Film Noir Friday: Charlie Chan in Shanghai [1935]


Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is CHARLIE CHAN IN SHANGHAI [1935], starring Warner Oland, Keye Luke, and Irene Harvey.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Before Honolulu detective Charlie Chan leaves his boat upon arriving in Shanghai for his first visit in years, supposedly a vacation, a man stuffs a note in his pocket warning him not to leave the ship. At the docks, Chan is greeted by Sir Stanley Woodland’s secretary, Philip Nash, and Sir Stanley’s niece Diana, before he is surprised by his son Lee, who was sent by his firm to look into the trade situation there. At a banquet that evening in Chan’s honor, as Sir Stanley opens a jade box supposedly containing a scroll for Chan, he is shot by a gun set to go off from inside the box.

Enjoy the movie!

Cops Behaving Badly: Edward P. Nolan, Part 1

During Prohibition people drank whatever they could get their hands on, and it wasn’t always quality juice.  Shady characters who distilled booze in basements and warehouses weren’t concerned with anything other than profit.  Manufacturing overnight whiskey made from “…refuse, burned grain or hay or any old thing that will sour” posed a serious danger to people’s physical and mental health.


According to a St. Louis newspaper article from August 30, 1933 (just a few months prior to repeal):

“Here are some of the things called for in different formulas that go to make up our modern whisky:

Peppers, all kinds; prune juice, caramel, Acetic ether, tobacco, creosote, sulphuric acid, butyric ether, extract vanilla, sorghum waste, artifical bead, cenanthic ether, amyl alcohol, butyrate of amyl, fusel oil, extract of orris, acetic acid, tannic acid, oil bitter almond, muriatic acid, tartaric acid, oil of cedar, oil of fennel, catechu, alum, cloves, castile soap, and a little pure aged whisky.”

The article continued:

“Not too much whisky should be added, as that might be expensive; about 1 gallon to 20.  Blend is what the public is getting drunk and sodden on today, and not whisky, but whisky gets the blame.  The man over stimulated from alcohol makes a quick recovery.   The soft-nerved wreck depressed with blend, mentally and physically mortified and shattered, seldom makes a complete recovery.”

After several cocktails containing a noxious blend of chemicals a person might be capable of anything.


A native New Yorker, Edward P. Nolan had come to Los Angeles to make his fortune in the budding film industry. He was much luckier than most Hollywood hopefuls because during 1914 and 1915 he appeared in shorts with Charles Chaplin, Mabel Normand, and Marie Dressler.  His most noteworthy appearances were in The Face on the Barroom Floor and Between Showers (both from 1914). He doesn’t appear to have worked in film between 1915 (Hogan’s Wild Oats) and 1920 when he appeared opposite Leatrice Joy and James O. Barrows in Down Home.

Nolan played the bartender in "Face on the Barroom Floor"

Nolan played the bartender in “Face on the Barroom Floor”

What Nolan did for a living during the five years between acting gigs is anyone’s guess, but by 1922 he had joined the LAPD and risen to the rank of Detective Lieutenant.  Maybe policing wasn’t such a big stretch for Nolan; after all, he’d played a cop several times in the movies.

On June 16, 1931, Nolan made a dramatic arrest of an extortionist, George Freese.  Freese had sent anonymous death threats to A.H. Wittenberg, president of the Mission Hosiery Mills in an attempt to get $700 out of him. The bust went down like this: Freese instructed Wittenberg to hand the pay-off over to a taxi-cab driver-messenger who would then deliver the cash to him.  Nolan had been living with the Wittenberg family for several days as their protector.

When the phone call from the extortionist came, Nolan took down the details and made a plan. He prepared a dummy package and when the cab driver appeared outside the Wittenberg home Nolan concealed himself in the auto and told the driver to proceed to the rendezvous point. Detective Lieutenants Leslie and McMullen followed in a police car.

Freese was waiting at the corner of First Street and La Brea Avenue to collect the money. As he accepted the dummy package he was grabbed by Nolan and the two other detectives.

Freese confessed immediately–he held a grudge against Wittenberg because six months earlier he had been turned down for a salesman’s job at the hosiery company. Freese said that he and his family needed the money because they’d fallen on hard times–a common enough predicament for people during the Great Depression.

The day following the successful conclusion of the Wittenberg case, Nolan and his 36 year old divorced girlfriend, Grace Murphy Duncan, were together at the Lankershim Hotel. The couple spent a lot of time at the hotel while Nolan sought a divorce from his wife, Avasinia. Once the divorce was final Duncan and Nolan planned to marry.

Photo of Lankershim Hotel courtesy of LAPL.

Photo of Lankershim Hotel courtesy of LAPL.

At about 6:30 pm on the evening of June 17 1931, Mrs. Helen Burleson, who was visiting from San Francisco, left her upper floor room and headed for Nolan’s room on the second floor. She had wanted to consult with him on a private matter. When she entered the room she saw that Grace was there and noticed that the couple had been drinking heavily. The lovers began to quarrel and Nolan shoved Duncan out of the room and threw her coat into the hallway after her.

helen burleson_crop

Helen and Grace went up to Helen’s room and talked about Nolan’s bad behavior. Grace wanted to drop a dime on him to the LAPD brass, but Helen talked her out of it.

While Grace and Helen were talking a trio of traveling salesmen, Robert V. Williams, Dan Smith, and Jimmy Balfe went up to Robert’s room to catch a ball game on the radio. Robert said:

“After a while the lights went on in a room across the light well and we saw two women enter the room.  Smith said he recognized Mrs. Burleson and he telephoned to her room and asked her if she wanted to come over and listen to the radio. Mrs. Duncan with her, and I don’t believe the two were in the room five minutes before Nolan burst in.  The ball game had ended and I had dialed some music.  It was about 10:30 o’clock.  Mrs. Duncan and I were dancing.  Nolan walked right up to her and said: ‘What do you mean by making up to this fellow?’  He pushed her over on the bed.  Then he turned to me and said, ‘I saw you kissing her.”  Then he hit me.  I staggered back into the bathroom.”

 The violence was about to escalate.

NEXT TIME:  Murder in room 815.

Film Noir Friday: A Life At Stake [1954]


Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is A LIFE AT STAKE [1954], starring Angela Lansbury, Keith Andes, Douglass Dumbrille, Claudia Barrett, and Jane Darwell..

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Building contractor Edward Shaw is brooding over his recent business failures, due to his partner’s gambling, when he is approached by lawyer Sam Pearson. Pearson, who scoffs at Shaw’s determination to repay his debts, offers to introduce him to a client who can invest a half million dollars in his company. Curious, Shaw agrees to meet with Pearson’s client, Mrs. Doris Hillman. At the luxurious Hillman home, Shaw is intensely attracted to the flirtatious Doris, who states that she wants to form a partnership with him in which he will build homes on the properties she finds. Doris asserts that Augustus, her much-older, wealthy husband, wants to keep her happy, but Shaw is suspicious of his sudden good fortune. Doris explains that she knows about Shaw’s work because her cousin lives in a home he built, and so Shaw agrees to further negotiations, if the Hillmans supply the funds for him to repay his original investors. Doris promises to ask Hillman about the provision and Shaw leaves, although he finds himself preoccupied with thoughts of the sexy Doris.

Film Noir Friday: Eyes in the Night [1942]


Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is EYES IN THE NIGHT [1942], directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Edward Arnold, Ann Harding, Donna Reed and Friday (the dog–who plays himself and steals the show).

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

New York detective Duncan Maclain refuses to allow blindness to interfere with his work, which is aided by his faithful dog Friday, his butler, Alistair, and his assistant, Marty. One day, actress Norma Lawry, an old friend, visits Mac and asks him to help her prevent her stepdaughter Barbara from doing something foolish with actor Paul Gerente. Paul, a cad who had once been Norma’s lover, has convinced Barbara that Norma only married her father Stephen for his money. Mac tells Norma that she doesn’t need a “gumshoe” and suggests that she talk to Paul herself. Paul refuses to listen to Norma’s pleas and insists that he loves Barbara, who is appearing in a local theatrical production with him, even though she is only seventeen. That night, Stephen has to go away on a business trip to test a secret formula on which he has been working for the government. Because Norma is worried about Barbara, she decides not to accompany him and goes to Paul’s apartment. When Barbara arrives, she finds Paul’s dead body and thinks that Norma has killed him, even though Norma insists that he was dead when she arrived.

Film Noir Friday on Saturday: Boston Blackie Booked on Suspicion [1945]

boston blackie_booked

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is BOSTON BLACKIE BOOKED ON SUSPICION, directed by Arthur Dreyfuss and starring Chester Morris and Lynn Merrick. The Boston Blackie films are light-weight and formulaic, but I love them. Former crook Boston Blackie and Police Inspector Farraday  butt heads once again in this entry, the eighth in the series.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

When an illness confines rare book expert Wilfred Kittredge to his bed on the eve of a rare book auction, Boston Blackie disguises himself as Kittredge and offers to conduct the auction for his friend and book store owner Arthur Manleder. Unknown to Blackie, counterfeiter Porter Hadley has manufactured a first edition of Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers to be sold at the auction. On the day of the auction, Blackie, aided by Kittredge’s assistant, Gloria Mannard, sells the book to Alexander Harmon for $62,000. The next day, Harmon discovers that the book is a fake and reports the crime to Inspector Farraday.

Film Noir Friday: Destination Murder [1950]

Destination_Murder- Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is DESTINATION MURDER [1950], directed by Edward L. Cahn and starring Joyce MacKenzie, Stanley Clements and Hurd Hatfield.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

During a five-minute intermission between shows, Jackie Wales slips away from his date at a Los Angeles movie theater and climbs into a waiting car. As he rides with a man named Armitage to a nearby house, Jackie changes into a messenger boy outfit, then shoots and kills well-to-do businessman Arthur Mansfield as he stands in his doorway. Jackie’s sprint back to the car is witnessed by Mansfield’s daughter Laura, who later picks Jackie out of a police lineup. Although Laura is unable to positively identify Jackie, she complains when police lieutenant Brewster releases him. Convinced that Brewster is not doing enough to find her father’s killer, Laura undertakes to investigate Jackie herself.