1938’s The Lady Vanishes for the Hitchcock Blogathon

My post today is for the Third Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Films.  Please visit Maddy’s site and read other great posts written by Hitchcock fans and classic movie fans! I love a mystery movie with a good, suspenseful plot, great acting, and at the end of it all, glad that I spent the time given to watching it.  About 5 years ago while perusing TCM’s monthly schedule, I noticed an Alfred Hitchcock film that I had never heard of before, 1938’s The Lady Vanishes, so I recorded it and viewed it and it fit into my category of movies that I absolutely love.This film was director Alfred Hitchcock’s last film to make in his native England before he sailed across the pond to begin making films in Hollywood.  Set in 1938 Europe, mainly aboard a train, with a bit of some eccentric travelers, the story’s heroine sets out to prove herself right about another passenger who mysteriously vanishes.

Iris Henderson(Margaret Lockwood) has been on a European holiday but has to head back to England via a train, her fiance awaiting her there.  Due to an avalanche covering an area of the train tracks, the passengers have to disembark and spend the night at an Inn.  Among the fellow passengers is an elderly, retired governess, Miss Froy(Dame May Whitty), two rabid cricket enthusiasts Charters(Basil Radford) and Caldicott( Naunton Wayne), a music professor Gilbert Redman(Michael Redgrave), a businessman and his mistress, Mr. Todhunter(Cecil Parker) “Mrs.” Todhunter(Linden Travers), and a gentlemanly Dr. Hartz(Paul Lukas).  At the Inn, Iris befriends Miss Froy, is irritated by the music professor and his loud folk music, and is accidentally hit on the head by a falling flowerpot-ouch! Could that flowerpot have been meant for one of the other travelers?

Margaret Lockwood(Iris) looking over the script with director, Alfred Hitchcock.

Iris having a toast with her friends before her departure for England.

The next day dawns, the tracks are cleared, and it’s all aboard for the trip to England.  The first 30 minutes or so of this movie is more of a comedic tinged portrayal of mostly British travelers just wanting to get back to jolly old England and frustrated by the avalanche, by the Inn, etc.  However, once the journey really begins, so does the mystery and a sinister air.  Iris spends part of the trip having a lovely visit with Miss Froy and they share tea together. After Iris takes a nap, she can’t find Miss Froy and other passengers claim they haven’t seen an elderly lady aboard the train!  Did Iris dream Miss Froy up?  Could this be a reaction from the hard hit on the head?  Iris won’t accept the other passengers words and is determined to find Miss Froy.  She is able to convince the music professor, Gilbert, to help her in her quest and it doesn’t hurt that he’s pretty handsome, and that she is pretty beautiful-sorry fiance in England!  I can’t divulge too much more about the plot, but a nun(Catherine Lacey) will be involved, a musical tune, and the cricket obsessed travelers, the adulterous businessman and his mistress-all will join forces for the good with Iris and Gilbert.  Dr. Hartz? Not as gentlemanly as we first assume-watch out for him!

THE LADY VANISHES, Dame May Whitty, Margaret Lockwood, 1938, meeting on a train.

Iris asking other passengers if they have seen Miss Froy.

Gilbert and Iris need to be very wary of Dr. Hartz!

The intrepid British travelers, on the side of good.

Yes, Hitchcock makes his cameo in the film so be on the lookout for him.  The Lady Vanishes was based on the 1936 book The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White, and the screenplay was written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder.  It has been ranked as the 35th best British film by the British Film Institute.  TCM airs it from time to time and it will air on April 19th at 11:15 p.m. eastern time/10:15 p.m. central time.  Be sure to tune in for a great Hitchcock film, before he took his career West!

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Made in 1938 Blogathon: The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse

As I’ve been wanting to jump back into blogging on a more regular basis, I decided that  signing up to participate in blogathons would be a good way to accomplish this goal of mine in 2019.  Hence, my post for the great blogathon looking at films made in 1938, hosted by Crystal and Robin, at their respective sites: In The Good Old Days of Hollywood and Pop Culture Reverie.  Be sure to visit their sites to read more great posts by other classic movie fans/bloggers!  

Turner Classic Movies often airs The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, and for quite a few years, I’d see it in the schedule and think, “meh”, passing it by and not tuning in to see it, nor recording it.  2018 rolled into view, and when I saw the movie was showing again I decided to finally watch it.  I am very glad that I did as it is a very good film and certainly didn’t deserve my “meh” attitude about it!

What a strong cast this film has! Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor, Humphrey Bogart(before he was a big name), Allen Jenkins, John Litel, Donald Crisp, Henry O’Neill, Gale Page, Maxie Rosenbloom, and a bit part for Ward Bond.  Directed by Anatole Litvak with a script helmed by John Wexley and John Huston(yes, that John Huston).  Warner Brothers crafted a fine film, originally based on a play that was a  hit in London, starring Sir Cedric Hardwicke(before he was a Sir.)

Edward G. is Dr. Clitterhouse, a doctor to the wealthy of NYC.  He has done well for himself financially, has a thriving practice, yet he has a fascination with criminals-what makes them tick? Why do they commit crimes? His fascination with these people is bordering on obsession.  In order to learn more about criminals, he decides to commit crimes himself(not too wise, but then there’d be no play or film if he stayed on the side of right!) specifically  jewelry robberies.  He records how he feels physically after each burglary-blood pressure, heart rate, etc.  but wishes to have a larger pool of criminals to study than just himself.

Through his friend, Inspector Lane(Donald Crisp) he finds out that the biggest dealer of stolen jewelry in NYC is one Joe Keller.  Dr. Clitterhouse make an appointment with Joe, not revealing who he really is at their meeting.  Dr. Clitterhouse is pleasantly surprised when he discovers that Joe is a “Jo”(Claire Trevor) and there is an instant attraction between the two.  The doctor tells Jo that he is a Professor who wants to be in on the gang’s activities, he has ideas how to run the jewel robbing enterprise so Jo agrees to letting him join the gang.  Dr. Clitterhouse tells his nurse(Gale Page) that he is taking a 6 weeks vacation to cover for his real activities with the gang.

Edward G. Robinson (Dr. T.S. Clitterhouse) is fascinated with the working of the criminal mind. He joins a gang of crooks headed by Humphrey Bogart (Rocks Valentine) for whom Clitterhouse masterminds a series of heists. With Maxie Rosenbloom (Butch) and Claire Trevor (Jo Keller).

The leader of the jewel robbers is Rocks Valentine(Humphrey Bogart) and he is immediately suspicious of the Professor, notices how Jo seems enamored with the Professor, which adds jealousy to Rock’s emotional mix, and he becomes resentful how the rest of the gang is ready to adopt the Professor’s new ideas.

Rocks has had it with the Professor!!!

This film has a great love triangle, subterfuge, double-crosses, and the ultimate crime, murder.  I am not going to reveal any more of the plot as I want you, dear reader, to find this film and view it for yourself.  It really is a good  crime tale with a twist ending, too.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, TCM does air this film quite a bit, so keep a check on their schedule and catch it then.  It was on Amazon Prime for instant view but is now only available there to purchase on dvd, and on Youtube there are several trailers for the film, and a recording of the film as a radio show.

 

 

Caption for image 2 of this post is credited to GoneMovie.com

The Versatile Blogger Award!

On November 29th I received a lovely surprise from two fellow classic movie fans and bloggers, the two delightful sisters at the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.  Tiffany and Rebekah Brannon had nominated me and 14 other bloggers whom they enjoy reading, for The Versatile Blogger Award!  I swiftly sent the ladies a thank you, and agreed to be a guest blogger for them in April, writing a post for their site.  I did tell them that since I was in the midst of grading myriads of 7 year olds’ school assignments, making reports for administration, and trying to keep a house picked up and readied for the holiday, that I wouldn’t be able to properly respond to my “award” until Christmas break.  It is now December 26th, so here is my response to this nice award.   

 

When one receives the Versatile Blogger Award, one has a few things to do upon receiving the honor:

  1. Thank the blogger(s) that nominated you.
  2.  Post a link to the nominating blog on your site.
  3. List 7 things about yourself.
  4. Nominate your 15 Versatile Blogger Award winners.

Seven Things About Me

  1.  Born and raised in Defiance, OH.
  2.  Graduate of Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH.  Elementary Education.
  3.  Married my high school sweetheart and his first engineering job took us to SC and his second one took us to MO where we’ve lived since 1993.
  4. This past June, hubby and I celebrated our 30th Wedding anniversary!
  5.  Mom to seven kids, although majority of them are adults now! Ranging in ages 27 down to 15.
  6. Teaching again after a long hiatus due to being a stay-at-home-mom.
  7. March of this past year I was fortunate to travel to Thailand! A unique country that deserves a blog post about my time there.

 

My Nominees

The following are classic film fans and bloggers who enjoy sharing their observations on classic films they have seen.  Needless to say, I admire their posts, their writing skills, and their opinions on the films they write about. In no particular order, here are my nominees:

  1. Colin at Ride the High Country
  2. Crystal at In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood
  3.  Theresa at Cinemaven’s ESSAYS from the COUCH
  4. Mike at Mike’s Take on the Movies 
  5. MovieMovieBlogBlog
  6. Debbie at Moon in Gemini
  7. Kristina at Speakeasy
  8. Maddy at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films
  9.  Grand Old Movies
  10. Fritzi at Movies Silently
  11. Vienna at Vienna’s Classic Hollywood
  12. John at Twenty Four Frames
  13. Aurora at Once Upon a Screen
  14. Jessica at Comet Over Hollywood
  15. Cameron at The Blonde at the Film

Please take time this holiday break to visit these bloggers’ sites for excellent posts about classic films, plots, actors, actresses, directors, music, costumes, you name it, they write about it!

 

 

 

1997’s Titanic for The Greatest Film I’ve Never Seen Blogathon

I know that 1997’s Titanic was a film that several of my husband’s nieces saw over and over and over again.  I know that the film was directed by James Cameron.  I know that it starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.   I know that Celine Dion sang the hit song for the movie, “My Heart Will Go On“, and that it won an Oscar for Best Song in 1998.  I also know that the elderly lady in the film was played by Gloria Stewart, an actress from the early 1930s, who played The Invisible Man’s fiancee in that 1933 film.   Those facts are about all I know of this film as I’ve never watched it.

Being a fan of classic movies, I admit that I am a bit of a snob if a film was made after 1969.   I also confess that if a film comes out today, I am likely to wait until it is available to rent on dvd or via a streaming service instead of going to the theatre to see it.  So, when Cameron’s monster hit arrived in theatres across the US in 1997, I decided to wait and see it via renting it.  However, at the time of the film arriving on dvd,  I was just too busy raising 3 kids, ages 6, 4, 2 and another one due in February of ’98 so viewing the film was put to the back burner of my life.

I am also not ignorant as to what happened on April 15, 1912.  That is the date that the luxury ocean liner hit an iceberg and sank in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, on it’s maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City.   Also, having lived in Missouri since 1993, I have heard about Molly Brown, the subject of the musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown, she being the feisty lady born in Hannibal, MO,  who became rich due to mining and survived the Titanic, doing all she could to help other passengers into the lifeboat that she was on.

Hollywood and Great Britain have actually produced two other movies about the Titanic’s sinking and those I have seen.  1953’s Titanic and 1958’s A Night to Remember.     I do recommend both movies that depict the tragedy in two different ways.

 

 

1953’s Titanic was made by 20th Century Fox.  Jean Negulesco directed and he had an excellent cast to work with: Barbara Stanwyck, Clifton Webb, Robert Wagner, Audrey Dalton, Thelma Ritter, Brian Aherne, and Richard Basehart. The plot of this film revolves around an unhappy wife, Julia(Barbara Stanwyck) who secretly buys passage on the Titanic for herself, and her two teenage children.  Julia is tired of living as an expatriate American and wants to move her children to her hometown of Mackinac, MI.  Julia’s husband Richard(Clifton Webb) finds out what she has done, and rushes to the ship, managing to buy a steerage-class ticket and gets on board.  He finds his wife and despite his efforts at reconciliation, the marriage looks to be truly broken.  There is a side plot, where the bitter couple’s teen daughter Annette(Audrey Dalton) falls in love with college student Giff Rogers(Robert Wagner) on board the ship. Thelma Ritter portrays a Molly Brown like matron, Brian Aherne is  the Titanic’s  captain, E.J. Smith, and Richard Basehart portrays a recently defrocked priest, George Healey, alchoholism being the reason he has lost his priestly duties.  Near the finality of the tragic event, forgiveness and love win out, bravery and courage are on full display, and I can sum up that it is a very moving film.

 

1958’s A Night to Remember, was made by The Rank Organization with Paramount Pictures taking on the US distribution of the film.  Directed by Roy Ward Baker, and with a very good cast to work with: Kenneth More, Honor Blackman(Goldfinger, The Avengers) Ronald Allen, Robery Ayres, Anthony Bushell,  John Cairney, and David McCallum(Man From U.N.C.L.E., NCIS), among others.

A Night to Remember was based upon a screenplay that was written by Eric Ambler, based upon the book Titanic by Walter Lord.  The film is very much told in the docudrama format and it follows with excellent detail the actual happenings on board the ship before it finally sank; the details as to what the employees of the ship were doing pertaining to their jobs on that fateful night.  The producers asked and found cooperative survivors of the Titanic disaster who agreed to be consultants on the film.  For some reason, the film didn’t do as well at the box office however, critics praised it.  I watched it and found it compelling and a film where the viewer will be thinking “if only” as there were so many of those during this event.  For example, if only the nearby ship, The Californian‘s radio operator had been on duty to receive the distress call from the Titanic, how many more lives could have been saved?

With a nice Christmas break approaching, I do plan to find Leo and Kate, and watch the film, finally!  If you are interested, Turner Classic Movies will be airing the 1953 Titanic on December 29th.  They have aired A Night to Remember in the past, so you’ll just have to be intrepid and search the monthly schedules to see if they’ll be airing it in 2019.   Be sure to visit Moon in Gemini for other great posts about films not seen before by classic movie bloggers.

For the Claude Rains Blogathon: 1947’s The Unsuspected

Claude Rains could do no wrong, in my opinion, as an actor.  Whether he was playing the lead or a supporting character, as soon as his presence appeared  on the screen, one could be sure they were going to see a quality performance.  To honor the actor, who began his career on the English stage in 1899 as a child of ten, running on stage to be in a  crowd scene,  The Pure Entertainment Preservation Society decided to honor Rains on his November 10th birthday with a three day blogathon. Be sure to visit their blog’s site and read the other great pieces about Claude Rains.  I am pleased to be a part of this tribute and have chosen to write about Rains’s performance in 1947’s

The Unsuspected.   

The cast, and a solid cast too, working with Rains in this film: Audrey Totter, Constance Bennett, Hurd Hatfield, Joan Caulfield, Ted North, Fred Clark, Harry Lewis, Jack Lambert, and Ray Walker.  Directed by Michael Curtiz, screenplay by Curtiz’s wife, Bess Meredyth and Ranald MacDougall.  The film was based on a novel written by Charlotte Armstrong.  Warner Brothers Studios earned a nice sum from the release of the film.  

Rains plays Victor Grandison, the popular radio host of a “true crimes” radio show.  One evening in Victor’s home, his secretary Roslyn’s body is found hanging from a chandelier.  Suicide is what the police suspect and all who knew Roslyn are in shock.  A couple weeks later, Victor’s niece Althea(Audrey Totter) is throwing him a birthday party and a new shock arrives at the party in the form of one Steven Howard(Ted North).  Howard claims to be the husband of niece Matilda, who is presumed dead!  Matilda was involved in a boating accident while on vacation and her body was never found.  The length of time for a possible deceased person to re-appear alive is waning and Matilda’s share of the estate was to go back to her Uncle Victor.  Now that this Howard fellow has appeared claiming to be Matilda’s husband, he could fight for her share of the estate!  What a way to ruin Victor’s birthday party!

Poor Roslyn! The secretary is about to be murdered!

Althea’s drunk husband Oliver, Steven, and Jane, Victor’s manager-good to see Constance Bennett in this film. She was a star in the early 1930s.

Can Matilda trust her Uncle Victor?

Is Matilda starting to remember who Steven is?

Victor asks police detective Donovan(Fred Clark) to investigate Howard, who frustratingly seems to know all about Victor, Althea, and the rest of Matilda’s family.  Huge plot twist when Matilda re-appears!  Unfortunately for Howard, she has no memory of who he is and no memory of marrying him!  Without giving away a lot of the film’s plot, I will say that Howard has a reason to appear when he does into the Grandison Family’s lives, Althea and her husband Oliver(Hurd Hatfield) aren’t the idyllic couple, and Victor Grandison has an evil heart and mind.

Rains is great in this role.  With his rich and distinct voice, he’s perfect as a radio show host.  With his two nieces, he is caring towards them one moment, but then cunning and scheming, an uncle they need to respect and be wary of all the time.  Rain’s Grandison is ultimately only concerned with himself but is so polite and mannerly, it is a character trait that he can use in order to get his way in a lot situations.

The Unsuspected  is available to purchase through TCM’s Shop.

From time to time TCM airs this film so keep your eyes on the lookout via the station’s monthly schedule.  Here is a great trailer that I found on Youtube, that would have been used to advertise it to the filmgoers in 1947.

This has been fun for me to re-enter my hobby of blogging about classic films.  I took a hiatus in order to re-enter my career field of teaching.  I taught school eons ago, 1987-1991, then took a number of years off to be a stay-at-home mom to a lot of kids, 7 specifically.  When the youngest turned 12, hubby gently suggested I go back to my career and I agreed, it was time to return to the classroom.  So, while substitute teaching and working one year as a para, I had to take a few college classes, a teacher’s exam, and apply for a Missouri state teaching certificate.  With my certificate in hand, in early August I was offered a teaching spot at an elementary school and it is wonderful to be teaching full-time once again.   Hopefully I will be able to balance work and blogging with ease!

Ida Lupino Centenary Blogathon: 1947’s Deep Valley

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is the blogging site for Maddy, a classic movie fan.  When I saw she was hosting a blogathon set for today, I asked to participate and she kindly accepted my request.  Maddy was wanting to honor an actress who also directed for tv shows and movies, Ida Lupino.  Be sure to visit Maddy’s blog site to read more excellent posts about Ida Lupino and her career.

I didn’t pay much attention to old movies when I was a kid.  Sure I enjoyed watching reruns of  The Three Stooges, The Little Rascals on tv afterschool,  and late on Saturday nights one of the tv stations I could access would air the old Flash Gordon serial.   When I was a college student, one summer, the PBS station out of Toledo, OH (Channel 30, I think?) would air old movies beginning at 1:00, M-F.  I began tuning in and that is where I first met Ida Lupino, in a drama that whet my appetite for more of these old movies.  I credit Lupino’s performance in this film with giving me a reason to begin to try and find more old movies, turning me into a classic film fan.   The Ida Lupino movie was Deep Valley made at Warner Brothers Studio hitting American movie theaters in 1947.

Deep Valley was based on a novel written by Dan Totheroh.  The novel sold well enough with the reading public for Warner Brothers to take notice and acquire the rights to turn the novel into a film.  Jean Negulescu was hired to direct, Salka Viertel, Stephen Morehouse Avery, and William Faulkner(yes, that William Faulkner!), were the screenwriters.  The soaring music was by none other than Max Steiner.  Cast: Ida Lupino, Dane Clark, Wayne Morris, Fay Bainter, Henry Hull, Willard Robertson.

Lupino plays Libby Saul, a young woman who lives with her parents north of Big Sur, California.  Libbie and her parents(Fay Bainter, Henry Hull) are pretty isolated, working their small farm to make a living.  We assume Libbie is a high school graduate but she doesn’t leave the farm for a job in any town that may be nearby, and she’s certainly not enrolled in any college.  She is the “wall” between her parents.  For some reason, her parents won’t communicate with each other and use Libbie as their communication method.  Married, but in name only, it’s a miserable home to live in and to get away from this choking, negative environment, Libbie often likes to roam the nearby woods and a deep valley with her dog.

Libbie dealing with her parents

Libbie seeking solace in the valley

A highway construction engineer and his crew of workers, prisoners from San Quentin, come to the area near the Saul’s farm, to continue working on a state road project.  Libbie can watch the men working from the woods, and she notices one convict, Barry Burnette(Dane Clark).  The engineer, Jed Barker(Wayne Morris) and the convicts come to the Saul’s farm one day to ask for water.  Libbie’s father, at first seeing a chance to make some money, agrees to sell the men water.  As Barker decides to walk away from this ridiculous offer, Saul changes his mind and lets them have the water for free.  Noticing how Barker notices Libbie, Saul invites the engineer to their home for dinner.  It is soon obvious that the Sauls want Libbie to strike up a relationship with Barker that will lead to  marriage.  Libbie is very shy, but does notice Barker’s kindness towards her.  However, at the dinner, she asks Barker questions about the convict Barry.  As the story picks up some speed, Libbie does meet Barry, they fall in love, and to find out the rest of this film, you’ll have to seek it out!

Engineer Barker is attracted to Libbie

Some questions for you to ponder though: Will Libbie and Barry be able to be together? Barry does escape from the work gang(spoiler) so will Libbie help him? What of Barker, will he be able to convince Libbie to give up on Barry?  Will the Saul’s find a way to renew their marriage? Will Libbie ever find a happier existance?

Libbie and Barry, the prisoner

Ida Lupino’s performance is what held me entranced as I watched this movie for the first time in the mid-1980s.  She absolutely makes one care about Libbie; sad, shy, simple Libbie.  You root for her in her search for love, search for a better life than the one she has on that farm.  Her performance touched me deeply and I still remember that aspect of her acting to this day.  I truly feel I owe it to Ida Lupino for my becoming a fan of classic films.

Publicity still of Lupino, the dog, and Clark from Deep Valley

Deep Valley is available to purchase via Amazon or TCM’s Shop.  If your local library offers dvds to rent, or if your community’s local movie rental store has a decent classic film area, it may be there. 

 

 

 

For the 1961 Blogathon: The Hoodlum Priest

Classic Film Fan(and Jane Russell fan) Moviemovieblogblog celebrated his birthday yesterday, April 27th.  He decided that a fun way to celebrate this year was to host a blogathon entirely dedicated to movies made his birth year of 1961.  As it happened, on my dvr list was a movie made in 1961 , The Hoodlum Priest.  I contacted my blogathon host and he said yes, write about that film! So, here it is, and fascinatingly to me, it was filmed in St. Louis!!    

Actor Don Murray was in St. Louis in 1959 to help promote a film he had starred in with James Cagney, Shake Hands With the Devil, when a priest approached him at the film’s screening to tell him of another compelling story Murray may want to tell.  The priest, Father Charles Clark, met with Murray the next day and told the story of his life as a priest. Father Clark was a Jesuit who taught at St. Louis University High School, but his real calling was reaching out to ex-cons and trying to get them back into society as successful citizens.  Father Clark had a plan, and with the backing of a St. Louis criminal defense lawyer, a foundation had been formed and Father Clark had been able to bid on a former St. Louis elementary school that was vacant on Cole Street.  Father Clark’s vision was to fully rehab the school and turn it into a home for ex-cons to live at as they learned job skills, received counseling, meals, and clothing.  An office would also be there for state parole officers.  The cons could live there until they were able to live on their own and away from the lure of returning to a criminal life.  What we today would call a “Halfway House”, this was Father Clark’s vision and if it could happen, it would be the first in the nation.  Father Clark told Murray that if a television story could be made and shown about the cons and Dismas House(Clark’s name for the house) that it would help bring in needed donations for the cause.  Murray was so entranced by Father Clark’s story that he decided to make a movie about Father Clark’s story.   After getting his pal Walter Wood to sign on as producer, and getting United Artist’s promise to fund the film if they liked the screenplay, Joseph Landon was hired to write the screenplay.  Murray  rewrote  the first screenplay himself under the pseudonym Don Deer.  When UA gave the greenlight to make the film,  Murray and Wood hired Irvin Kirshner to direct and Haskell Wexler as cinematographer.  Murray decided to make the film in St. Louis and to also shoot some scenes in Jefferson City at the state prison.

The film opens with a young man, Billy Lee Jackson(Keir Dullea) exiting the state prison in Jefferson City, catching the train to St. Louis, and being greeted by  hoodlum buddy Pio(Don Joslyn) who jumps on the train as it departs the train station.  Back in the Lou, Pio introduces Billy to Father Clark.  Father Clark is able to befriend Billy, who at first wants nothing to do with the priest or the church.  Father Clark is able to get Billy a job with a produce wholesaler market owned by the Marziotti family.  Father Clark also speaks at a socialite’s garden party in an effort to raise funds for Dismas House and since Billy attends the event as an example of Father Clark’s work, Billy meets the hostess’s lovely daughter, Ellen(Cindi Wood), and they soon begin dating.  All looks right with Billy’s life as he begins to re-enter society until money turns up missing at the Marziotti’s business.  Billy is wrongly accused and fired from his job.  Angered, he and Pio decide to rob the business.  Spoilers: Billy and Pio are confronted by one of the Marziotti brothers, and as the man tries to attack them with a crowbar, Billy shoots him and kills him.  After a chase by the police and a stand-off in an abandoned house, Father Clark is able to convince Billy to give himself up.  Tried in court and found guilty of murder, Billy receives the death penalty.  Father Clark visits Billy in the prison and is there with him until the end of his life via the gas chamber.  Depressed, Father Clark returns to St. Louis and Dismas House, to find a drunken Pio, who trashes a room in the house before collapsing and weakly admitting he needs help.

Billy’s first meeting with Father Clark

Billy in the gas chamber

The real Father Clark helping Murray with his collar

Dismas House in 1961

A short film yet told in a powerful way, especially the last moments of Billy’s life, The Hoodlum Priest is an interesting film.  United Artists assumed they had bankrolled Murray enough money to make a B movie, but as the film went over its originally set schedule, and needed more money, and dealt with a typical hot and humid Missouri summer, and an accidentally injured Keir Dullea, and extra costs due to a St. Louis union muscling its way in for jobs  for more crew workers not really needed, Murray was despairing over his first time as a movie maker.  However, at the first full-screening only for UA executives in NYC, the little film brought tears to their eyes and they knew this was no longer a B movie but an A.  Indeed, in 1961, The Hoodlum Priest, was hailed by critics and made many top ten film lists for 1961.

For many, it is an obscure film but it shouldn’t be that way.  Seek it out and give it a view.  Having lived in St. Louis County, specifically Florissant, for almost 20 years, I was especially delighted that the majority of the movie had been shot in St. Louis.  Incidentally, I was curious about the name “Dismas” and according to church legend, he was the criminal crucified next to Jesus who scolded the other criminal who insulted Jesus, asking Jesus to remember him when he died; Jesus answering Dismas that he would be with him in paradise.

For more information about this film, and to give credit to it as a source for providing research for this blog post, please visit this article from The Riverfront Times.