Film Noir Friday: Shadow of the Thin Man [1941]

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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. Today’s feature is SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN starring Myrna Loy, William Powell, Donna Reed, Barry Nelson and Asta (his real name was Skippy).

Imagine my delight when I found this on YouTube today.  The person(s) providing the film say they couldn’t find a copyright for it.  I believe they may be mistaken — so watch this immediately!  The Thin Man series always makes me smile, and this particular entry in the series is one I absolutely adore (especially Myrna’s hat!)

If you miss this showing for any reason you’ll be pleased to know that TCM is showing it on December 31st.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

In San Francisco, former private detective Nick Charles enjoys a peaceful retirement with his attractive wife Nora, their young son Nick, Jr., and their wire-haired terrier, Asta. One afternoon, when Nick and Nora go to the races, they learn from Nick’s old friend, Lieutenant Abrams, that a jockey named Gomez has just been fatally shot. In the jockey room, Nick’s police and reporter friends think that he is on the case, but he insists that his detective days are over, even when one of the jockeys piques his curiosity by saying that Gomez was killed because he refused to throw a race.

Happy Birthday Aggie Underwood & Deranged L.A. Crimes!

Aggie hoists a brew c. 1920s.

Aggie hoists a brew c. 1920s.

Aggie Underwood was born on December 17, 1902 and Deranged L.A. Crimes was born on December 17, 2012, so there’s a lot to celebrate today. We have so many candles on our birthday cake it will take a gale force wind to blow them all out.

It was Aggie’s career as a Los Angeles journalist that inspired me to begin this blog; and my admiration for Aggie and her accomplishments has grown in the years since I first became aware of her.

Aggie at a crime scene in 1946.

Aggie at a crime scene in 1946.

Aggie’s career began in late 1926 when she took a job as a temporary switchboard operator at the Daily Record. She had never intended to work outside of her home, but she was motivated by her desire for a pair of silk stockings. When her husband Harry told her they couldn’t afford the stockings, Aggie got huffy and said she’d buy them herself. It was an empty threat — until a close friend called out of the blue and asked her if she would be interested in a temporary job at the Daily Record. Aggie jumped at the chance. Christmas was coming and the Underwood family could use a few extra dollars, and Aggie would get her silk stockings.

In her 1949 autobiography, Newspaperwoman, Aggie described her first impression of the Record’s newsroom as a “weird wonderland”. She was initially intimidated by the men in shirtsleeves shouting, cursing and banging away on typewriters, but it didn’t take long before intimidation became exhilaration. Much to her surprise she had fallen in love with the newspaper business. At the end of her first year at her “temporary” job she realized that she wanted to be a reporter. From that moment forward Aggie pursued her goal with passion and commitment.

Aggie at her desk after becoming City Editor at the Evening Herald & Express.

Aggie at her desk after becoming City Editor at the Evening Herald & Express. Note the baseball bat — she used it to shoo away pesky Hollywood press agents.

During a time when most female journalists were assigned to report on women’s club activities and fashion trends, Aggie covered the most important crime stories of the day. She attended actress Thelma Todd’s autopsy in December 1935 and was the only Los Angeles reporter to score a byline in the Black Dahlia case in January 1947. Aggie’s career may have started on a whim, but it lasted over 40 years.

Look closely and you can see Aggie's byline.

Look closely and you can see Aggie’s byline under “Night In a Motel”.

Over the past five years I’ve corresponded with many of you and I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some of you in person. Your support and encouragement mean a lot to me, and whether you are new to the blog or have been following Deranged L.A. Crimes from the beginning I want to thank you sincerely for your readership.

There will be many more stories in 2018, and a few appearances too. Look for me in shows on the Investigation Discovery Network (I’ve been interviewed for Deadly Women, Deadly Affairs, Evil Twins, Evil Kin and several others.) I recently appeared in a show on the infamous Cecil Hotel (Horror at the Cecil Hotel).  The Cecil has the dubious distinction of having been home to two serial killers!

I have appeared in a few podcasts — Hollywood & Crime and Gangland Wire to name two.

Whether it is on television, in the blog or some other medium I’m looking forward to telling more crime tales in 2018.

Happy Holidays!

Thank you again for your support.

Joan

Film Noir Friday — Sunday Matinee: Kiss of Death [1947]

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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. Today’s feature is KISS OF DEATH starring Richard Widmark, Victor Mature and Coleen Gray.  This is one of my favorites.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

On Christmas Eve, down-on-his-luck Nick Bianco, an ex-convict, and his three cohorts rob a jewelry store located on the top floor of a New York skyscraper. Before they can exit the building, however, the proprietor sets off his alarm, and Nick is apprehended by the police. Later, Assistant District Attorney Louis D’Angelo tries to persuade Nick, who has two young daughters and a wife, to name his accomplices in exchange for a light sentence. Sure that his lawyer, Earl Howser, and cohorts will look after his family while he is incarcerated, Nick refuses and is given a twenty-year sentence.

The Society Bootlegger Murder, Part 3

liquor stashAimee Torriani’s self-proclaimed psychic abilities were underwhelming. She put forward the same theory that Earle’s brother-in-law had suggested — that the killer was a veteran of the world war. According to Aimee the mystery vet’s motive was simple, he respected Peggy Remington for her work with veterans and felt her husband was doing her dirt with his constant string of affairs.

Aimee also offered her opinion on the Remington’s relationship. “Peggy and Earle loved each other with a love which was so possessive that it was destructive.” Aimee went on to say, “I was surprised when Earle told me, more than two weeks ago when I met him downtown by chance, that an estrangement might occur. I have been away from Los Angeles a lot and have only seem him infrequently since I cam here to enter pictures almost three years ago.” Aimee had known Earle since she was a child, but she said, “I never knew Mrs. Remington well. She used to ask a number of my girl friends to assist her in giving benefit affairs for disabled war veterans, but I never was able to take part in any of the functions arranged by her.”

When she was asked about the parties Earle attended in the company of women other than his wife, Aimee said, “I have never been on any parties with Earle.” And she reiterated that Earle was “…never more than a big brother to me.”

The investigation into Earle’s murder became more complicated with every interview. Far from shining a psychic light on the slaying, Aimee had succeeded only in casting more doubt on the widow.

Chief of Police L.D. Oakes contacted Oakland authorities for information regarding the August 13, 1922 murder of “Deacon” Edward M. Shouse, a Bay Area bootleg king. Shouse may have been slain in retaliation for dropping a dime on a rival. Shouse had allegedly tipped off government officials to a landing at Monterey of a large cargo of illegal whiskey, and as a result someone was out a lot of money. Maybe the unknown someone was angry enough to kill. They tried, but Oakland PD and LAPD couldn’t make a connection between the deaths of the two bootleggers.

The strain of the her husband’s murder and subsequent investigation were so stressful that Peggy collapsed and was ordered to bed by her doctor.

Captain Home and Detective Sergeant Cline questioned Peggy in her sick bed and this time she was more forthcoming.

Peggy hoped that people would not judge Earle too harshly. She said, “He started (bootlegging) in a frantic effort to recuperate his fortunes. That was a long time ago. I begged him to quit. At first he said it was impossible. Recently, however, he promied he would get out of the terrible business. But—he didn’t.”

According to Peggy, Earle’s personality changed as he became more involved in bootlegging.  And it wasn’t a change for the better. Peggy didn’t like his new friends. “And they were so different. In the mornings they would call at the front door, perhaps. Then a few would seek to gain admittance at the rear door of the house. Trucks would drive up to the house and unload the terrible stuff. An again a truck would be driven into the driveway to take whiskey away. i was compelled to give up entertaining. I couldn’t bear to bring my friends into the house. The odor of liquor was noticeable in every room. It was just one long nightmare.”

Most of the men who turned up at the Remington’s home were strangers to Peggy. She told investigators Home and Cline, “The telephone would ring. They would ask for Earle. A long conversation concerning ‘prices,’ ‘deliveries’ and ‘grades’ would follow. Sometimes Earle would get angry and following the calls say terrible things about the party with whom he had just conversed. I never made it any of my business to ascertain the identity of the party in question. All I wanted was his promise to quit the thing.”

Earle’s new friends did not bring out the best in him. Peggy said that Earle began drinking heavily. She said, “His business affairs were in a chaotic condition and this, combined with the dangers and worries involved in his activities as a bootlegger made him drink.” Earle also became obsessed with money. Peggy felt Earle lost sight of everything in his life but his desire for money.

On the day of his death, Peggy overheard Earle talking on the telephone. He was agitated and so angry that Peggy was convinced if the caller had been in the house there would have been a fist fight. Earle swore at the unknown caller and when he hung up he continued to rage for hours. If Earle had a falling out with a bootlegging partner or rival the situation could have escalated from verbal threats to murder.

Detectives pulled on multiple threads hoping to unravel the tangled case, but it was slow going. A search of Earle’s personal papers revealed the names of scores of people to whom he had sold liquor.

Dr. Wagner, the autopsy surgeon, threw the detectives another curve when he said that an X-ray showed that the second wound in Remington’s heart was not caused by a dagger but was caused by a freak discharge of the shotgun, or by some other weapon that had not been identified.

Detectives were frustrated and tired of running on the hamster wheel that the case had become; but quitting wasn’t an option so they kept digging.

Earle’s will caused police to take another hard look at Peggy.  He hadn’t been destitute as had been thought — his estate was estimated to be in excess of $150K (equivalent to $2.1M in today’s dollars). That kind of money is one hell of an incentive to commit murder.

Peggy may have been a good suspect, but cops were still inclined to believe that Earle had died as a result of a dispute with another bootlegger. That theory gained credibility when, about a week after Earle’s murder, police learned that during the three months prior to his death he had been in fear of his life. Earle had reached out to some of his business associates telling them that he had gotten himself into a jam and might be killed. Unfortunately, Earle was tight-lipped about who wanted him dead.

The prognosis for a solution to Earle’s slaying improved when Earle’s sister paid a visit to the District Attorney to tell him that she was being watched and followed.  Whoever was behind the mystery surveillance could be responsible for Earle’s murder.

Next time: The conclusion of the Society Bootlegger Murder.

 

 

 

Film Noir Friday — Saturday Matinee: No Man’s Woman [1955]

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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. Today’s feature is NO MAN’S WOMAN starring Marie Windsor, John Archer, Patric Knowles and Nancy Gates.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

In Beverly Hills, California, gold digger Carolyn Grant has been estranged from husband Harlow Grant for two years. When Harlow falls in love with Louise Nelson, Carolyn refuses to grant him a divorce, unless he gives her a large percentage of his chemical company plus $300,000. Knowing that Harlow does not have that much, she suggests that he sell his father Philip’s half of the company, which Philip spent his life building. Harlow is unsuccessful in talking Carolyn into a reasonable settlement.