Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Poor Cornell Woolrich.  He had hoped to become the next F. Scott Fitzgerald.  His first book, Cover Charge (1926), was a Jazz Age novel written in the style of his idol.  Then followed another, similar novel.  And then Woolrich was off for a disappointing stint in Hollywood, where he wrote titles for two Thelma Todd movies and the dialogue for a third.  While there, his second novel, Children of the Ritz, was made into a low budget film with no input from Woolrich.  He wrote four more mainstream novels, the last being Manhattan Love Story (1932), which had some noir-ish elements.  In true Hollywood style, this was also filmed -- with a slight title change -- without Woolrich's input.  In fact, the title was about the only thing in this movie that was Woolrich's.  The script, "suggested" [my emphasis] by Woolrich's novel, was transformed into a B movie romcom starring Robert Armstrong (King Kong, The Most Dangerous Game) and Dixie Lee (Mrs. Bing Crosby).  It's enough to make a grown man cry, or, least in Woolrich's case, make him flee Hollywood and move back to New York to his domineering mother and to begin to write stories for the crime and mystery pulps.  The mainstream novel career of Cornell Woolrich was over.

The movie involves two rich sisters who were left penniless by a sticky-fingered business manager.  They discover that they owe their chauffeur and maid back wages and, unable to pay, allow the former employees to stay in their luxury apartment in lieu of the back wages.  No longer employed as servants, the two (Armstrong and Nydia Westman) do not feel obligated to act as servants.  One of the sisters (Dixie Lee), desperate to earn some money, tries out for a chorus line, only to discover that it is a burlesque.  At least this gives Lee a chance to show off her singing chops.  In true romcom style [SPOILER ALERT!], all ends well in the flick.

This somewhat disjointed but entertaining film was directed by Leonard Fields (who directed only four movies in his career) and scripted by David Silverstein (who has 24 writing credits, 1932-1944, according to IMDb -- nothing major) and Fields.

Armstrong and Dixie Lee carry the movie, as expected, making the run-of-the-mill plotter a bit more enjoyable.

Watch.  And see how much of Woolrich is "suggested" by this film. LoveSong

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