Film Noir Friday: Somewhere in the Night [1946]

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 SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT [1946] starring John Hodiak, Richard Conte, Nancy Guild and Lloyd Nolan.

Synopsis:

After a World War II injury, George Taylor’s (John Hodiak) memory of his life is fuzzy, to say the least. In an effort to reverse his amnesia, he tracks down alleged murderer and thief Larry Garter, from whom he received a letter. Along the way, he meets lounge singer Christy Smith (Nancy Guild) and police inspector Donald Kendall (Lloyd Nolan). They aid him in the search for Garter and his stolen loot, but all find themselves mired in a much bigger mystery than they anticipated.

Film Noir Friday: Impact

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 IMPACT [1949] starring Brian Donlevy, Ella Raines, Charles Coburn, Helen Walker, and Anna May Wong.

IMDB says:

A unfaithful wife plots with her lover to kill her husband, but the lover is accidentally killed instead. The husband stays in hiding, and lets his wife be charged with conspiracy.

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

Aggie hoists a brew c. 1920s.

Aggie hoists a brew c. 1920s. [Photo courtesy LAPL]

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 newspaper career began on a whim.  In late 1926, she was tired of wearing her sister’s hand-me-down silk stockings and desperately want a pair of her own. When she asked her husband Harry for the money, he demurred.  He said he was sorry, they simply couldn’t afford them. Aggie got huffy and said she’d buy them herself. It was an empty threat–until a close friend called out of the blue the day following the argument and asked Aggie if she would be interested in a temporary job at the Daily Record. Aggie never intended to work outside her home, but this was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

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 admiration. She fell 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 on 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. [Photo courtesy LAPL]

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”.  [Photo courtesy LAPL]

Over the past six 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 2019, 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 filmed an episode of Ice Cold Blood for the Oxygen Network, and I did a short sport for the podcast Hollywood & Crime, which will air in January.  I may have a couple of local lectures scheduled too.  You can also find me several times a year on Esotouric’s Bus Adventures crime bus. I’ll be co-hosting the Black Dahlia tour on January 5, 2019 and other tours throughout the year.

For several months I have been working on a book of true crime tales titled, Ways to Be Wicked, Volume 1, Los Angeles Crimes 1919-1949.  I’ll keep you posted on the publishing date (best guess now is late January 2019).

Whether it is on television, in the blog or some other medium I’m looking forward to telling more crime tales in 2019.

Happy Holidays and stay safe!

Joan

Film Noir Friday: Wicked As They Come aka Portrait in Smoke [1956]

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 WICKED AS THEY COME starring Arlene Dahl, Herbert Marshall and Phil Carey.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Katherine Allenborg, a working girl from the slums, sees the Stylewear Beauty Contest as a ticket to a new life. Although Kathy feels a repugnance toward all men, she decides to use her feminine allure to get what she wants. Upon learning that Sam Lewis, the elderly head of Stylewear magazine, will determine the contest winner, Kathy turns her charms on him. After Sam fixes the contest so that Kathy wins first prize, a trip to Europe, Kathy abruptly dismisses the hapless Sam. On the flight to London, Kathy meets Tim O’Bannion, a struggling television producer employed by the European-based Dowling’s advertising firm. Although Tim is attracted to the comely Kathy, she is on the prowl for wealthy suitors and hence shows no interest in the lowly Tim. At the Mayfair Hotel, Kathy, who has changed her name to Kathy Allen, finds a more suitable prospect in her neighbor, successful photographer Larry Buckham.

 

The Society Bootlegger Murder, Part 1

Isabel Betts was awakened at about 11:30 p.m. on a chilly February night in 1923 by the barking of her Llewellyn setter, Rex. Isabel pulled on her dressing gown, gathered it around her and walked slowly and quietly to the closed porch in the front of her house where Rex slept. Rex was so agitated that he pushed open a door to the yard ran off in pursuit of something or someone.  Had Rex caught the scent of a nocturnal animal visitor or, worse, a human intruder?  She immediately dismissed the idea that Rex was barking at her next-door neighbor, Earle Remington. Rex was familiar with Earle and never paid the neighbor’s late-night comings and goings any mind. Cautiously, Isabel searched the perimeter of her home and found nothing.  Relieved, Isabel started back for the house. Suddenly she heard a loud sound. She froze for a moment, but then thought she recognized it as the backfire of a passing car and took a breath.  Isabel called for Rex and went back inside.

At 6 a.m., February 17, 1923, Isabel Betts was again awakened by Rex, but this time she knew the cause.  Charity Dawson, the Remington’s maid, was standing in the driveway of 1409 South St. Andrews Place screaming and sobbing.  Prone on the driveway was the body of aviation pioneer and electrical engineer, Earle Remington

Charity’s screams had awakened Virginia “Peggy” L. Miller Stone Remington. She rushed outside to determine the cause of the shrieks and saw Earle’s body on the driveway. Someone called the police.

crime scene society bootleggerWhen LAPD detectives arrived they immediately recognized the name of the victim. Earle was well known in Los Angeles for his involvement in aviation and for his work as an engineer; Earle designed security systems for banks.  What wasn’t common knowledge was Earle’s other job, the purchase and distribution of bootleg booze.

When the police arrived at the scene began to construct a plausible scenario for the crime. According to them the murder went down like this:  Earle pulled his small couple into the driveway of his home and exited on the passenger side, then he walked around the back of the vehicle.  One, possibly two, killers materialized from behind a hedge.  Did Earle recognize them?  Did they speak to one another?  Nobody heard anything except for the sound that several near neighbors described as a car backfiring. The sound wasn’t made by a car, it was made instead by a double-barreled, sixteen gauge shotgun.  Earle must have watched his assailant raise the weapon to fire because he reflexively clutched his large briefcase to his chest. The briefcase proved to be worthless as armor. One shot penetrated Earle’s chest just above his heart. The blood trail showed that the wounded man staggered toward the house.  He didn’t make it.  He was likely dead before he hit the ground.

It wasn’t until the autopsy that the coroner determined that Earle had not only been shot, he has been stabbed with a bayonet.

No doubt about it, someone wanted Earle dead.

Detectives immediately turned their attention to Earle’s wife of six years.

Peggy had recently consulted with attorney Jerry Geisler about representing her in a divorce. A private investigator had confirmed Peggy’s suspicions that Earle was having an affair and she wanted out of the marriage.  Peggy knew about the affair with a married woman, but did she know that Earle was juggling several extra-marital relationships at the same time? Was Peggy angry, or broken-hearted enough, to kill?  What about the other women in his life?  Earle had promised one of them that he would divorce Peggy and then marry her.  The woman believed him, until she found out that Earle was cheating on her too.

The angry husband or boyfriend of one of Earle’s dalliances may have decided to remove his rival forever.

The suspect pool expanded when investigators took a hard look at Earle’s finances and found that his partners in the Day and Night Electric Protection Company and Night Safe Deposit Company, fellow aviators Frank Champion and Earl Daugherty, may have been in financial difficulty and blamed Earle.  An employee, Harry Miller, thought that Champion and Daugherty were responsible for the crime, but refused to provide details.

Finally, there were Earle’s bootlegger acquaintances. Earle didn’t deal in small quantities of booze, in fact he had recently bought 100 cases of the stuff. In the illegal liquor trade Earle would rub elbows with career criminals and others who wouldn’t hesitate to end a dispute with a bullet. Had Earle double-crossed one of his sources?  And what about Earle’s double barrel shotgun?  It had been stolen from his office a few weeks prior to the murder.  Could it be the murder weapon?

There were far more questions than answers.  Detectives had their work cut out for them.

NEXT TIME:  The investigation into Earle Remington’s murder continues.

 

Film Noir Friday: Phantom of Chinatown [1940]

phantom-of-chinatown-poster

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 PHANTOM OF CHINATOWN starring Keye Luke, Lotus Long and Grant Withers.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Dr. John Benton, in San Francisco following an archaeological expedition in the Mongolian desert, gives a film presentation for his colleagues. The film shows his discovery of the precious ancient tomb of a Ming emperor, for which archaeologists have been searching for centuries. The tomb contains a scroll that tells the secret of the Temple of Eternal Fire, which is of great financial importance to China as it could reveal an enormous untapped reserve of oil. The film of the trip shows a violent windstorm that erupted when the tomb was opened, in keeping with an ancient curse. Mason, the co-pilot on the trip, was lost during the storm, and the expedition party was forced to continue on without him.

Film Noir Friday: The Brasher Doubloon [1947]

brasher_doubloon_ver2

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 THE BRASHER DOUBLOON starring George Montgomery, Nancy Guild and Conrad Janis.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Philip Marlowe (George Montgomery) gets involved when limp-wristed and snidley Leslie Murdock (Conrad Janis) steals a rare doubloon from his mother (Florence Bates) to give to a newsreel photographer in exchange for film that is being used for blackmail purposes. Marlowe’s involvement has him encounter a girl who goes into hysterics when touched by a man; a husband-killing woman; three corpses; a couple of scuffles in which he gets his clock cleaned; a secretary who thinks she has killed her boss, which is the reason Raymond Chandler called his story “The High Window”, and a son (who qualifies as a S.O.B. by two definitions) who blackmails his widowed mother. So, what’s not to like.

Film Noir Friday: Spellbound [1945]

SPELLBOUND

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 SPELLBOUND starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

When Dr. Anthony Edwardes, the distinguished psychologist who is to take over as head of Green Manors mental hospital, arrives at the countryside facility, his colleagues, including the outgoing head, Dr. Murchison, are surprised to see how young he is. That evening, Dr. Constance Peterson, the hospital’s only female psychologist, meets Dr. Edwardes at dinner and is immediately attracted to him. At the doctors’ table, Constance, who has been accused by her amorous colleague, Dr. Fleurot, of being cool and detached, talks animatedly about her idea for a woodside swimming pool and starts to draw her proposed design on the tablecloth with the sharp edge of her knife. Dr. Edwardes responds to the curved lines with a sudden burst of anger, baffling his peers.

Film Noir Friday: The Kiss of Death [1947]

kiss-of-death-movie-poster-1947-1020414224

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 THE KISS OF DEATH starring Richard Widmark, Victor Mature, and Coleen Gray. This was Richard Widmark’s film debut, and he is unforgettable as Tommy Udo.tommy_udo_kissofdeath

One of the reasons I selected this film is that it opened in 1947–the same year as one of the most notorious unsolved murders in Los Angeles’ history–the slaying of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia. I’m covering the Dahlia case over the next couple of weeks. Enjoy the film.

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. Three years later, at Sing Sing Prison, Nick learns that his wife has committed suicide, and his daughters have been sent to an orphanage.