Heart of the North


This movie is a tribute to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, starring Dick Foran, Patric Knowles, and Allen Jenkins as Mounties.  Gale Page (the only Lane sister who wasn't a Lane) is one of the love interests. This is one of the few 1938 movies in Technicolor (my seventh, if I haven't lost count). Lots of shoot-outs and fist fights.

Familiar faces: Russell Simpson who played Pa Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, Gloria Dickson who later die in a cigarette related house fire.

There is also a German Shepherd in this movie named Rex.  I found contemporary newspaper articles claiming that this was actually Lightning, the dog who had starred a couple of years before in White Fang, but he is not listed in IMDB.

Gale Page
Russell Simpson and Gloria Dickson
Allen Jenkins

Over the Wall


In a story by real-life warden Lewis E. Lawes of Sing Sing prison, Dick Foran plays wannabe boxer and part time crooner Jerry Davis. Jerry is framed for the murder of his crooked manager and is sent to prison for manslaughter. John Litel plays Father Connor, the prison chaplain who helps Jerry turn his life around. June Travis is the love interest.

Familiar faces: Ward Bond (Bert the cop from It's a Wonderful Life) plays the murdered manager; John Hamilton (TV's Perry White) plays the warden; Jonathan Hale (Mr. Dithers in the Blondie movies) plays the governor.

Ward Bond

Jonathan Hale

John Hamilton

A cool close-up of a gun

Crime Ring


This is another racket busting movie, à la Smashing the Rackets and Racket Busters. The category of rackets here is "fortune tellers and specious stock promoters". The faux psychics steer credulous marks toward unscrupulous mining stock promoters. A typical 1930's racket would have honest businesses pay membership dues to protect themselves from the crime organization itself. In Crime Ring the businesses are not honest so they seem to get value for their money - the organization helps eliminate non-member competition and offers legal help.

The hero of the story is reporter Joe Ryan (played by Allan Lane) who is working with the DA's office. With the help of actress Judy Allen (Frances Mercer) and her ventriloquist friend (Inez Courtney) he sets up an elaborate sting operation. Judy is emplaced in a fortune teller's apartment and is approached by the crime ring. Joe then plays the innocent who is suckered by Judy to buy stock. Joe is made by the gangsters and kidnapped but is saved by cops who have been secretly tailing him.

Clara Blandick (Aunty Em from The Wizard of Oz) plays a wealthy widow who almost falls for a specially crafted fortune telling scam. Joe convinces her that all is not on the up and up and she helps catch the bad guys. A lawn jockey is a significant plot device, leading Joe to say at the end: "Don't thank me, thank the little darkie in the driveway".

Another familiar face: Byron Foulger.

Clara Blandick
Byron Foulger

Fast Company


This is a comedic detective story in the vein of the Thin Man movies.  Melvyn Douglas plays a rare book dealer who dabbles in book related detective work, along with his wife/secretary (Florence Rice). This movie spawned two sequels in 1939, each with different actors playing the lead.

Familiar faces: Thurston Hall (TV's Topper) and Nat Pendleton, who got surprisingly high billing considering he's only in two short scenes.

Trailer for Fast Company on TCM

Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice
What passes for risque in 1938

"Hays Code" marital beds

Thurston Hall, TV's "Topper"

Nat Pendleton

Maid's Night Out


Bill Norman (Allan Lane), son of  milk magnate Rufus Norman (George Irving), has decided he wants to be some sort of ichthyologist or marine biologist instead of going into the family dairy business. His dad refuses to fund this expensive hobby but makes a wager with Bill that if he can work at the dairy for one month, flawlessly, then he will let Bill use the family yacht for six months for a South American marine science expedition. Bill accepts, thinking he will be an executive, only to find out that he will serve the time as a milk delivery man. Bill nevertheless performs his job cheerfully and on his route meets Sheila (Joan Fontaine), who appears to be a maid. Sheila is in fact a debutante, although her family is currently short on income. Sheila starts dating Bill thinking he is a lowly milkman, who in turn thinks Sheila is a lowly maid. This the reverse of the plot of Hold That Kiss, where both parties are working class but pretend to be upper class.

The movie opens with Billy Gilbert playing a fish monger involved in an auto accident. He doesn't do the same kind of routine I was so fond of in Happy Landing or My Lucky Star.

Familiar faces: Cecil Kellaway plays the Norman family butler, and thirty years later played Monsignor Ryan in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Hedda Hopper played Sheila's mother. Also, Allan Lane was the voice of Mr. Ed.
Joan Fontaine and Allan Lane
Billy Gilbert
Cecil Kellaway
George Irving and Hedda Hopper

Blind Alibi


Okay, follow along: Richard Dix plays Paul Dover, an American sculptor living in Paris. Paul's sister Ellen also lives in Paris, and is being blackmailed by a former beau with some love letters she wrote. Paul has friends in low places and agrees to steal the letters from the blackmailer. Paul and his criminal neighbor succeed in getting the letters, but in a botched getaway the letters are secreted in some antique furniture bound for a museum in Los Angeles. The blackmailer also has some criminal friends and they set out to retrieve the stolen letters. Paul travels to LA ahead of his competitors and comes up with a master plan to find the letters: he will pretend to be blind, thereby getting special permission to explore the museum unescorted (this outcome was not obvious to me, but apparently he was right). Paul buys a seeing-eye dog (Ace, the Wonder Dog) and sets his plan in motion. The bad guys put one of their own (Paul Guilfoyle) undercover as a janitor but he is too clumsy and loses his access. The bad guys try to recruit blind Paul Dover to their cause, not knowing he is working against them. Yada yada things work out in the end, the letters are destroyed, Paul gets the lovely museum curator (Whitney Bourne) and the dog.

Paul Guilfoyle and Richard Dix
Whitney Bourne, Ace the Wonder Dog, and Richard Dix

Sky Giant


Richard Dix plays 'Stag' Cahill, an ex-military commercial pilot who is coerced into serving as the assistant to uber-disciplinarian Colonel Stockton (Harry Carey), who is charged with turning the Trans-World Air Line School of Aeronautics into the best darned pilot school in the world. Colonel Stockton's son Ken enlists in the school, and he and Cahill engage in an escalating game of pranks to vie for alpha dog position.  Ken is played by Chester Morris, who was the special prosecutor in my last movie, Smashing the Rackets.

The action of the movie culminates in a plane crash in the arctic wilderness, from which Ken and Stag must hike for days through the mountains before reaching safety.

The real meat of this movie is that both Stag and Ken love Meg, played by Joan Fontaine. Meg marries one but loves the other. It all gets straightened out in the end.

Joan Fontaine and her sister Olivia de Havilland are still alive.

Smashing the Rackets


This is the story of a gung-ho special prosecutor who rids the city of organized crime "rackets" of the gambling, protection, and (ahem) entertainment variety. Inspired by the real life exploits of Thomas E. Dewey.

Jim 'Socker' Conway (Chester Morris), former FBI agent and night school lawyer, becomes a special prosecutor with the D.A.'s office. Using a combination of trickery and disregard for search warrants he breaks a slot machine racket, a numbers racket, and finally brings down the kingpin, a lawyer who has been consolidating the protection rackets under his own leadership.  Conway also gets the girl (after her sister, a wayward lass, commits suicide by automobile).

Familiar face: Byron Foulger, who normally played some sort of clerk.  In this one he was a chemist producing a "nausea gas". He also played Wendell the train conductor on Petticoat Junction.

Byron Foulger

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