Friday, October 18, 2019

News Around the Girl

Last summer, I mentioned buying a box set of British B movies. Recently, I watched another movie off that set, Girl in the News.

Margaret Lockwood plays Anne Graham, who at the start of the movie is about to leave her job as private nurse to bedridden Miss Blaker (Irene Handl). But Blaker has a change of heart and decides to call Anne back, since apparently Blaker had been mean enough to stick some of her jewelry into Anne's trunk so that Anne would get arrested for theft. Blaker must have some sort of mental problem, because in addition to having done that, after Anne decides to return Blaker gets out of bed and unlocks the medicine cabinet with Anne's key to take a fatal overdose of sleeping pills!

Now, we've seen all this so we know that Anne is innocent. But there's a whole lot of circumstantial evidence against her to suggest that she deliberately gave that fatal overdose to the patient in her charge. Stephen Farringdon (Barry Barnes) defends Anne at court, and is able to get her off thanks to his clever lawyering, even though he's not certain Anne is actually innocent. This high-profile case has an effect on Anne, who finds herself unable to get a job as a nurse because really, who would want to hire a nurse who stood accused of murdering the patient in her charge.

One day, however, Anne gets a letter in the mail that includes a clip of a classified ad looking for a private nurse, with the implication that she should write in and send a photo to get the job. That job turns out to be for the well-to-do Mr. Bentley (Wyndham Goldie), who apparently has no idea about Anne's past since she's using an assumed name.

However, some of the other people at the house do, notably the butler Tracy (Emlyn Williams). He's been carrying on an affair with Mrs. Bentley (Margaretta Scott), and he's figured out the perfect way to get Mr. Bentley out of the way. That, if you haven't figured it out, is to hire Miss Graham, and then give Mr. Bentley an overdose of the same kind of sleeping pills that Miss Blaker took. The police are certain to find out the nurse's real identity, and put two and two together.

Meanwhile, Stephen has fallen in love with Anne, and she's down in London with him at the time of Mr. Bentley's untimely death. Stephen has the odd feeling that something is wrong since the overdose likely would have happened when Anne was in London, giving her an alibi. But how is he going to be able to prove it? Worse, Stephen has a flat-mate who is a police detective, Bill (Roger Livesey). How is Stephen going to investigate when his own friend is on the case?

Girl in the News is a suspense movie, not a mystery, so I'm not giving anything away by pointing out many of the plot points. Even though this is not a Hollywood movie, it would obviously have Anne be found innocent at the end in order to leave audiences with a happy ending (especially since it was released in 1940, by which time the UK was already at war).

Having said that, however, Girl in the News is a surprisingly good little programmer, with a pretty strong cast of British actors who made prominent enough work elsewhere in their careers that American film buffs will recognize them. On top of that, it was directed by Carol Reed early in his career, so there's little wonder it's good for what it is. Granted, it's not to the level of what the Korda brothers were making in the UK at the time, or even Alfred Hitchcock's British movies from before he left for Hollywood. But the more I see the more I'm surprised how many interesting British B movies there are.

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