|The House Across the Street (1949)
Run time: 69 min
Genres: Comedy | Crime | Drama
Director: Richard L. Bare
Writers: Russell S. Hughes, Roy Chanslor
Stars: Wayne Morris, Janis Paige, Bruce Bennett
When a managing editor writes serveral articles blasting the police for incompetence, the paper’s owner, worried about a libel suit, reassigns him to the “Advice to the Lovelorn” column. The reporter turns sleuth, teaming up with reporter Paige to help crack the case. A neat little B pic.
Release Date: 10 September 1949 (USA)
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I do not know if this would be considered a classic, but it is a nice little film starring Wayne Morris, who by the late 1940’s was not seen in too many starring roles in Hollywood. Morris gives a good performance as a newspaper man trying to expose criminal kingpin Bruce Bennett as a murderer. Good pacing, simple script with some fine witty dialogue. I saw this movie during a cold and blustery snowstorm. This is the kind of film that used to grace our late late movies. I sure could use more of this kind of entertainment on tv in the wee hours of morning instead of so many infomercials. Check this one out if it is ever on. It’s worth a watch.
From a literal standpoint the title for this film seems somewhat irrelevant, since the house across the street only involves the opening sequence. But from a figurative viewpoint, the title is apt, indicating that most urban Americans don't really know much about what is going on across the street from where they live, crime, murder, shakedowns, and such. Across the street could be across the nation.
Dave Joslin (Wayne Morris) is the managing editor for the local newspaper, involved in attacking a crime syndicate running the city headed by boss Keever (Bruce Bennett). When a key witnessed is murdered by Keever's hit-man right in front of a stakeout, Joslin writes a scathing editorial about the ineffectiveness of the police department in handling the mob. Joslin's boss, J.B. Grennell (Alan Hale, Sr.), running scared, orders Joslin to back off. When Joslin refuses, J.B. reassigns him to the Bewildered Hearts office replacing Joslin's lady love, Kit Williams (Janis Paige), who is much obliged to be reassigned. (One wonders if this flick wasn't the basis for the early television sitcom starring Peter Lawford and Marcia Henderson, "Dear Phoebe," where the advice columnist is a man.) While doing his duties as advice to the lovelorn columnist, Joslin stumbles onto a situation that is connected to the mob hit. He and Kit begin a merry chase that leads them into dark corners, near-death escapes, and lots of other fun and mayhem before pulling all the loose ends together.
Wayne Morris is always a joy to watch. Janis Paige doesn't get to sing and dance, but does get to turn in a good performance as assistant sleuth. The rest of the cast is great, especially James Mitchell as Marty Bremer. "The House Across the Street" is basically a comedy-thriller, giving the audience a fair run for its money.
Had this B film remake of Hi Nellie been done during the Thirties before the war my guess is that Warner Brothers probably would have included a lot more action. Other than James Mitchell roughing up Wayne Morris a bit there's no real action in this film, not even the sound of a gun firing. Unusual when you consider the villain is a gangster.]
The House Across The Street had more of an accent on comedy with Wayne Morris being demoted to the advice to the lovelorn column after refusing to back off an expose of gangster Bruce Bennett. It's not that publisher Alan Hale isn't in his corner, but Morris hasn't got any proof and Bennett is doing the ungangster like thing of suing for libel.
But curiously enough a woman who had not had her letter to the column answered, Lila Leeds came up and gives Morris the lowdown on her problem with boyfriend James Holden. She inadvertently provides a clue that starts Morris on the trail of linking Bennett to the murder of a state's witness.
Morris gets plenty of help, good help from the former sob sister at the paper, Janis Paige. She's got good reporter's instincts and was never really given a chance to prove them while Morris was the city editor. Now she's helping, but giving Wayne a few jabs in the process.
The House Across The Street is a nice competently made B film that I'm sure 1949 audiences enjoyed while waiting for the main feature from Warner Brothers to start. It's fast and funny and a real treat.
A police detective bungles a stakeout, resulting in the murder of a key witness against a crime boss (Bruce Bennett). Against the advice of his skittish publisher, a managing editor (blond bruiser Wayne Morris) launches a hard-hitting campaign against police incompetence. When Bennett, escorted by mouthpiece and torpedo, rattles his sabres, the publisher puts Morris on the Bewildered Hearts column as punishment. And lo and behold, that’s where the case gets solved.
A problem brought by a lovelorn gal, about an incident involving her drunken boyfriend in a mob-owned nightclub, raises red flags. Morris and his sob-sister girlfriend (Janis Paige) start pursuing the story, despite kicks in the shins, threats from guns and almost being run down by a careening black sedan. It turns out that a snapshot taken by the club’s roving photographer conceals incriminating evidence….
The House Across the Street stays a fairly generic crime programmer, even down to its attempts at comic and romantic relief. Luckily, the story stays reasonably tight, centering on why and where the boyfriend vanished that dimly remembered night. Its biggest puzzle is its title: The House Across the Street refers to the residence being staked out at the movie’s beginning; it’s no more than the wick that kindles the plot.