Monday, October 4, 2010

Critics' Choice

You've probably seen the promos on TCM; this month they're running a series in which sixteen different movie critics sit down with TCM host Robert Osborne to present two movies. The critics are coming, two a night, on each of the four Mondays and Wednesdays in October, which means that tonight is the first night of the series. Tonight's critics are:

Leonard Maltin, who has selected two pre-code movies:
Penthouse at 8:00 PM ET; followed by
Skyscraper Souls at 9:45 PM.

Maltin is followed by Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, who has chosen two more well-known films:
Orson Welles' Touch of Evil at 11:30 PM; and
Paul Muni's I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang at 1:30 AM.

As you can see, I've recommended one of them already. Touch of Evil is well-known enough that I can save it for later. I'm looking forward to Skyscraper Souls, as it's one I haven't seen before. So, the one I'll give a bigger mention to today is Penthouse.

Penthouse is one of those movies, like Brighton Rock, I saw the last time it was on TCM and my memory might be a bit hazy. Warner Baxter stars as Jackson Durant, a high-class New York lawyer at one of the prestigious law firms. On a lark, he decides to take the case of gangster Tony Gazotti (Nat Pendleton), who has been wrongly brought up on a murder rap. Durant gets him off, but it costs him both his job and his girlfriend. His girlfriend gets anothe boyfriend, but he too is wrongly accused of murder at a swanky New York penthouse. The only person who can get him off is Durant, who uses his Perry Mason-like detective skills more than his courtroom skills to find out what really happened....

Along the way, Durant gets helped by gangster's moll Gertie, played by Myrna Loy in one of the fun roles she had before she became Nora Charles and started becoming the perfect wife to William Powell or other actors. The movie, like The Thin Man is directed by Woody Van Dyke, so you know you're going to get something that zips right along.

Penthouse is available on DVD as part of the Warner Archive collection.

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