Saturday, November 17, 2018

Stubs - Follow Me Quietly

Follow Me Quietly (1949) Starring: William Lundigan, Dorothy Patrick, Jeff Corey, Nestor Paiva, Charles D. Brown, Paul Guilfoyle, Edwin Max. Director: Richard O. Fleischer. Screenplay by Lillie Hayward. Based on a Story by Francis Rosenwald and Anthony Mann. Producer: Herman Schlom. USA Run Time: 59 minutes. Black and White. Police, Crime, Drama, Film Noir

There are some things that all film noirs have to have. Primary amongst them is that there has to be a crime, usually murder, involved. There should also be a femme fatale or at least an attractive woman involved with the protagonist, usually to his detriment. And usually, a bulk of the film will take place at night, where the long shadows of daylight are replaced by the even darker shadows of the underworld. While police are oftentimes critical to the story, so can be other occupations, like newspaper reporters. As we saw in While The City Sleeps, newspaper reporters, like the police, are always there, always answering their desk phones, no matter the time of day.

Follow Me Quietly originated as a story by Francis Rosenwald and Anthony Mann. While Rosenwald’s credits are somewhat spare, Anthony Mann’s is not. Like many directors active during the studio era, Mann directed many genres of films, including musicals, Moonlight in Havana (1942); comedy-dramas Dr. Broadway (1942), My Best Gal (1944), Sing Your Way Home (1945); biographies, The Glenn Miller Story (1954); Westerns, The Naked Spur (1953), Winchester ’73 (1950), The Far Country (1955), The Man From Laramie (1955); and Epics: El Cid (1961) and The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964). But he may be best known for his work in film noirs, beginning with The Great Flamarion (1945), and continuing with such films as Desperate (1947), Raw Deal (1948), T-Men (1948), Border Incident (1949), and Side Street (1949). A story co-written by Mann would definitely have some gravitas attached to it. There are some reports that Mann also had a hand in directing the film, though that contribution was uncredited.

Originally purchased by Jack Wrather Productions, to be released by Allied Artists with Don Castle in the lead, the story was sold to RKO in December 1947. Things weren’t settled with script or star. Martin Rackin was originally assigned to write the script and it should say something that his name doesn’t appear in the credits. Also, the original star was Kent Smith. RKO, by then, was the property of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes. As part of his new regime, the film was given a short 16-day shooting schedule beginning on August 18, 1948. The film was released on July 14, 1949, after a New York premiere a week earlier.

Magazine reporter Ann Gorman (Dorothy Patrick) comes looking for police
 lieutenant Harry Grant in a cafe but cashier Benny (Nestor Paiva) hasn't seen him.

The film opens, when else, on a dark and rainy night. Ann Gorman (Dorothy Patrick), a writer for Four Star Crime magazine, enters a café looking for police lieutenant Harry Grant (William Lundigan). She wants to interview him about "The Judge," a serial killer who only attacks when it rains. However, Benny (Nestor Paiva), the cashier at the bar, tells her that Harry’s not there. She tries talking to his partner, Sgt. Art Collins (Jeff Corey), but he defers answers to his superior. When Harry does arrive, he rejects Ann's pleas for information and leaves with his partner, Sgt. Art Collins, when a call comes in about a new attack, this one on a newspaper editor named McGill (Frank Ferguson).

Ann tries but fails to get either police lieutenant Harry Grant (William Lundigan) or his partner
Sgt. Art Collins (Jeff Corey) to talk about the case they're working.

Though Ann tries to ride along, she has to take a cab to follow the policemen. McGill is badly injured, after taking a multi-story fall, but before he can be taken away describes what happened. While working at this desk, his assailant entered his office and tried to strangle him. In the struggle, McGill managed to get pushed out of his window. But before McGill gets around to describing his attacker, he dies. Despite that, Harry is convinced that this is indeed the work of The Judge.

McGill (Frank Ferguson) recalls the Judge's attack.

Harry and Art discover a note left by the Judge before Ann shows up at the crime scene. Harry doesn't like the fact that she's taken photos and as he escorts her out, he takes the film out of the camera.

Harry takes the film out of Ann's camera after she's taken photos at the crime scene.

Back at the office, Harry and Art discuss the many clues that have been collected about the Judge, including the kind of clothes he wears and his hat. He knows The Judge's habits and psychology, including the fact that he murders out of a sense of moral outrage. The biggest thing missing is that Harry has not been able to "put a face" to the killer.

Some of the evidence Harry has collected on The Judge.

Out of a sense of frustration, Harry comes up with an idea and asks his forensic experts to construct a dummy replica of The Judge based on the clues he has collected. Soon he has not only an artist sketch to pass around, but also a life-sized but faceless mannequin which Harry uses to instruct other officers working on the case.

The faceless mannequin the police create for their suspect.

Meanwhile, Ann continues to press Harry for information, even showing up unannounced in his apartment. She wears him down and he signs an authorization form allowing her to write about the case, but stipulates that he has final approval over any story. Later, he learns that Ann has used the authorization form to obtain information about the dummy, whose existence he wants to keep secret from the public. She has even filed a story without consulting him, which he angrily denounces.

Harry gets a call that they have supposedly caught the Judge and he goes to hear the confession. When he askes the man (Douglas Spencer) claiming to be The Judge to strangle him the way he had his one of his recent victims, the man gets unmasked as a phony.

A man (Douglas Spencer) pretends to be The Judge.

Later, back at the office, it’s another rainy night and the distraught Harry stares out the window and talks to the dummy in his darkened office. Harry is sure that The Judge is going to strike that night, and takes off in his car to drive around the city. Even though instructed to stay, Art leaves. Only after he’s gone is it revealed that the Dummy has been replaced by The Judge, who gets up and exits out a back door.

Neither Harry or Art suspect that the mannequin has been replaced by the real Judge.

Harry is soon joined by Ann, who has followed him. She gets into his car and tears up the authorization form as proof of her contrition. As predicted, that night The Judge strangles another seemingly random victim. Harry is depressed and talks about quitting the case but Ann talks him out of it. When the other police arrive, he sends Ann home and then discovers that the Judge has left another clue for Harry--a year-old copy of a Four Star Crime magazine.

After studying the magazine, Ann concludes that the killer must have purchased it from a used bookstore. Harry, Art, and Ann then canvas the city's bookstores until they find a proprietor (Maurice Cass) who confirms that a man whose build and dress match the dummy's buys crime magazines at his store.

Assuming that the killer lives near the bookstore, Harry and Art canvas other area businesses and eventually find a café waitress (Marlo Dwyer), who, after being taken to police headquarters, identifies the dummy as Charlie Roy, a nice man who lives around the corner.

The apartment manager (Michael Mark) lets Harry and Art into Charlie's apartment and they discover evidence.

After the apartment manager (Michael Mark) lets them into the apartment, Harry and Art discover crime books and souvenirs from the murders. They then stake out his building, waiting for The Judge to return. Sensing trouble, however, Charlie (Edwin Max) hesitates before entering, then flees down the street.

Harry waits with the apartment manager for Charlie to return.

During the chase, Charlie heads to the rooftop of a nearby gas works plant. Harry loses his gun and Charlie picks it up. The police arrive and surround the plant and shoot at Charlie. One of the cops hits a water tank. Charlie shoots back and fires all the bullets in the gun. After that, Harry is able to corner Charlie and handcuff him.

The chase leads to a nearby gas works.

As Harry is bringing Charlie out of the plant, the pouring water from the tank like rain, makes the killer become hysterical. He struggles with Harry, dragging him back up the catwalk by the handcuffs. Harry is finally able to free himself and pushes Charlie to his death.

Harry puts the handcuffs on Charlie (Edwin Max).

With the case solved, Harry and Ann then enjoy a quiet, romantic drink together back at the bar where they first met.

To be honest, this has “B” movie written all over it. That’s not to say it's bad, just that it could be better. With a short runtime, things have to be jettisoned in favor of action. One of the biggest missing pieces is why Charlie murders and why rain apparently sets him off. He is obviously a killer with a psychological problem, but the movie makes no effort to figure out the cause of it. No time.

Dorothy Patrick plays the part that might have perhaps been the femme fatale. A beautiful actress, her beauty is not really a factor in the film. She is never really in danger from The Judge, which would have been a good twist and for most of the film, Harry seems immune to her as well. She’s just a working girl trying to do her job. She would become a “Queen of the “Bs” appearing in a lot of what they called programmers, including High Wall (1947), New Orleans (1947), and House by the River (1950). She’s good and likable in her role here as reporter Ann Gorman.

Playing the lead was something new for Patrick as it also was for the male lead. William Lundigan would appear in more than 125 films beginning in 1937, including Dodge City (1939), The Fighting 69th (1940), The Sea Hawk (1940), Santa Fe Trail (1940) and The House on Telegraph Hill (1951), but was rarely more than a supporting player. He’s athletic and fairly handsome but still feels a little like a second choice to play the lead in a film. He plays the straight-laced detective fairly well but he, like the killer, is rather one-dimensional.

Edwin Max also seems a bit of surprise cast as the killer, Charlie. After seeing The Judge in action, Max is a bit of a disappointment. Just as a body type you wouldn’t look at him and think he could overpower people the way a strangler would have to. Max would have 60 credits to his name, including a combination of TV and film roles but in this one, he seems to be miscast.

You have to give the film some credit for the idea of using a mannequin to help catch the killer, though you have to imagine that is one of those things that would only happen in a movie. There is an impracticality about the concept that would prevent it from being used in a real murder case.

There is no way that Ann and Harry don’t get together by the end of the film. Not that they have really great on-screen chemistry, but in a movie like this, the hero always gets the pretty girl. And even a film noir needs a happy ending so you not only expect it, but you accept it as well.

With the premise being that the Judge only kills when it's raining, there are only a few cities that this would really be a big deal. In a city like Los Angeles which is burdened by droughts, a rainy-day killer would be sidelined more often than not. However, in a city like Seattle, there would be a real terror. I don’t believe the location is ever mentioned, other than it's a city.

Reviews were at best mixed. The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther’s review referred to it as an “utterly senseless little thriller is patently nothing more than a convenient one-hour time-killer between performances of the eight-act vaudeville bill.” Not high praise. Still, the film is not all that bad. With a short running time, there is a lot of action and it does provide a taste of terror and takes the viewer on the dark side of life in a big wet city.

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