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Mystery & Crime Series 30's & 40's

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Mysto, Apr 10, 2018.

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  1. Suzanne.S

    Suzanne.S Stunt Coordinator

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    I've been reading and enjoying the thread. I've learned so much and added so many things to my future watch list. Keep up the great work everyone!
     
  2. Mysto

    Mysto Second Unit

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    Thanks Suzanne - Any time you watch one of these we'd love to hear your comments. No fancy review is necessary. Just I watched _____ and I ______ it. It's not a requirement, we just like having you here, but we do enjoy the sharing and others opinions.
     
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  3. Message #503 of 543 Oct 19, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2018
    Rustifer

    Rustifer Supporting Actor

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    There’s nothing more that Marv enjoys than someone walking across his yard. We’ll never tell you to get off the grass, Suzanne.
    If you see any bare spots, feel free to plant a few seeds of your own.
     
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  4. Rustifer

    Rustifer Supporting Actor

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    Oops— sorry about the ‘Marc’ handle, Marv. Didn’t get to it in time to edit before you weighed in. Fat-finger cocktail induced boo-boo.
     
  5. Message #505 of 543 Oct 20, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2018
    Mysto

    Mysto Second Unit

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    The Shadow
    [​IMG]
    Rod La Rocque

    The Shadow Strikes
    International Crime


    [​IMG]
    Kane Richmond

    The Shadow Returns
    Behind the Mask
    The Missing Lady


    [​IMG]
    Richard Derr

    Invisible Avenger

    [​IMG]
    Alec Baldwin

    The Shadow 1994

    The Shadow came to light from the prolific pen of Maxwell Grant (Walter Gibson). The radio broadcasts thrilled listeners with the character that could cloud men’s minds and appear to be invisible. Each week the radio would announce -



    The Shadow character, identity, abilities varied a bit from the magazines, the comics, and the radio broadcasts, but all were a huge commercial success.

    [​IMG]

    Why wouldn’t they be a success? After all the Shadow was the first American super hero. Our radio star had a superpower (the power to cloud men’s minds – and become apparently invisible), he wore a black cape, scarf mask, and a cool slouch hat to hide his real identity, and was an anti-hero (law enforcement wasn’t too happy about him). That’s a twofer, a bit of Superman and Batman rolled up into one. The Shadow Magazine started in 1931 and the radio program in 1937. Superman didn’t appear until 1938 and Batman until 1939.

    [​IMG]

    Later he got a main squeeze, Margo Lane. She is one of the very few that knows his secret identity. Most people just know him as playboy millionaire Lamont Cranston. What a set up. You know the movies have to be a big success…not. This is not my Shadow. The movies are terrible. They ignore all the things that made him a success on radio. In some, he does run around occasionally in a black cape but he is just mostly a detective. Where is his ability to cloud men’s minds? These movies are not even close to our beloved Shadow and it shows. Boring stories, with little action and plot. There was a serial that had a bit more action but the only person that could disappear was the bad guy. At least it was somewhat entertaining if not really the Shadow.


    The Shadow 1940 – Victor Jory - 15 Episodes

    In 1958 The Invisible Avenger was released from a hash up of a failed TV pilot. This Shadow (was he really the Shadow?) has special abilities (used at the wrong time) but the movie is so bad that it is laughable (and not in a good way).

    It is really sad that they screwed the movies up so badly. Done properly, The Shadow would probably be a major character in the public conciseness now. Maybe Marvel or D.C. would have picked it up and he might be part of the Avengers or even have his own movies. Well he did have one modern movie…



    I have to say it. Even though it was a flop at the box office the 1994 movie is the best movie of the Shadow extant. Yes, the plot meanders and is rushed in places, yes, there could be more action, yes, the special effects are not state of the art, yes they could have got someone beside Alec Baldwin to play the lead, but it is still, by far, the closest to the spirit of the Shadow and I think better than the ratings would indicate.

    Unfortunately by the time this came out the public, in general, had no idea who The Shadow was and I think that hurt it. (Same could be said of The Phantom movie) If you want to watch the 1994 movie, listen to a radio broadcast or two first. If you don’t want to watch the movie – listen to the radio broadcast anyway. Find a comfy chair – close your eyes and go back to being a 10 year old on a Sunday night where you are thrilled as Blue Coal presents: The Shadow… The weed of crime bears bitter fruit.



    The Shadow on the radio - The Man Who Murdered Time
    [​IMG]

    All of the vintage movies and the serial are available in varying quality from many sources and are on youtube.

    The 1994 Shadow is available on both DVD and Blu Ray

    Many radio broadcasts are available on youtube and on the web for both listening and downloading.
     
  6. Message #506 of 543 Oct 20, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2018
    Vic Pardo

    Vic Pardo Screenwriter

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    I watched BEHIND THE MASK (1946) on Amazon Prime on my kindle a couple of years ago. It was directed by Phil Karlson, who went on to become quite a good director of crime dramas and westerns, right up through WALKING TALL (1973). But this film is really terrible. Here's what I wrote about it in 2016:

     
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  7. Message #507 of 543 Oct 22, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2018
    Rustifer

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    "The Saint's Double Trouble" (RKO, 1940)

    I'm skipping over Marv's fine overview of "The Shadow" series above (although I'll get to commenting on it later) only to return to another Saint episode conveniently broadcast on TCM recently. George Sanders returns in his third outing as the droll rogue Simon Templar. If you like the character, you'll get a double dose of him here as a lookalike diamond smuggler.
    Simon ships a souvenir mummy to his good friend Egyptology Professor Bitts in Philadelphia, because that's just the perfect gift for friends to exchange. The professor is overwhelmed with joy at receiving a decaying body into his home, which is shared with his lovely daughter Anne (Helene Reynolds) who seems to harbor some sort of weird love/hate relationship with the Saint. It's never quite explained as to what causes her cattiness with Simon as it seems to be fairly gelatinous from scene to scene.

    upload_2018-10-22_10-9-48. upload_2018-10-22_10-10-24. upload_2018-10-22_10-11-38.

    The Saint's double, crook Duke Bates (aka "the Boss"), shows up at the professor's house to excavate the mummy's dusty guts for smuggled jewels, thus introducing the plot's confusing and continuing puzzle of which Saint is which. It quickly get tiring. Unlike previous episodes, Sanders lacks his usual snide attitude, pretty much sucking the all the fun out of this particular episode. The few comedic antics are supplied by the Boss' sidekicks Monk and Limpy, whose combined acumen is almost equal to that of celery.
    'Limpy' ambulates as if afflicted with a severe case of adult diaper rash while 'Monk' is taken to muttering such conversational spackling as, "the Boss seems to be sufferin' from hallelujah hallucinations..."
    For inexplicable reasons, NY police detective Henry Fernack (Jonathon Hale) shows up in Philly in his usual role as an unwilling supporter of the Saint's antics, and is about as useful as a self-appointed inspector of snowflakes.

    What follows is a ping pong plot forcing us to decipher which is the good vs. bad Saint at any given moment. The mummy and diamond smuggling ingredients are simply dull seasonings to the story's soup of continuous mistaken identification. Poor Professor Bitts gets murdered and the Saint is blamed and jailed--but by this time, we don't give a damn. Knowing full well that Simon Templar could charm the puff ball off a dandelion makes it a foregone conclusion that he'll easily escape from the trumped-up charge.

    These earlier Saint series unfortunately suffer from "B" film budgets that look as if they consist of purse change in total production costs, so no matter what city the story's escapade take place--it still looks like the studio's confining back lot. George Sander's nasally-delivered witticisms are the one saving grace of the series' scripting--which this entry sorely lacks. I watched it anyway, all the while thinking that a good sock sorting would have been time better spent.
     

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  8. Mysto

    Mysto Second Unit

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    Good Job! Your mummy is in the mail.
     
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  9. criblecoblis

    criblecoblis Second Unit
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    Excellent point, Brian. I thought of his Ghost Breakers role too. Best may have started out in films playing heavily stereotyped roles, but they don't typify or characterize his career.
     
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  10. Rustifer

    Rustifer Supporting Actor

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    I wait...and I wait...but still no mummy has arrived, Marv. A boy needs his mummy.

    I meant to add a notation to my last commentary on the Saint flick, but the EDIT window has closed me off. So I'll stick it here:
    Bela Lugosi was also in the cast as a thug, but the part had no teeth (*snort*).
     
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  11. Message #511 of 543 Oct 27, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2018
    Mysto

    Mysto Second Unit

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    Inner Sanctum
    [​IMG]
    Lon Chaney Jr.

    Calling Dr. Death
    Weird Woman
    Dead Man's Eyes
    The Frozen Ghost
    Strange Confession
    Pillow of Death


    The Whistler
    [​IMG]
    Richard Dix

    The Whistler
    The Mark of the Whistler
    The Power of the Whistler
    Voice of the Whistler
    Mysterious Intruder
    The Secret of the Whistler
    The Thirteenth Hour


    [​IMG]
    Michael Duane

    The Return of the Whistler

    It’s 1940 and after a hard day of work you went home and for relaxation enjoyed the theater of the mind. Yes, you watched the… radio. A lot of wonderful choices with your favorite stars voicing drama, variety, comedy and,of course, mystery. Many programs had loyal followers that would tune in same time, same night (kinda like we do now). It’s no wonder that Hollywood felt that those listeners would enjoy seeing their favorites come to life on the big screen. Many of our offerings in this thread came to be in just that way including these two. That’s right a twofer. This time we are going to discuss two different series in one summary.

    [​IMG]

    Both of these series are a little different from our usual offerings. They are a series but an anthology series. Each movie is unique unto itself with the only connection being the star - in the case of our first presentation, Inner Sanctum, it’s Lon Chaney Jr. This series is, of course, based on the then popular radio program of the same name. Each week your host Raymond would open the creaking door and invite you be scared out of your wits.

    [​IMG]
    The radio broadcast ran from 1941 until 1952 for a whopping 526 episodes. The stories would always have a weird, bizarre or supernatural bent and the movies closely followed the radio format. The first being about hypnotism, the second, voodoo, the third, an eyeball transplant… you get the idea.

    [​IMG]
    I’m not a huge Lon Chaney Jr. fan. I easily tire of his whiney tortured soul persona (remember the wolf man) but these are still pretty solid entries in the genre. Check one out. If you like it, you’ll probably like them all.

    [​IMG]
    “I am the Whistler and I know many things, for I walk by night.” This radio program ran from 1942 through the 50’s all the way to 1955. The translation to movies is very much in the film noir style. Each movie has narration by the Whistler (an uncredited Otto Forrest) a phantom like character. We hear him and sometimes see his shadow but who is he? An angel? The devil? He sets up each story and then tells us when fate intervened – somehow he knows. These are crime stories with each having an ironic twist in the tale. Again the only link between the stories is the Whistler radio format and the star – Richard Dix. (He starred in all but the last one as he retired from the series). These are fun stories perhaps even a little better than Inner Sanctum. Of interest is that four of the films were directed by William Castle so, for fans, this is a chance to see some of his earlier work. As I already said for Inner Sanctum, try one – if you like it you’ll probably like them all.

    Overall, both of these series are nice briskly paced programmers but unlike the others in this thread they don’t have that anchor of a re-occurring character. These are individual movies, each standing on its own, but they can make a nice diversion and enjoyable viewing.


    Inner Sanctum is available on DVD both singularly or as a set in pretty good quality.

    The Whistler series is available on individual DVDs from Sony Choice in nice quality but are a little pricey. There is also a collection of the set that appears to be pd copies on Amazon.

    Most of these titles are also available on youtube
     
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  12. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
    Reviewer

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    I've never seen either series though I've heard about them for a long time and have always been curious without exploring further. I should do that.
     
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  13. Message #513 of 543 Oct 27, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2018
    Vic Pardo

    Vic Pardo Screenwriter

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    Back in 2011, when I bought the Inner Sanctum six-film box set for $5, I watched all the films and did a writeup on the set for Amazon.com.

    Here is what I wrote then:

    Six unusual “horrors” from Universal’s studio assembly line

    I managed to watch all six films in this set over the course of a three-day weekend and was surprised at how different each of them was from the others. There were similarities in the way star Lon Chaney Jr. played each of his roles, of course, but the roles were all different from each other and the plots didn’t follow a set formula. Although the series was adapted from the “Inner Sanctum” radio program, only the first of the series seemed like it would have played better on radio. In each film, Chaney plays a man of means who is suffering from some inner torment and wracked with self-doubt, all a variation on his signature role of Lawrence Talbot, an English heir who transformed into the title character of THE WOLF MAN (1941). He’s quite intense and can be physically rough on his co-stars. Yet at the same time, he’s usually the object of affection of two or more women in the films. Chaney was never a romantic leading man, so it’s odd and rather puzzling to see so many attractive leading ladies throw themselves at him. All six were marketed as horror films, although the horror elements are pretty mild, when they’re present at all. These were B-movies and are pretty short in length, ranging from 61-66 minutes each.

    CALLING DR. DEATH (1943) features Chaney as a neurologist who wakes up one morning in his office with no memory of what happened on the previous two days, no alibi and the sobering news that his cheating wife has been murdered. His loyal nurse, played by Patricia Morison, tries to protect him, but a tenacious police inspector (J. Carrol Naish) dogs him at every turn. Not a lot actually happens onscreen, since so much of the action occurs in dialogue and interior voiceover monologues, like a radio show. But the plot is very much like a Cornell Woolrich novel and the dark, expressionistic lighting is very much in the film noir mode, a full year before PHANTOM LADY (1944) emerged as the first true film noir production of a Woolrich novel. Morison is quite striking in her role.

    WEIRD WOMAN (1944): Chaney plays a college professor identified as an “ethnologist” who brings a new bride (Anne Gwynne) from “the islands” back to the campus, incurring the jealous wrath of the library administrator (Evelyn Ankers) whom he’d once dated. He recruits a gorgeous young college girl (Lois Collier) to be his research assistant and she falls for him as well. Interesting look at campus politics, something rarely shown in classic Hollywood films, with one subplot dealing with a rival professor (Ralph Morgan) whose latest book has plagiarized the long-forgotten thesis of a dead student. Chaney’s involved in two incidents that would have gotten him suspended from a modern campus. In one, he beats up the jealous boyfriend of his research assistant and throws him out of his office. In the other, he’s accused of taking advantage of the college girl and the Dean of Women gets Chaney’s side of the story (which is, after all, the truth) and decides to brush it off. There are five interesting women characters, played by five colorful actresses and the screenplay, based on Fritz Leiber’s novel, “Conjure Wife,” was written by a woman (Brenda Weisberg).

    DEAD MAN’S EYES (1944) stars Chaney as a painter who loses his eyesight in an “accident” that may have been arranged on purpose by the young woman serving as his artist’s model (Acquanetta) who just happens to be jealous of his rich fiancée (Jean Parker). The fiancee’s father decrees that his eyes will be donated to Chaney upon his death, so when the father is found murdered, Chaney is the chief suspect. Paul Kelly plays Chaney’s psychiatrist buddy. Thomas Gomez plays the detective investigating the case. I have to say I was quite surprised by the denouement. The fourth best film in this bunch.

    THE FROZEN GHOST (1945) stars Chaney as a radio mentalist who suffers a crisis of conscience when a hypnotic subject dies on stage during his show. He makes the odd decision to leave his fiancée/assistant (Evelyn Ankers) and stay as a guest at Madame Monet’s Wax Museum, where Madame Monet (Tala Birell) shows interest in him, as does her cute teenage niece (Elena Verdugo)! A creepy ex-plastic surgeon (Martin Kosleck) who makes wax figures of notorious historical figures like Lady Macbeth and Attila the Hun also figures in the action. There’s a HOUSE OF WAX vibe that could have been developed with greater care and imagination, but it all gets silly in the final third and the whole thing falls apart. [Pictured below]

    STRANGE CONFESSION (1945) stars Chaney as a chemist who works for a pharmaceutical drug company and has to suffer in silence as his corrupt boss (a particularly smooth and oily J. Carrol Naish) takes the credit, glory and profit for Chaney’s wonder drugs. Naish’s dirty dealings include sending Chaney on a long trip to South America in search of botanical specimens for a new formula to fight influenza and then releasing the drug before it’s perfected and then wining and dining Chaney’s patient, beautiful wife (Brenda Joyce) while he’s gone. It all builds up to a gruesome revenge that must have tested the censors’ limits back then. As I watched it, I realized that this kind of story served as the template for nearly every revenge tale recreated in the EC Comics of the early 1950s, in such series as “Tales from the Crypt” and “Vault of Horror.”

    PILLOW OF DEATH (1945) is the oddest film in the set, starring Chaney as a lawyer in an unhappy marriage who’s in love with his secretary (Brenda Joyce, again) and is a suspect when his wife is found murdered. For some reason, the secretary’s set of peculiar relatives living in an old haunted mansion figure in the action along with a charlatan spiritualist named Julian Julian (J. Edward Bromberg). It gets a bit silly at times, but if you watch all six films in order, this one offers a surprise ending that completely breaks with the pattern set by the previous five. It’s worth watching just for that.

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. Mysto

    Mysto Second Unit

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    Thanks Brian - Well done.
     
  15. Message #515 of 543 Oct 28, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2018
    Rustifer

    Rustifer Supporting Actor

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    I swear, Marv, you are the master of this thread's genre! I never knew the background to most of thee serials until now. I always liked The Whistler with Richard Dix for its cozy William Castle noirishness.

    I plan to unleash another commentary on a Saint episode shortly (fair warning)--not that anyone is waiting on the edge of their seat.
    Speaking of whistling--a little trivia fact-- the odd whistle emitted by Simon Templar as his 'branding tune' was originally composed by the Saint's author Leslie Charteris, and later expanded by others for the movie and TV versions.
     
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  16. Mysto

    Mysto Second Unit

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    I am waiting with worms on my tongue (baited breath)
     
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  17. ponset

    ponset Second Unit

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  18. Message #518 of 543 Nov 3, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
    Mysto

    Mysto Second Unit

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    Frankie Darro & Mantan Moreland
    [​IMG]

    We’ve had a lot of series that came from novels and magazine stories and many that came from radio programs but here is one that is pure Hollywood and it didn’t even start as a series. In 1939 Monogram Pictures put out a film with Frankie Darro as an bellhop/ detective wannabe and Mantan Moreland the hotel janitor and reluctant helper.The pairing was so successful that it was continued 6 more times (five as mysteries)

    Each film is different with Frankie and Mantan having different minor jobs and different names, and even different reasons for getting involved in murders. Take a look:

    Irish Luck
    Buzzy O’Brien - Bellhop
    Jefferson - Janitor
    Chasing Trouble
    Jimmy O’Brien – Florist Delivery
    Thomas H. Jefferson – Florist Delivery (Driver)
    On the Spot
    Frankie “Doc” Kelly – Soda Jerk
    Jefferson White – Hotel Porter
    Up In the Air
    Frankie – Page Boy
    Jeff - Janitor
    You're Out of Luck
    Frankie O’Reilly – Elevator Operator
    Jeff Jefferson - Janitor
    The Gang's All Here
    Frankie O’Malley – Truck Driver
    Jefferson “Jeff” Smith - Truck Driver

    Differences aside, the similarities are so great that this has to be considered a series. Mysteries or crime thrillers, these are played for laughs and can get pretty silly. They are short programmers with only one getting out of the 5’s on IMDB (and I don’t think it’s the best one) but if you enjoy the chemistry of the two I think they can be a fun watch.

    One of the problems with this series is how one wants to approach them. Mantan plays the always jittery, cautious, yes sir, bulging google eyes approach, and has menial service jobs. So some complain that his roll is stereotypical and the films are racially insensitive.

    Perhaps, but I think that demeans Mr. Morland’s work and ignores important changes that were starting to occur with this series. Mantan got seventh billing in the first film but the pairing was so successful that Mantan moved up to third spot in the billing behind the female supporting lead. He was becoming a star.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    We're on the poster baby!

    In this series Mantan appears to be the same work/social status as Frankie so they are equals and even better…friends. I think these could be considered among the first black & white buddy pictures and we’re talking the late 1930’s. Frankie is fun as the perennial teenager and instigator and Mantan… well, Mantan is the cautious, reluctant Mantan, an unsung comedic treasure. Yes, there are a few cringe worthy moments (the blackface in Up In the Air comes to mind) but seeing Hollywood putting these guys, working together as friends, is really something considering the time they were made. I think the films created some Hollywood history and I’m willing to watch them in the context they deserve. You’ll have to make your own decisions.

    A clip from the previously "lost film" On the Spot

    If you think these may be for you, they are all available on DVD but are usually not that great in quality. (My copy of Chasing Trouble 1940 from Alpha has so many cuts I think the movie is half length – I’d love to see the ending complete if anyone knows of a better copy)

    All are on youtube and a couple are available on archive.org for download
     
  19. Message #519 of 543 Nov 3, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
    Mysto

    Mysto Second Unit

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    Russ and a few other guys in the 77 Sunset Strip regularly put extras after reviews. I enjoy the practice so I thought I'd try a short one.

    Mantan Moreland
    Born Sept 3, 1902

    [​IMG]

    Mantan Moreland entered show business in a circus minstrel sideshow when he was only 14. He earned his comedic “chops” playing the “Chitlin Circuit” (Black vaudeville). Mantan was famous for his “google eyes”(his nickname as a kid) and the “indefinite talk” or “incomplete speech” routines that he mostly performed with Benny Carter. According to Rotten Tomatoes the routine originated with Flournoy and Miller. You can see a bit of it with Mantan and Benny in The Scarlet Clue and Dark Alibi.



    Moreland entered films in 1936 but it was the Frankie Darro pairing that was his breakthrough.

    [​IMG]

    He is probably best know for his reoccurring role as Birmingham Brown in the Charlie Chan movies and it has been pointed out that he started as a chauffer in those movies but later was referred by Charlie as “my assistant”. Mantan was so popular in Charlie Chan that he got top billing when movie ads were run for the African American community.

    [​IMG]
    He didn't do so bad in white neighborhoods either. That's second billing above Victor Sen Young.

    He also appeared in some all black films as well.

    [​IMG]

    In the 50’s and 60’s racial equality came to the forefront of the public's conciseness and Mantan was shunned. The roles he had played were looked at as an embarrassment and he was unable to find work. He had a stroke in the 60’s and it looked like it was over but then he got a bit part in Spider Baby and was somewhat re-discovered.

    [​IMG]
    Mantan Moreland and Lon Chaney Jr.

    Mantan continued to play a few roles in movies and on TV until his death in 1973 at age 71

    ADDED: Here is a link to an interesting Mantan Moreland interview from 1957(Little did he know his career was coming to an abrupt end.) https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=EuElAAAAIBAJ&sjid=o_QFAAAAIBAJ&pg=5302,1131155
     
  20. Rustifer

    Rustifer Supporting Actor

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    Russ J.
    Great Hollywood history lesson, Marv! Not only had I never heard of this series, I never heard of the two main actors. Character racial unity had to have been singular in that era. Highly informative and interesting. Good job!
     

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