(Open Thread) Noir Side Street — “I Love Trouble”

Nouvelle Vague (the residues of alphaville). Photo by Emiliano Grusovin.

Today’s film is 1948’s “I Love Trouble.” starring Franchot Tone (Stuart Bailey), Janet Blair (Norma Shannon aka Gretchen Breeger), Janis Carter (Ligia Caprillo aka the real Jane Breeger aka Janie Joy, bubble dancer), Adele Jergens (Irene “Boots” Nestor), Glenda Farrell (Hazel Bixby), Steven Geray (Keller), Tom Powers (Ralph Johnson), Lynn Merrick (Jane Johnson aka the fake Jane Breeger aka Ellen Ellsworth/Mrs. Keller), John Ireland (Reno), Sid Tomack, uncredited (Buster Buffin), Donald Curtis (Martin), Robert Barrat (Lt. Quint), and Eduardo Ciannelli (John Vega Caprillo), with Raymond Burr playing an early bit part as Herb. Directed by S. Sylvan Simon; cinematography by Charles Lawton Jr. Produced by S. Sylvan Simon for Cornell Pictures. Distributed by Columbia Pictures. Screenplay by Roy Huggins, based on his novel The Double Take.

This film was lost for quite some time but has been found. So yay!

The story is quite similar to Raymond Chandler’s “Murder My Sweet,” to the point that Chandler considered suing Huggins for plagiarism. However, he didn’t. Huggins went on to create shows for TV (like “77 Sunset Street,” in which Efrem Zimbalist Jr. played Stuart Bailey).

Here’s the film, if you’d like to watch it:

Detective Stuart Bailey is hired by wealthy client Ralph Johnson to follow his wife and look into her past. The husband knows she had used the name “Jane Breeger,” so Bailey begins by returning to her hometown to look into what happened to her. Bailey soon discovers Jane Johnson arrived in LA six years ago along with performer Buster Buffin, not the previous one as he was first told. A lot of confusion happens after this, mostly involving aliases, mistaken identities, four women who bear a passing resemblance to each other, and convoluted plot points. (I didn’t read the synopsis beforehand, and, yeah… the story is seriously hard to follow if you don’t. And even if you do.) If they’d only let Norma Shannon (aka Gretchen Breeger) see a picture of her supposed sister for a second time, at least some of the fake identities could be sorted out, without spoiling the final outcome. (And for the record, I only finally sorted out all the fake identities with my husband this morning, as well as by re-watching the film. But I still don’t understand the motivations or the point of half the action including the roughing up stuff.) Oh, BTW, the wealthy client is mostly referred to as Johnson, but at the end of the film he’s called Johnston by Bailey a couple of times (he’s also referred to in a note as Johnston). So, yeah…

The tone of this film is odd, at times it plays more like a screwball comedy than a noir film. (Which is similar to the tone later on in “77 Sunset Strip,” as well. The director had also done a lot of work in comedy, and little work in noir.) The acting is fine enough as well as the direction. But the plot… (Even when I thought I’d untangled all the aliases, I realized at the end the second time through that I still had it wrong before finally sorting it all out as the ending unfolded. But, at least, now everything’s been untangled in the credits above. So, there’s that, at least.)

This one gets 2.25 unfiltered cigarette puffs out of 5. So you could say I didn’t love “I Love Trouble.”

Next week’s film is a noir/horror flick called “The Red House” starring Edward G. Robinson.

So remember, when you want to go to college, use your own damned name! (You’ll get that joke if you watch the movie…)

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