(Open Thread) Noir Side Street — “The Argyle Secrets”

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

Today’s film is 1948’s “The Argyle Secrets,” starring William Gargan (Harry Mitchell), Marjorie Lord (Marla), Ralph Byrd (Police Lt. Samuel Samson), Jack Reitzen (Panama Archie), John Banner (Winter), Barbara Billingsley (Elizabeth Court), Alex Frazer (Jor McBrod), Peter Brocco (Scanlon), George Anderson (Allen Pierce), Mickey Simpson (Gil Hobrey), Alvin Hammer (Melyin “Pinkie” Pincus), Mary Tarcai (Mrs. Rubin), Robert Kellard (Melvin Rubin, cop), Kenneth Greenwald (Gerald Rubin). Film directed and screenplay by Cy Endfield; cinematography by Mack Stengler. Produced by Sam X. Abarbanel and Alan H. Posner for Eronel Productions. Distributed by Film Classics. The script was adapted from a radio play by Cy Endfield.

The film is a brisk 64 minutes and was made with a shoestring budget of $125,000. Surprisingly, it has the look of a film with a much larger budget, and features a number of familiar faces from the classic TV era, such as Marjorie Lord (the replacement wife for Danny Thomas in “Make Room for Daddy”) John Banner (Sgt. Schultz in “Hogan’s Heroes”) and Barbara Billingsley (Mrs. Cleaver on “Leave It to Beaver”).

The story is about Washington D.C. columnist Allen Pierce, who, while recuperating in the hospital, agrees to meet with fellow journalist Harry Mitchell. But while the two are conversing about a book called the Argyle Album, Pierce dies. So Harry begins tracking down leads to discover who killed Pierce and recover the mysterious book. As he does this, he meets up with a number of bad guys (deliciously played by John Banner and Jack Reitzen among them) who all want that book.

This isn’t as clean a copy as the restored version we saw on TCM today, but you can watch the film for free on YouTube:

This was an enjoyable film that moved quickly through its paces, featuring a satisfying mix of humor and suspense, best exemplified by the scene where Harry enters the Rubin family’s apartment through a window and quickly finds himself in a tight spot. There’s an extended scene near the end which hits all the right noir visual cues. All in all, a fun picture. I give it 3.5 out of 5 unfiltered cigarette puffs.

Next week’s film is “Cage of Evil.”

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