbury and Syd Saylor.

Woodbury and Saylor leave the cops to wrap-up the cliffhanger resolve and head out to investigate a clue. It’s a clue the cops would want, but Woodbury keeps to herself.

There’s a little with Lottie Harrison–turns out Woodbury is throwing cousin Harrison a birthday party only she keeps going out to work on the story.

More than half the chapter is lost, though the subsequent chapter’s recap suggests there’s a big reveal at the end of Walks but as the cliffhanger.

I suppose if a chapter of a serial is going to be lost, it’s best it’s a bridging chapter.

CREDITS

Directed by Wallace Fox; screenplay by Ande Lamb and George H. Plympton, based on the comic strip by Dale Messick; director of photography, Ira H. Morgan; edited by Charles Henkel Jr.; music by Edward J. Kay; produced by Sam Katzman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Joan Woodbury (Brenda Starr), Kane Richmond (Lt. Larry Farrell), Syd Saylor (Chuck Allen), George Meeker (Frank Smith), Wheeler Oakman (Heller), Cay Forester (Vera Harvey), Marion Burns (Zelda), Lottie Harrison (Abretha), Ernie Adams (Charlie), Jack Ingram (Kruger), Anthony Warde (Muller), John Merton (Joe Schultz), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Pesky), and Joe Devlin (Sgt. Tim Brown).


Brenda Starr, Reporter (1945, Wallace Fox), Chapter 3: Taken for a Ride

Taken for a Ride’s opening cliffhanger resolution isn’t particularly exciting–in fact, giving so much information about what’s going on outside the situation to resolve the cliffhanger makes it all procedural, instead of suspenseful–but it still almost leads to a good shootout.

Joan Woodbury and Syd Saylor (who can be dashing and heroic when he needs to be, which is one of Brenda Starr’s best developments) are pinned down inside a warehouse. Gangsters are shooting at them. What can they do? Well, Woodbury pulls a snubnosed revolver and shoots back.

It’d be awesome if the action didn’t cut to cops Kane Richmond and Joe Devlin trying to get into the warehouse.

Wasted potential, though Saylor does get an amusing moment.

The rest of Taken for a Ride has Woodbury and Richmond–independently–trying to figure out how singer Cay Forester fits into the gangsters’ plot. It comes right after Richmond condescends to Woodbury about her job performance as a reporter; even though Richmond is the romantic lead, he’s an unlikable jackass.

All of the audio for the second half of Ride is lost. So, the exact details of the plot are a tad mysterious. The cliffhanger setup in Ride is pretty cool; it’s maybe the first time Charles Henkel Jr.’s editing impresses.

The chapter also brings in Lottie Harrison as Woodbury’s cousin and roommate. She does better than William ‘Billy’ Benedict’s annoying newsboy. Though it’s probably not Benedict’s fault as much as director Fox’s or the screenwriters’.

Taken for a Ride keeps Brenda Starr moving well enough; the chapter never veers off track. Opening with Benedict’s tediously acted scene ends up helping it. Everything else is a step up.

CREDITS

Directed by Wallace Fox; screenplay by Ande Lamb and George H. Plympton, based on the comic strip by Dale Messick; director of photography, Ira H. Morgan; edited by Charles Henkel Jr.; music by Edward J. Kay; produced by Sam Katzman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Joan Woodbury (Brenda Starr), Kane Richmond (Lt. Larry Farrell), Syd Saylor (Chuck Allen), George Meeker (Frank Smith), Wheeler Oakman (Heller), Cay Forester (Vera Harvey), Marion Burns (Zelda), Lottie Harrison (Abretha), Ernie Adams (Charlie), Jack Ingram (Kruger), Anthony Warde (Muller), John Merton (Joe Schultz), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Pesky), and Joe Devlin (Sgt. Tim Brown).


Brenda Starr, Reporter (1945, Wallace Fox), Chapter 2: The Blazing Trap

The Blazing Trap opens with a lengthy lead-in to the cliffhanger resolve. Even though the resolve is pretty easy, it’s kind of cool how much context Brenda Starr gives its resolution. It doesn’t feel like a quick wrap up, it feels like a part of the story.

After it’s over, though, the chapter speeds headfirst into a boring finish. Joan Woodbury, once again, foolishly investigates something without letting the cops know. Last time there were tragic consequences. Who knows what will happen this time. Assuming Brenda Starr doesn’t die in the second chapter.

But that boring finish isn’t just because there’s a weak cliffhanger. It’s everything in the second half of the chapter. The first half hinges on Syd Saylor being funny as Woodbury’s meandering photographer. It doesn’t not work, but at least Blazing is trying.

Then the next scene, when Woodbury and Saylor check in with newspaper editor Frank Jaquet, has some snappy dialogue. It seems like Blazing might be headed somewhere. Somewhere good, not somewhere boring.

Woodbury interviews a night club singer (Cay Forester), who has some connection to the unseen villain–The Big Boss. Then Woodbury gets in trouble investigating a lead. Shouldn’t be boring, somehow manages to be boring.

Woodbury’s fine, she just isn’t compelling enough to save the serial.

CREDITS

Directed by Wallace Fox; screenplay by Ande Lamb and George H. Plympton, based on the comic strip by Dale Messick; director of photography, Ira H. Morgan; edited by Charles Henkel Jr.; music by Edward J. Kay; produced by Sam Katzman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Joan Woodbury (Brenda Starr), Kane Richmond (Lt. Larry Farrell), Syd Saylor (Chuck Allen), George Meeker (Frank Smith), Wheeler Oakman (Heller), Cay Forester (Vera Harvey), Marion Burns (Zelda), Lottie Harrison (Abretha), Ernie Adams (Charlie), Jack Ingram (Kruger), Anthony Warde (Muller), John Merton (Joe Schultz), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Pesky), and Joe Devlin (Sgt. Tim Brown).


Brenda Starr, Reporter (1945, Wallace Fox), Chapter 1: Hot News!

Brenda Starr, Reporter is all action. Sure, there’s some scenes of lead Joan Woodbury sitting at her desk, but she’s just waiting to hear about more action.

The chapter starts with a building on fire. Woodbury and her photographer, Syd Saylor, drive out from the newspaper office, racing to get there faster than the cops. The cops are Kane Richmond and Joe Devlin. Richmond’s the good-looking one and Woodbury’s de facto love interest. Devlin’s the dopey comic relief. He and Saylor–Woodbury’s dopey comic relief–have a bet going on who gets to crime scenes faster, reporters or cops. It leads to some silliness around the burning building, which ought to be terrifying but isn’t.

Ande Lamb and George H. Plympton’s script has thin exposition and broad humor. About half the runtime is spent on mid-level villain George Meeker–there’s an unseen, unknown “Big Boss” who speaks to his thugs in paternal, private radio addresses. Woodbury and Richmond get the other half, with a little more time going to Woodbury.

Jack Ingram plays one of Meeker’s thugs. He doesn’t like Woodbury snooping.

Hot News moves pretty well. Woodbury keeps a straight-face through Saylor’s nonsense, which doesn’t work for the humor but does make Woodbury more sympathetic.

It’s okay. Nothing particularly great (or even good), but nothing concerning either.

Fox’s direction could be a bit more lively, however. And Ira H. Morgan’s photography is a bore.

CREDITS

Directed by Wallace Fox; screenplay by Ande Lamb and George H. Plympton, based on the comic strip by Dale Messick; director of photography, Ira H. Morgan; edited by Charles Henkel Jr.; music by Edward J. Kay; produced by Sam Katzman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Joan Woodbury (Brenda Starr), Kane Richmond (Lt. Larry Farrell), Syd Saylor (Chuck Allen), George Meeker (Frank Smith), Wheeler Oakman (Heller), Cay Forester (Vera Harvey), Marion Burns (Zelda), Lottie Harrison (Abretha), Ernie Adams (Charlie), Jack Ingram (Kruger), Anthony Warde (Muller), John Merton (Joe Schultz), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Pesky), and Joe Devlin (Sgt. Tim Brown).


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