Tuesday, March 19
at Woodmere Art Museum
9201 Germantown Avenue Philadelphia
with the Chestnut Hill Film Group
There will be one complete screening, starting at 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:30 pm). Admission is free.
They’ll be playing two ‘B movies’ from the 1930′s and ’40s (and some short extra surprises):
The Crime of Helen Stanley– a 1930s murder mystery set in a moviestudio.
Madame Spy– a World War II thriller in which Constance Bennet plays a newlywed whose husband discovers she’s been meeting with Nazi agents.
The phrase ‘B Movie’ makes me think of giant, black-and-white spider puppets making off with little dolls, with the occasional cut to the face of a screaming girl. But it turns out that the original meaning of the term was just ‘second feature’, since movies were often double bills.
The B movies were quicker and lower-budget though, with less-famous actors and genres that lent themselves to a faster pace, like Westerns, mysteries, horror films.
So go check them out! It should be two hours well worth your time, and we’ll try to get a WPRB staffer down there to watch too.
And to sign off, here’s a more complete description of the two features, from the Secret Cinema press release:
THE CRIME OF HELEN STANLEY (1934, Dir: D. Ross Lederman) – Before playing Ellery Queen, Ralph Bellamy starred as Inspector Trent in four features made at Columbia. The third of these, set in a movie studio, centers on the murder of bitchy star Gail Patrick. (familiar to some viewers as Carole Lombard’s sister in MY MAN GODFREY). The cast also includes John Ford regular Ward Bond, future director Vincent Sherman, and Clifford Jones, who eventually changed his name to Phillip Trent (perhaps inspired by his memory of Bellamy’s character?). Jones/Trent would later recall to historian John Cocchi that both he and Bellamy were afraid of heights, and required a crane to place them on a catwalk in one soundstage scene. Needless to say, THE CRIME OF HELEN STANLEY provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Columbia Pictures facilities (here called the “Tru Art Studio”) — home to Frank Capra, The Three Stooges, and countless other greats.
MADAME SPY (1942, Dir: Roy William Neill) Constance Bennett and Don Porter star as a newlywed couple who travel throughout war-torn Europe on their honeymoon. Upon their return to the States, Bennett starts having contact with a mysterious man, and journalist Porter’s suspicions take him to an abandoned New York farmhouse crawling with Nazi spies. Constance Bennett had a privileged upbringing amidst a family of actors, including her sisters Barbara and Joan Bennett. She started in movies in 1916 and worked until her final role in the 1966 version of MADAME X. Neill is known as one of the most stylish directors of the B-movie world. He began in silent films working for Thomas Ince, and made some important horror films such as THE BLACK ROOM and FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, as well as most of the Basil Rathbone SHERLOCK HOLMES series. Less famous films such as THE LONE WOLF RETURNS or the incredibly dark BLACK MOON are beloved by hardcore B-movie buffs.