City of Missing Girls
Starring: John Archer, H.B. Warner, Astrid Allwyn
DIR: Elmer Clifton
Blurb: A string of mysterious deaths and disappearances of young women have all been traced to a drama school, where all the girls were students. The district attorney suspects the school may be a front for a prostitution ring and sets out to investigate it. After the D.A. is blackmailed into dropping the investigation, a female reporter decides to go undercover to learn the truth.
Warning: Because this is the second movie from the "50 Move Pack Night Screams" collection, there was no attempt at cleaning up the movie. It isn't in unwatchable shape, but it is a 1940's movie that has been beat up and faded throughout the past 70 years. I think I can get decent screenshots for this review, but you'll need to not expect HD Quality.
Scene 01: We pan across a city scape from a high rise (NY? L.A?). The pan continues a little disorientingly as we come to focus on a particular building with a view over the city.
Commentary: I always love to see a wide view of famous cities from the past, to see how things are different. This looks like it may be New York, or even Chicago, but I can't tell. It looks like a miasma of concrete crowded on top of itself, to me. I'm impressed with the attempt to take on this sort of sweeping shot at this time in movie making history, but the POV is tilted out of whack, and the swing over the cityscape actually gives me just a bit of vertigo.
Scene 02: We jump cut into a room, where we're focusing on a file cabinet marked "Missing Persons".
In the room is an older detective, Captain McVeigh and Officer Dugan. The Officer asks how long the Captain has been in the city, and he reports all of his life. He rhapsodizes poetically about the millions of thoughts that make up the city as he gazes out over it with affection.
Commentary: Alas, and I know this seems a bit petty - but it's distracting, Captain McVeigh speaks with a lisp on all of his 'S' sounds. And he has a lot of 'S' sounds. Every sentence ends up in a whistle. There is another slight problem with the Captain's alleged background: whereever this city is, it clearly takes place in America, and yet McVeigh seems to have those very distinct characteristics which marks him as British. This is ignored by the movie.
The Officer and he talk more about the Captain's interest in flowers and Dugan asks why he hasn't retired and gone on a trip to exotic places. McVeigh tells him it's too late for all of that sort of thing. He's got the city and policework in his blood. Officer Dugan is busily filing paperwork into the missing persons cabinet, when McVeigh notes the photo of one of the files.
He tells Dugan that the girl is no longer missing... she's been found, but not alive. He tells him that the case was passed onto James Horton.
Commentary: McVeigh gives the air of a man too wrapped up in his job to have any life outside of it. There is a melancholy and acceptance about it that I find to be good acting. He also mentions that he suspects he'll be on the job for his last moments, whichever way they end. I thought this was going to set up either his eventual on-camera death, or that he would find a new reason to live outside of the job - neither one of these comes to pass. It's just random character shading that doesn't mean anything to the story... pity.
Scene 03: We fade onto a newpaper headline which involves the missing girl being found. The article mentions that A.D.A. Horton believes the girl met with foul play.
We briefly fade closer to the paper, where we see that Horton is currently investigating dozens of missing girl cases.
Scene 04: In a diner, our harried A.D.A. is having breakfast, when he's joined by that scourge of the 1930s-1950s ... the sassy, brassy, investigative reporter/love interest. He complains to her about her article suggesting that he told her the latest missing girl was murdered, which he hadn't asked her to do. She immediately grabs a napkin and dictates to herself her next article, where she'll simply 'fix things' by claiming he has now strenously denied that there was a murder.
Obviously, that isn't any better since the young woman was a victim, so he snatches the napkin from Nora and crumples it up. She's smug and condenscending, but we're supposed to think of this as a cute meet. I take an immediate disliking to her.
They continue their argument about their roles as A.D.A. and reporter - he complaining that she's making his job more difficult and her admitting that if he won't share more information, then she just has to make it up herself, "that's my job" ... nice journalistic integrity, they had in the 40s.
They quarrel some more about her impeding his investigation by printing only half-confirmed "facts", while she tells him that she'd have more to write if McVeigh would get off his old rear end and find out what is going on. Horton defends McVeigh, she cutely ruins his coffee with a ton of sugar to "sweeten your disposition".
Scene 05: We leave them to their bickering, assured that they'll probably wind up together by the end of the film, to join our clearly boo-hiss villain. He's a 'talent scout' and gambling hall runner. His partner is with him and they're going through the latest receipts. The partner (who is also British) expresses surprise that he's advertised so blatantly for new girls, considering his semi-shady dealings. Our scout tells him that it's all about getting new faces out there.
Scene 06: We leave the men in the office to join some of our 'new talent' trying their best to emote or otherwise break into showbiz through this pissy, phony talent agency.
Scene 07: In a dressing room, one of our young women does a dramatic reading, but she's just practicing. The other woman with her is tweezing her eyebrows and telling her she doesn't have the talent for it. She suggests that the buxom blonde focus her efforts on keeping King Peterson happy (this talent scout). Blonde reports that the other girl need not worry her head about that, she's confident that King will be paying her big for some time to come, dramatic jobs or no.
But, King has overheard this conversation, and makes his presence known, immediately putting Blonde on edge. She quickly backtracks that she was only kidding to get a rise out of her 'friend'. He warns her to leave his name out of it the next time she wants to play comic. He also tells her that he needs her to get out of her costume and into street clothes, as he's sending her out on a job.
He gives her the keys to his car, but 'mentions' that the girl who had the current job just before her, also thought she was wise... the threat is unspoken but clear and Blonde's nervousness has obviously increased.
Next, King walks over behind Helen (the tweezer) as she continues primping in a mirror. Helen is a salty dame, not bothered by the oily menace of her boss. He tells her that she needs to go to the studio to rehearse a new batch of girls, which takes with a grain of salt. She mentions to him that he isn't the only one interested in new girls from the studio. She informs him that men from Horton's office had been by earlier asking lots of questions.
He resolves to pay Horton a visit.
Scene 08: In Horton's office, a Mrs. Randolph is in tears. It seems that her granddaughter Pauline has joined the missing. Horton patronizingly 'comforts' old Mrs. Randolph, while insisting that she needs to help them by answering questions. He forces a smile from her and gets her calm down enough to talk to him.
Unseen until now, Captain McVeigh is also in the room. An officer comes in bearing a tea set, which the Captain had ordered to put the old lady more at ease.
Grandma Randolph reports that Pauline was always so conscientious about reporting in because she knew how her grandmother worried so when she was out alone. The A.D.A. and Captain try to suggest that there could be an alternate explanation, like perhaps Pauline eloped or is spending time at a friend's, but the old woman insists that she would have called her. She also reports that her teachers told her she hasn't shown up for her classes, either. She collapses in more tears.
As soon as they've sent Grandma on her way, arranging a police car to take her home, Horton complains about people waiting days or even weeks to report their children missing. McVeigh has no answer, but reports that their disappearances aren't the tragedy... what happens to them after they vanish is the tragedy.
Commentary: Thank you for that non-sequitor. Now, shut up. You're a Captain, don't you have some sort of work in your office you could be doing?
A.D.A. Horton's assistant buzzes in then to report that King Peterson is in the office to see him. Horton tells the assistant to make him wait.
McVeigh warns Horton that King Peterson is a shady character who has his fingers in every seedy joint that the police have raided. He also tells him that he's extremely smart, clever and ruthless, which is why McVeigh hasn't been able to ever connect him to all of the underhanded dealings and arrested him already. Why ever he would be visiting Horton, the A.D.A. should proceed cautiously.
Scene 09: King is let into the office, and everyone acts faux-civil. McVeigh and Peterson trade subtextual barbs and threats. The Captain then excuses himself from the office, but makes sure to hit the intercom button on his way out.
Commentary: And, of course, he does so with such an exaggerated style that Peterson would have to be both blind and deaf not to realize he's being listened in on....
Scene 10: With the A.D.A. alone with King, the sleazy businessman/gangster asks if he can smoke, to which Horton replies he doesn't mind if he burns. King offers his cigarette case to Horton, in which the A.D.A. finds a large bill. After a moment of staring at it, and King, he slips it back into the case and gives it back to King, denying that he "smokes that brand".
King Peterson offers vague threats about not liking being annoyed so often by Horton's office. The A.D.A. tells him that there really isn't any choice but to take an interest in Peterson's set up, considering that one of his girls is one of the victims they found dead.
King tells him that whatever his girls do after they've completed a booking is of no concern to him. Horton offers that several of the other missing girls can also be shown to have been working for him, which puts a pall of suspicion over his operations, and ergo, makes it of concern to the District Attorney's office.
Peterson gets up to leave in a huff, warning Horton that he isn't the first A.D.A. to sit in his chair and annoy him... implying that he has reach that could threaten Horton's job for not playing ball.
Scene 11: Once King has left the office, McVeigh reappears mentioning the cigarette incident, which he recognizes as the bribe attempt it was. They compare notes on Peterson, and Horton tells McVeigh that the offer was a $10,000 bill. This only points to King being deeply involved in whatever led to the girls' disappearances and murders.
Another buzzing on the intercom indicates the arrival of a pair of reporters wanting the latest. McVeigh takes this as his signal to leave.
The reporters have shown up because they saw King Peterson visit the office and his reputation is well known. They ask questions about why he was there, but Horton claims he just dropped in for a cup of tea. McVeigh is hanging around in the open door and grins at this, amused.
Commentary: It is an utterly empty scene with no point. A problem with this movie in general is the amount of talking and talking and wandering and talking....
Scene 12: We cut to the "Joseph Thompson Theatrical Agency", which is the name of King Peterson's partner in crime. It doesn't take me but a moment to wonder if Joe was unwise to have his name on everything, leaving a slimebag like King in the 'shadows'.
Within, he is having a meeting with a potential client, but they've failed to strike a deal on the cost for the talent.
Scene 13: In the waiting room, various men and women who are hoping for jobs are sitting around. We have a (very weak) comedic moment where a 'little person' attempts to copy the mannerisms of a dashing gentleman, in an apparent attempt to impress a blonde woman.
This blonde is actually one we've already met... our smart-aleck reporter friend, Nora. Things get a little bit more complicated here, as we find out that Nora is actually Joe Thompson's daughter. What he is doing wrapped up in a partnership with King Peterson is yet to be explained, but surely Nora will have to 'go undercover' to rescue her father's reputation at some point?
Commentary: And, Nora's last name is Page, not Thompson, but we never see a husband. Divorced? Widowed?
Nora is summoned into her father's office. She's actually come to thank her father for her diamond bracelet, a birthday gift. Nora asks her father about the missing actresses and dancers, a few of which were daddy's employees. She doesn't learn much, but he is acting a bit nervous.
After Nora leaves, her father pulls out a stack of photos... one of which is the recently turned up dead, Thalia Arnold. A woman, by the way, that he had just gotten done telling his daughter that he did not know and hadn't been booked out of his office - clearly a lie. What's more, the photograph was autographed by the woman in question.
After gazing at the photo for a moment and lingering on the inscription, he tears the photograph up....
Scene 14: We cut to Nora who has arrived at Grandma Randolph's to investigate her missing granddaughter's story for the newspaper. She sees Pauline, obviously not missing, getting into a car with another woman and driving off. She quickly jots down the license plate number and proceeds to the grandmother's. From the grandmother, Nora finds out that the formerly missing Pauline has found a wonderful job and that is why she was missing for several days.
Commentary: Now, you'd think that this would be the end of it, but that's because you're not an enterprising, snappy reporter....
Grandma is ever so excited about the brand new purse her granddaughter just delivered to her as a celebration gift over her new job.
Commentary: This section of the film is particularly damaged. Poor Nora's face is like this white blob and the film is really beat up and grubby. It doesn't impact the movie's scoring, but it does need to be mentioned. Obviously, no effort went into this disk collection, and the only reason I bought it at all is because it was so cheap and provides a lot of b-titles I never would have shelled out money for otherwise. I still find myself sort of hating 'Mill Creek Entertainment' a little bit though... lazy asses.
In the course of conversating with the old woman (who doesn't appear to be all there mentally - a nice job by the actress) Nora finds out that Pauline's new job was come by a lovely girl introducing her to a man who books talent and helps young ladies become actresses. The young lady just happened to be named Miss Arnold, which immediately peaks Nora's interest.
Unfortunately, the old woman isn't sure who the man is that Thalia introduced Pauline to.
Scene 15: Nora has rushed out of the old woman's apartment, trying to catch up with Pauline - as her involvement with the recently murdered Arnold woman has raised her hackles. In the meantime, the mysterious woman escorting Pauline stops to pick up her friend, Mary, who also has big dreams of being an actress.
They're taken to something called the Crescent School of Fine Arts.
Scene 16: The 'school' seems more of a waiting room where various young people hoping to grab some fame do whatever they believe they have a talent for in front of talent bookies. One has gotten a sense throughout that these bookers are less the Hollywood or Broadway types and more the cheap dive sorts.
Mary and Pauline watch a juggler, a pair of women getting their pictures taken, and a pair of tap dancers auditioning around the room and think they've gone to heaven, it's just all so *cough*glamorous*cough*.
Scene 17: Back at Horton's office, he's being reamed out by the District Attorney for not getting results on the missing girls' case. He just disconnects the intercom, when he looks up startled to find Nora Page there. He asks her how she managed to get in.
Nora razzes Horton regarding his chewing out... and is basically insufferable the entire time, thinking she's being funny. Nora makes a deal to interview someone Horton was holding in exchange for the information about the missing Pauline not being missing... as well as her involvement with the dead Ms. Arnold.
He makes the deal, but then 'double crosses' her by informing her he isn't holding the man she's interested in anymore. He's already been released. There's some weak flirting that is more nauseating than anything (and I have no idea who this Burke fellow is that they're talking about).
Scene 18: The evening edition of the paper has the headline of Nora Page finding Pauline Randolph alive and well. Apparently, it had slipped slightly senile grandma's mind to inform the police, allowing the reporter to scoop them.
The really long headline also includes the information that Nora uncovered about Pauline getting her position through the dead girl Thalia Arnold, whose case remains open.
Scene 19: Back at the 'talent school', Pauline is showing the ropes to her friend, Mary, which apparently involves a piss-poor attempt at a hula-type dance.
Commentary: This mystery desperately needed some tightening up. You can tell this was a cheap jack production that was probably filmed from the first quickie draft of the script. There are a lot of scenes that just don't add anything of value and doesn't move anything forward. Now, one would hope that either Pauline or Mary will soon end up 'missing', but that doesn't help us explain why Nora Page is still on the story in which she hasn't even bothered to track down Pauline yet to question her about Thalia... something that I hope the police are working on as well. What I guess I'm saying is... "let's move this along, already, it isn't like the bad guy is a mystery".
Speaking of our bad guy - he apparently runs the 'talent school', which is partnered with Nora's father's talent agency. Thompson has come to Peterson's office because he's in a tizzy about Nora discovering a connection between Pauline and the dead Ms. Arnold, a woman he has denied knowing.
Why this is causing a panic, since Nora has no evidence her father knows Arnold, or Pauline, I don't quite understand, yet.
In King's office, Nora's father complains that he warned Peterson he didn't want his name associated with the 'talent school' when he fronted the money for it. Now, he's panicking a bit about the fact that his daughter has made a connection between Pauline and the dead Arnold girl. It sounds like there are far more 'missing' girls than just the ones in the city as well. It appears that many of the girls were booked in other cities, and not all of them are happily pursuing their dreams. Clearly Nora's father suspects that things aren't kosher, but has chosen to simply not see it so that he can continue on making money through his own agency and the school of King's. However, this could quickly unravel if Nora starts looking further into the connections between her father's agency and Peterson's school, as it is common knowledge that King is a sleezebag, even if he's been too clever to be charged with anything.
Nora's father insists that Peterson book Pauline in a city far away where his daughter won't find her to question her about her link to Ms. Arnold.
Scene 20: In the 'audition room', King's assistant Kate overlooks Pauline's teaching of Mary. Kate is also the woman who picked up the girls earlier to bring them to the school. King tells her that Pauline will be booked at a 'special job' that evening - presumably out of the city, in order to hide her, as per Thompson's insistence.
However, Kate pulls King aside and tells him that she's gotten the impression that he's been talking a little too much to Pauline. Kate tells Kings that some comments that Pauline has made makes her think that the girl is starting to put together how their racket works, which may cause a problem for them. He thanks her for the tip and tells her he'll take care of it, which indicates that Pauline may end up 'missing' in more ways than just hidden out from Nora very soon.
Commentary: Alas, this script is so weak, that it feels more like this is all being made up as they go along. There has been no indication that there has been anything illegal or 'a racket' going on... sure the 'talent' are getting booked into some questionable jobs, but so what? There has been no indication that they've been guaranteed anything else beforehand. There has also been no indication at all that King is the type to blab about whatever is going on to some random chick. The glance that Pauline gave King indicates that there may have been some sexual interest or perhaps even an affair between them, but it is only a guess based on one look from Pauline... even if King is banging Pauline, it makes zero sense that this clever, hardened criminal would tell her anything about any alleged racket. There has also been zero indication that Pauline has done anything with anything that she might have pieced together, except this sudden info dump by Kate right now.... This whole development is coming out of the blue without any hints beforehand to the audience about Pauline suspecting anything or having any but the most casual relationship with the 'talent school' or King Peterson, himself.
King returns to his office, passing by the photographer, who reports he took some pictures with his new lens that he's excited about.
Scene 21: In a very sudden, whiplash cut, we're looking at a cityscape at night with neon lights drawing attention to the theatre district, wherever we are. In an alleyway, Pauline lies on the ground. An officer on the beat finds her... apparently dead.
Commentary: At least at this point, I'm assuming it's Pauline. It could just as easily be Nora... all of the blondes are the same body type and they all have similar hair styles.
We get a series of shots of rushing cars, sirens blaring, and a newsboy shouting "Extra, Extra" as he announces that Pauline Randolph has been found mysteriously killed... apparently not in a different city, which seems unbelievably clumsy of King, considering what we know of him. And, I do mean unbelievable and clumsy... of the script.
Scene 22: Back at the 'talent school', King's partner Mason is picked up for questioning by Captain McVeigh.
Scene 23: Also at the talent school is Nora, who calls into her editor to report Mason being picked up in connection to the Randolph story. As Mason is being escorted to Horton's office to answer questions, the photographer raids Peterson's office and steals a pile of photographs from his desk for reasons unknown at this time.
Scene 24: Later with Peterson, Nora's father is confronting King with knowing more about the sudden death of Pauline than he is telling and it's making Thompson very nervous about ever having gone into business with him. He threatens to close down the school that he is financing in order to put some distance between King and himself. Peterson is cool, warning Thompson not to try it. He points out that Thompson wasn't an innocent in whatever they've been pulling. Thompson is having second thoughts now however, when it looks like Nora may find out that her father isn't the man that she had always believed. He insists to King that the other man hadn't been completely upfront with him about everything when they first started their partnership.
While King is burning a photo of Pauline for reasons unknown (it isn't like no one knows she was at the school - so I can't grasp the purpose of this), Thompson spills everything about his - until now unknown to King - daughter and how she means everything to him. Because telling the shady gangster where to target you is always a great idea.
King makes it clear to Nora's father that he took his share of the profits from their enterprise, and now he's tied to himself and Mason and will be taking his share of the trouble, too.
The intercom buzzes and McVeigh's arrival is announced. Thompson beats a quick retreat out of the back way, while Peterson waits for the detective. He douses the burned photo in the trashcan. When McVeigh arrives, he and King share phoney pleasantries. Peterson is escorted by McVeigh to Horton's office for a chat.
Scene 25: In Horton's office, Mary is giving testimony regarding Pauline and her attending the talent school. Mary can provide just enough information to prove a connection between Pauline, Mason's school and Peterson's involvement with both, but nothing actually incriminating. We do learn that Pauline had remained at the school when Mary had left, because she was expecting an audition of some sort for a job. However, Mason claims that Pauline left after that with an unidentified man, and seemed upset about it.
Mary provides another lead to Horton as well, mentioning the blonde who claimed to be an actress that had picked them up... Kate, though she never learned her name.
Scene 26: After the office is cleared, Horton tells McVeigh that he's ordering raids on all of Peterson's nightclubs until someone produces the 'blonde actress'... because, there won't be about 10,000 of those.
Scene 27: Later, LA Club is raided and all of the showgirls taken in for questioning, putting an crimp in King's business, which will surely not be overlooked by the gangster.
Scene 28: A line up is produced, at which Mary is seated so she can identify the mysterious Kate if she was caught in the raid. In her reporter role, Nora is also present. Mary tells Horton that she's sure that Kate isn't one of the girls caught in the raid.
Scene 29: Elsewhere, we do catch up with Kate. She's been sequestered in a hotel room by King, where he visits her. Kate complains that she's tired of hiding out like a She-Hermit, and that she's low of funds. King tells her that he's actually there to offer her a very lucrative job -- and pulls the "here, have a smoke... oh, look at this big bill in my smoke case" trick that he tried on Horton.
He has more success with Kate. He tells her that she's always wanted a chance to prove she was a great actress, and now she has the chance.
We fade out before we hear the details, but there is certainly the implication that he's getting her to do something underhanded in exchange for enough money to flee town....
Scene 30: At home, Horton is reading when he gets a phone call from Kate, reporting that she's ready to talk if he'll come alone to her hotel room.
Like a dork-ass, he does so.
Scene 31: When he arrives at the room, Kate is dressed in a robe and sleeping pants. He's suspicious, but not enough so. Kate 'trips' into his arms under the pretense of handing him a drink. As he wipes at his suit, she excuses herself to change her clothes, apologizing profusely.
Horton sits to have a cigarette. When Kate doesn't come back out, he enters her bedroom to find out what is taking her so long, only to find the room empty of her and her possessions. There is another door leading to the hallway that opens from the bedroom, and she has slipped out on him.
Scene 32: Horton leaves, but when he exits the hotel, McVeigh is waiting for him. He asks about Kate, but McVeigh reports he hasn't seen anyone leave. He also reports that Dugan is with him covering the back entrance. They've been watching over Horton, I guess because they suspect he may be in danger - it isn't really stated why they were following him.
Anyway, with them not having seen a blonde exit the hotel, they rush back in to check with the manager about who was in the suite Horton visited. They return to the suite with the manager in tow, who shares that the woman staying there did have a gentleman visit her, but he can't describe him. The door, which wasn't locked when Horton left, is now. When they have it opened with the manager's key, the lights are now off, which Horton insists to McVeigh, he'd left on when he exited.
When the lights are switched back on - they find Kate returned to the room. She's lying across the sofa, dead.
Horton is mystified. McVeigh shares that he's been framed. Horton is aghast.
Commentary: I'm bored. Please movie, please end.
Scene 33: The next day at his office, Horton is reamed again by his boss for not producing any leads to put the missing girls case to rest. After his boss threatens him with a firing and storms out, Horton goes through his mail. Among them is a sheet of folded newspaper tied with a bow. Within this is a photo of him embracing Kate.
Commentary: And, in keeping with the level of the cheap filmmaking, naturally the photo is from a POV that is completely wrong... wrong angle of view for the sneak-photographer, wrong position for how Kate had fallen into his arms, Kate is standing at an opposite direction from where she was standing when this alleged photo was taken, the photograph looks like it was professionally taken in a pose - rather than caught on the fly to be incriminating....
Horton contacts Dugan and asks for McVeigh to be contacted for him. In the meanwhile, he gets a call from gangster types asking if he enjoyed the photograph. It's anonymous gangster, but we can see that King is standing nearby. Horton is warned to back off of the missing girls case, or the photograph will go straight to the newspapers.
Scene 34: McVeigh himself isn't at his office. He's in a diner, meeting with our intrepid reporter, Nora. At first, Nora thinks that McVeigh is there to tell her some details about the death of Kate and what he found in her apartment/hotel room. But, he's actually there to tell a story... a boring story... that is supposed to give her the hint that she and Horton are in love (a detail that naturally comes out of nowhere) and that she's been too ambitious to realize that she's ruining his career chances to go somewhere, what with all of those stories about cases of missing girls that aren't being solved (you selfish bitch) rather than, oh - sticking to 'human interest' stories as good women should, at least before they get married and stop working completely.
Commentary: I know this is the sign of the times, but not only is this irritatingly shoving a romance in where it doesn't belong, but McVeigh has zero reason to have any interest in Horton or Nora's personal life at all. Isn't he supposed to be working on a case of murder and attempting to save Horton from his latest disaster?! And, despite the clock on my screen saying we're 54 minutes into this movie, I'd swear it's been two hours of half-baked story... this is getting painfully dull, now.
Nora thanks the Captain for pointing out to her that her stories aren't helping Horton at all, rather than say, giving him the third degree about why the police haven't come up with anything solid to stop the rash of women disappearing and turning up murdered. Thank God, Nora has come to her senses and started acting like a dame instead of a reporter!
Scene 35: Back in Horton's office, he's pacing over his dilemma. He finally comes to the decision that he has to resign. It is later that evening, and Horton is lying with his head on his desk in despair over his once promising career being brought to ruin by his being set up. There is an insistent knock at the door, which turns out to be Nora. She spots the incriminating photo on the desk, and razzes him about a new romance, but he points out that the photo is of Kate Nelson and him shortly before her murder.
Horton reports to Nora that he's being forced to resign to protect his reputation since he cannot proceed with the investigation without the photo showing up in the newspapers. Nora tells him that Kate is the woman she saw in the car with the deceased Pauline. She points out that the photo she gave him of Pauline has the license plate of Kate's car written on it.
Commentary: I don't remember Nora giving Horton a picture of Pauline, but since my mind is numb at this point, she could have.
For some reason, this license plate number is now critically important and Horton immediately calls McVeigh at home, waking him.
Scene 36: McVeigh, despite his years of experience and being called by the A.D.A. with urgency, can't wake himself up. He hangs up on Horton and puts the phone down off the hook. In the meantime, Nora leaves Horton's office with a sudden plan to help him get out of his jam by posing as an aspiring actress in a half-witted and impossibly lame plan to find evidence that should only get her killed, but somehow won't.
Scene 37: Horton, having been hung up on by McVeigh, goes to his place to wake him up. Now, either Horton broke into McVeigh's place, or the Captain has a one room house, consisting of a bed because Horton is banging on his bedroom door. Since McVeigh evinces no sign of surprise that Horton is in his house, I guess he really does live in one room....
Horton shows off the picture of he and Kate posed in an embrace. He asks McVeigh if he was a gangster and wanted to frame someone....
McVeigh complains he isn't a gangster, doesn't want to frame anybody, and just wants to go back to sleep.
Commentary: This scene is so deeply stupid, it's painful. I think it's supposed to be humorous. I think the fact that Horton has realized that this photo was a frame job on him by King is supposed to be revelatory, but just makes Horton look fatally brainless. McVeigh looks like he's particularly poorly paid for a police Captain, is a doddering old fool, and is callously uncaring over his friend's predicament. It's an awful, awful scene poorly scripted, poorly staged and staggeringly dumb.
Scene 38: As Horton is trying to get some sort of help from McVeigh, Nora calls. She reports that she has checked out the license number and that the car that Kate had driven belongs to King Peterson. She even knows where the car can be found right then... although, I don't know how.
Horton excitedly tells McVeigh to go back to sleep, while he rushes out... I suppose, for the garage where Peterson's car is located. McVeigh pretends to be dozing off, but once Horton rushes out of his one room, he gets on the phone to police HQ.
Scene 39: The following day, Nora has arrived in King's office, presenting herself as a Chorus Girl, with a letter of reference and seeking a local job.
Commentary: The timeline is so effed up at this point, that it is impossible to believe the editor cared one whit. What happened the night before with King's car?! Nora has already been to King's office, so why is she trying to pass herself off undercover?! Why doesn't King immediately recognize her and tell her to get out?! What is McVeigh up to the night before?! Why did King Peterson have anyone killed in the first place?! What is the problem with this "illegal activity", which actually doesn't appear illegal at all?! What is the point of this effing story?!
King puts a small scare into Nora by swearing he recognizes her from somewhere, but she's able to bluff him off. At first, King tells her that he's not sure there will be any work he can give her, but there happens to be a sudden opening and Nora gets the job. Mason comes in, again putting Nora at risk for being discovered as not who she's pretending to be, but apparently her head wrap is enough for him to not recognize her, judging by his demeanor.
Scene 40: After Nora is sent off with another girl, Mason immediately points out to King that he has a spy from the newspaper - so Mason did recognize her after all, and just played it completely cool, which actually struck me as out of character, judging him by his past nervous quirks when dealing with the police.
Mason also reports that he knows that Nora Page is Thompson's daughter. King Peterson takes this as proof that Thompson is getting ready to squeal and sent his daughter in to get the lowdown on the operation so that he can save his own hide later.
Commentary: Which, surprise, doesn't make a lick of sense unless Thompson thinks risking "the most important thing to me" going into the hornet's nest with the flimsiest of cover stories will somehow save himself from being implicated in the whatever-is-going-on... and, you know what, I don't even know. This whole thing is beyond the point of making any logical sense whatsoever and I just want it over!
Peterson decides that he's going to make sure that Thompson pays for this attempt at betrayal.
Scene 41: At the same time that Nora is acting stupidly, Horton has tracked down the apartment of Mason and Peterson's photographer, figuring he was the one tucked into the bedroom to grab the convenient snap of Kate falling into his arms. He hears the frightened man (very conveniently) confessing his role, when some of King's goons are apparently threatening to silence him, the way Kate ended up silenced.
Horton is able to stop the men at gunpoint as they were about to escort the photographer for one last ride. Dugan is also there to help out, having been sent to keep an eye on him by McVeigh.
Scene 42: Photographer is escorted not to his doom, but to Horton's office where McVeigh is waiting. He is questioned. Being spineless and dumb, the photographer refuses to cooperate, telling the officers of the law that King's goons are his pals and he was just about to go with them to, uh, take photos of 'em, yeah.
McVeigh pretends to buy this malarkey, telling Horton he must have made a mistake... and giving the broadest and most obvious "just play along" wink in the history of ever. Naturally, no one but Horton manages to catch this, least of all the photographer himself. Bill, the photographer, quickly cracks when Horton orders him released, along with the goons. He tells them he'll choose to be locked up rather than leave the room with them.
McVeigh acts like this was a real coup, and orders anonymous goons locked up by Dugan, even though so far he hasn't gotten any reason to do so.
Nervously, photographer guy admits that they set up Horton. He further says that they were across the hall in an empty apartment when Horton was discovering that Kate was gone. He tells them that after Horton left Kate started to argue with King about the money she wanted. He stepped into the hallway and minutes later, King came out carrying Kate's body, where he deposited it back in her suite. He tells them that King killed her.
McVeigh asks about the missing girls, and Bill tells him the last he saw of any of them, they were being booked into clubs across the country under assumed names, apparently for nefarious purposes (enslavement?).
Scene 43: In the meantime, over at the talent school, Nora is undercover and auditioning for some out of town club owners who will be bidding for her contract with Mason. As this is about to occur, King had already called Nora's dad and he shows up. He reminds King he told him he was out of whatever business is going on, but King tells him if he does this one last thing for him, he'll not ask for anything else. He tells Thompson that he's told the club owners that he is the new act's agent. Nora has been given a mask for her audition, so Thompson has no idea he'll be bartering his daughter's freedom (if I understand what exactly the illegal act worth killing for is). He agrees reluctantly to play this last role.
After she retreats back to the dressing room, a club owner in Las Vegas with a shady reputation offers a contract to the "agent". Peterson is enjoying Thompson's situation and can't wait to reveal that he's just "sold" Nora.
Scene 44: Thompson and Peterson go into his office, where he makes sure that Thompson still wants to pull out of their lucrative partnership. When he confirms, King delights in introducing him to the act that he's allegedly "sold down the river"... he's shocked by Nora's presence as is she by the fact that he's mixed up with King (although, again, there has been nothing obviously illegal going on, so he certainly has at least strong plausible deniability on knowing anything was hinky in these 'contracts').
Soon, Nora admits that she wrote her own letter of introduction as a way to get inside and prove his connection to 'the racket'. Peterson informs her that he knows she's a reporter, but her next headline isn't what she thought. Instead, it'll be reading, "Girl Reporter Reported Missing".
Thompson tells him that "it'll be the other way around", which makes zero sense - unless he plans on making King 'disappear', which just makes him look like more of a crooked gangster than he did before. Anyway, he gets up and 'runs' to Peterson's desk, where he picks up the phone to call the police.
King unshockingly pulls a gun and shoots him.
Just as unshockingly, no one in the audition room reacts to this gunshot, that is as loud as a cannon.
Scene 45: Thankfully for Nora's future, the police have arrived at the talent school in a raid, based on the photographer's statement. King hears McVeigh ordering the arrest of Mason. So, when Horton opens his office door, Peterson is waiting for him and trains a gun on him, telling him he was warned to back off.
Horton grabs his gun hand and lays him out with one punch.
Commentary: What? That's it! That's the anti-climactic ending they went with?!
Peterson is quickly taken into custody with McVeigh assuring him that the police have given him more than enough rope to hang himself.
Commentary: Which, no they didn't. It was complete happenstance that they've managed to nab him, based purely on the fact that he ordered the photographer rubbed out and Horton just so happened to have visited him at his apartment before his goons could march him away to his death. McVeigh didn't plan anything.
We get a newspaper headline reporting that Peterson was sentenced to death.
Scene 46: With this coup under her belt, Nora chooses to quit the news business to spend more time with Horton. Horton starts telling Nora a story about the city bringing together a boy and a girl, echoing McVeigh's story to her earlier. McVeigh watches with amusement and a wink.
And we fade out on the promise of Nora becoming a housewife, as we all know she should.... *bleecccchhh*
The Good: Um.
The Bad: The mystery isn't.
The police procedural aspects don't add up to proving anything.
The 'crime' that Peterson was willing to kill over still isn't clear, but I'm going to go with some sort of white slavery ring.
McVeigh is hideously annoying.
The comedy isn't.
The romance is out of the blue and unconvincing.
Nora's plan is also stupid, as she acts like she's proven that Peterson is dirty, but she hasn't proven a damned thing.
Too many scenes are there just to eat up space, but they don't explain anything nor do they add any sort of story-telling purpose. They're just empty dialog eating up minutes.
Every single dilemma is so easily and quickly resolved, that introducing the plot point in the first place was an empty gesture (especially Kate's scheming and Horton's being blackmailed).
The Scoring: Don't waste your time. This isn't a golden oldie, just a moldy. 2.0 out of 5