Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

JOURNAL OF A CRIME


JOURNAL OF A CRIME (1934). Director: William Keighley. From a play by Jacques Deval.

Ruth Chatterton learns that her producer husband (Adolphe Menjou) has fallen in love with a pretty and callow young actress. She takes his gun, goes to the theater, and shoots her, just as a bank robber who shot a teller tries to use the theater as a hide-out. Naturally, the robber is blamed for the mistress's murder, but Menjou finds his gun backstage and figures out the truth. [“Fiend! Fiend!” he keeps saying to his wife once they're home.] Menjou decides not to give his wife up to the police, hoping she'll crack and do the right thing as their relationship crumbles. This is very potent material, but the movie pretty much sticks to the surface and never explores with any depth the shattering emotions going on underneath. The dead girl is virtually forgotten and the teller we see shot early in the movie is hardly mentioned; there's little attempt to examine all the moral issues. One of the most interesting scenes has Chatterton going to see the bank robber convicted of her rival's murder on the eve of his execution, but otherwise the story goes in all the wrong directions, and the film's potential is wasted. Although Chatterton gets stronger as the picture proceeds, another problem with the movie is that both she and Menjou give comparatively perfunctory performances.
Verdict: Missed opportunities. **.

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