The Law of Contact

A Night for Crime (February 18, 1943)

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Lyle Talbot in A Night for Crime
 

Released February 18, 1943: A movie studio publicity man searches for a missing actress and turns up murder and intrigue.

Produced by Lester Cutler

Directed by Alexis Thurn-Taxis

The Actors: Glenda Farrell (Susan), Lyle Talbot (Joe Powell), Lina Basquette (Mona), Donald Kirke (Hart), Ralph Sanford (Police Detective Hoffman), Forrest Taylor (Williams), Lynn Starr (Carol), Rick Vallin (Arthur), Edna Mae Harris (telephone operator), Marjorie Manners (Ellen Smith), Erskine Johnson (columnist), Jimmy Starr (columnist), Edwin Schallert (columnist), Florence O'Brien (columnist), Harry Crocker (columnist), Robert Frazer (studio man), Ruby Dandridge (maid), Joseph DeVillard (chief detective), Robert Frazer (medical examiner), Florence O'Brien (dancer)

 

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Sometimes Hollywood makes a movie about themselves, and this is one of them. We have a murder mystery with actresses, producers, a publicity man and his fast-talking girlfriend solve a couple of murders and uncover a tangled web of deceit at the movie studio. With this one, we also get a bit of the flavor of wartime America, and the way it changed life at home, accented by a story I remember my papa telling about the war years and sugar in particular.

During World War Two, cities that thought they were in danger of being bombed by enemy airplanes had blackouts. During a blackout, the electricity to the city might be turned off, and if you had candles to light your room, you should have thick, dark curtains covering the windows so that enemy airplanes could see nothing but darkness as they searched for a place to drop their bombs.

With tens of thousands of hungry young men heading off to war, everything from rubber tires to sugar, beef, gasoline and other items were taken from store shelves and sent overseas to feed and support the troops. Suddenly stores across America did not have enough to satisfy the desires of the public, so a national system of rationing was established.

Coupons were issued that allowed everyone to purchase only a limited amount of the rationed products. At one point in this story, newspaper reporter Susan Cooper asks the police detective how he is set for sugar. The dumb cop, without thinking, replies that he is in great shape, he has two pounds hidden in the attic. Then he says, "Hey, are you trying to get me in trouble with the F.B.I. or something?"

When coupons were first issued, everyone was asked how much of the product that they had on hand. My father often told the story of a neighbor who sat in the office and tearfully claimed that every bit of sugar he had was on the kitchen table. Well, this would be understood to mean that the only sugar he had was in his small sugar bowl sitting on the table next to the salt shaker and pepper shaker. But then dad would explain that the fellow actually had about 10 pounds of sugar stacked on his table, and the neighbor was given extra sugar coupons because of his 'dire' straights. All right, now back to the show.

As our adventure opens, movie studio publicity agent Joe Powell, played by Lyle Talbot, is at his girlfriend’s apartment, talking to her by candlelight because there is a blackout. The lights come back on when the blackout ends, and the publicity man and his girlfriend newspaper reporter are chatting when suddenly the lights go out again. A quick check out the window confirms that the city is lit again, and only this one apartment building has gone dark. Suddenly there is a blood-curdling scream from the apartment across the hall. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and enjoy the show.