Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Grand Central Murder (1942) Screwball Noir

A humorous/ensemble film noir directed by S. Sylvan Simon (Lust for Gold (1949)). The film was based on Sue MacVeigh's 1939 novel of the same name. The screenplay was credited to Peter Ruric. The cinematography was by George J. Folsey and the music was by David Snell.

It is one of the ensemble/quasi-comedy Noirs, a small sub genre of Noir. Others are Deadline at Dawn (1946), Manhandled (1949) His Kind of Woman (1951), Shack Out On 101 (1955), and even Lady In The Lake (1946), has some of this quality, there are probably a few others lurking in the Classic Noirs. Neo Noir contenders are Dr. Strangelove,or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), The Late Show (1977) After Hours (1985), Down By Law (1986), Delicatessen (1991) and The Big Lebowski (1998).

The film has quite the cast with a lot of Noir credentials, starring Van Heflin (The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers (1946), Possessed (1947), Act Of Violence (1949), The Prowler (1951)) as a private investigator  "Rocky" Custer who becomes one of the suspects in a murder on a private train car in Grand Central Terminal. Patricia Dane (Johnny Eager (1941), The Harder They Fall (1956)) as Mida King, Cecilia Parker as Constance Furness, Virginia Grey (Highway 301 (1950)) as Sue Custer, Rocky's wife, Samuel S. Hinds (Lady on a Train (1945), Call Northside 777 (1948)) as Roger Furness, Connie Gilchrist (Johnny Eager (1941), Act of Violence (1949), The Killer That Stalked New York (1950)) as Pearl Delroy, Tom Conway (Two O'Clock Courage (1945)), Whistle Stop (1946), Repeat Performance (1947), Confidence Girl (1952) as Frankie Ciro, Sam Levene (The Killers (1946), Brute Force (1947), Crossfire (1947), Dial 1119 (1950), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Slaughter on 10th Avenue (1957)) as Inspector Gunther, Mark Daniels (Bury Me Dead (1947)) as David V. Henderson, Stephen McNally (Criss Cross (1949), The Raging Tide (1951), Split Second (1953)) as "Turk", Betty Wells as "Baby" Delroy, George Lynn as Paul Rinehart. Roman Bohnen as Ramon, and Millard Mitchell (Deadline at Dawn (1946). The Naked City (1948), Criss Cross (1949), D.O.A. (1949) Gun Crazy (1950), Side Street (1950)) as Detective Arthur Doolin.

Turk (McNally) escaping from pullman

hiding between the third rails

A murder convict Turk (McNally) on his way to Manhattan by train, breaks out the window of the men's john and escapes into the bowels of Grand Central Terminal. When he gets a chance he slips into a phone booth and drops a dime on a call to his ex girlfriend Mida (Dane).

Mida (Patricia Dane) and  Pearl Delroy (Connie Gilchrist)
He threatens that he's gonna kill her. Mida leaves between acts in the middle of a Broadway Show, and heads East to the terminal to hide in the private railway car of one of her admirers. She's planning on leaving town with her current lover a high society swell David V. Henderson (Mark Daniels). When Henderson and his ex fiancee Connie Furnes arrive at the car they find Mida lying naked on the bathroom/shower floor.

P.I. Rocky Custer (Hefflin)

Police Inspector Gunther (Levene)
Police Inspector Gunther (Levene) is assigned to the case. The doctor can't determine the cause of death without and autopsy. Turk is recaptured and a P.I. Rocky Custer and his wife are also rounded up and brought in for questioning. Other suspects that had grudges against Mida are brought down to headquarters. Mida's greedy phony psychic card reading stepfather Ramon (Bohnen); her New York & Western Railroad employee ex-husband Paul Rinehart (Lynn), and her sleazy producer Frankie Ciro (Conway). Also brought in are Mida's maid, an ex-burlesque singer Pearl Delroy (Gilchrist) and her daughter stripper "Baby" Delroy (Wells), who is also Mida's understudy. Roger Furness (Hinds), Connie's father and chairman of the board of the railroad, Is on the scene to protect his daughter. As Gunther gets each suspect to tell what they know and give their alibi's we see in flashback various details that lead up to the murder of Mida.

The Suspects

Frankie Ciro (Tom Conway)

Pearl Delroy (Connie Gilchrist)

Baby Delroy (Betty Wells)

David V. Henderson (Mark Daniels)

Turk (Steve NcNally)
Paul Rinehart.(George Lynn)

Connie Furness (Cecilia Parker)
Guther finds out that Mida was a world class bitch, a cold hearted gold digger stringing men all along her career rise. She had used each successive boyfriend as a stepping stone upwards. Then would throw them over whenever a better prospect came in range. When she lands millionaire Henderson she tells Frankie not to worry she'll divorce Henderson in six months and she'll meet Frankie in Reno with enough money to produce a new Broadway Show. David overhears this conversation which gives him a motive for murder.

Rocky is smart enough to figure out how the murder was committed once he intercepts the call from the morgue and hears the results of the autopsy before Levene.


Broadway at Times Square

Doolin (Millard Mitchell) right

Grand Central Terminal

Roger Furness (Samuel S. Hinds) and Connie

Rocky and  Sue Custer (Virginia Grey)

Cherry Soda

more Cherry Soda

The film has running jokes about Mida's cheapness, i.e., the various ways she manages to stiff others into paying her bills, A lovesick detective, Doolin, who keeps trying to contact his girl by phone, and another about Levene's "chain drinking" addiction to cherry soda. The pacing and smart dialogs are in classic screwball mode, but the flashbacks and action sequences in the tunnels of Grand Central Terminal are all quite noirish.

Though it's supposed to take place in Grand Central Terminal it was most likely all filmed on a studio backlot, (there may be some second unit stock footage of actual GTC) some of the moving train sequences may also have been filmed in the old subway tunnel under Bunker Hill. It all looks reasonably quite like Grand Central Terminal. Café au lait Noir 7/10

1 comment:

  1. This is a great little programmer I saw a while ago on youtube. Great cast and amazingly good cinematography. All around fun.