Saturday, December 31, 2022

Franchot Tone loves trouble

Another movie that was sitting on my DVR for a few months was one I hadn't heard of before Eddie Muller plucked it out of obscurity for a showing on Noir Alley: a 1948 movie called I Love Trouble, not to be confused with the 1990s movie that has the same title but a completely different plot.

Franchot Tone stars as Stu Bailey, a Los Angeles private eye who one day gets a visit from an up-and-coming politician named Ralph Johnston (Tom Powers). Johnston has a wife, but she's gotten a blackmail letter and subsequently gone missing. So Johnston wants Stu to figure out what it is in Jane's past that would cause somebody to blackmail her, as well as to find who's doing the blackmailing and where Mrs. Johnston is.

That sounds simple enough, but it all gets a lot more complicated. Before the war, Mrs. Johnston was working at nightclubs under the stage name Janie Joy, and that she was originally from Portland, Oregon. One of the nightclubs is run by Keller (Steven Geray), who has a couple of henchmen working for him in the form of Herb (Raymond Burr) and Reno (John Ireland). Keller is suitably odious and dangerous for Bailey, but he's not the only possible suspect in what's going on.

There's also Buffin, who knew Jane before she left Portland, and who is now running a restaurant that's even more out of the way than the one near the climax of 99 River Street. Who on earth would ever visit a place like this to eat. Thankfully, we can deduce fairly quickly that Buffin is in fact not a suspect, but that's only because he gets shot and killed.

And then there are the women. One, Norma (Janet Blair) claims to be Jane's sister, although the camerawork makes it ridiculously obvious that she isn't since her monogram doesn't match Jane's last name. There's also Boots (Adele Jergens), who married into money and is involved somehow, as well as a mysterious third woman I won't go into too much detail about lest I give away too much about the plot, other than to say Bailey figures out someone's trying to frame him.

Well, it's in part that I don't want to reveal plot twists, and partly because I Love Trouble is a fairly confusing movie, with an origin that Eddie Muller very helpfully explained in his intro and outro to the movie. The writer, Roy Huggins (who would go on to a very successful career writing and producing for TV), wanted to hone his writing skill by writing a character that emulated private eye Philip Marlowe very closely. To this. Huggins also added a lot of cynical humor. This humor was tailor made for Glenda Farrell, who plays the part of Bailey's secretary/girl Friday. Unsurprisingly, she runs with it.

I Love Trouble is decidedly lesser noir, but it's definitely watchable.

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