Monday, April 27, 2009

George Sanders, Craig's List killer?

TCM is showing Lucille Ball in a noir this evening; The Dark Corner, at 10:00 PM ET. You might find it surprising to think of Ball doing mystery or noir, but The Dark Corner isn't the only one she did. In fact, when I first saw The Dark Corner on the schedule, I confused it with another of her movies, Lured.

In Lured, Ball plays Sandra Carpenter, a woman working at the British equivalent of a dime-a-dance joint in a lower-class part of London. She's trying to get a job as a chorus girl with producer Robert Fleming (George Sanders), only to have the plans be waylaid by real life: her best friend goes missing after answering an ad in the personals column, and the police have good reason to fear that this is the latest in a series of killings by a man who seeks out his victims by placing personal ads. When Sandra goes to police inspector Harley Temple (Charles Coburn), he is taken by Sandra's beauty and hatches the perfect plan: use her as a decoy to find the personal ad killer.

Well, wouldn't you know it, Ball meets a bunch of people who obviously aren't the killer, and then through a most amazing coincidence, just happens to meet Fleming. She falls in love with him, and finds that there's a lot of intrigue going on at his place -- including all the evidence pointing to Fleming's being the killer.

Lucille Ball is a better actress than she's normally given credit for. She did a lot of zany comedy, and because she became so well known to today's Americans for starring in I Love Lucy after most of her movie career, that performance is how she's remembered today. I suppose the constant TV reruns helped; it wasn't until the advent of TCM that a lot of her pre-I Love Lucy movies got to be re-examined. (I recall seeing later stuff like Yours, Mine, and Ours showing up on TV, but none of the pre-TV movies.) Having said that, she does a creditable job in Lured. George Sanders is excellent as always; playing a person of questionable character is something he did quite a bit in his career and eventually won an Oscar for when he made All About Eve. Coburn is his usual fine supporting self, even if he doesn't really come across as British. He's not as bad as, say, Joseph Cotten in Gaslight, but he's also clearly not a Brit. Lured is also suitably full of twists and turns, including a really fun one involving a brief appearance from Boris Karloff.

Thankfully, Lured is available on DVD.

No comments: