Tuesday, July 02, 2013

15 Maiden Lane

Fifteen Maiden Lane / L'ultima partita. US © 1936 Twentieth Century-Fox. D: Allan Dwan. Dal racconto omonimo di Paul Burger. SC: Lou Breslow, John Patrick, David Silverstein. DP: John F. Seitz. ED: Alex Troffey. AD: Duncan Cramer. C: Claire Trevor (Jane Martin), Cesar Romero (Frank Peyton), Douglas Fowley (Nick Shelby), Lloyd Nolan (detective Walsh), Lester Matthews (Gilbert Lockhart), Robert McWade (John Graves), Ralf Harolde (Tony), Russell Hicks (giudice Graham), Holmes Herbert (Harold Anderson). P: Sol M. Wurtzel per Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Premiere: 30 ottobre 1936. 35 mm. 65'. B&w. Da: Twentieth Century Fox. Cinema Jolly, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, e-subtitles in Italian, 2 July 2013

Dave Kehr: "An overlooked gem from Dwan's most obscure period - the three years he spent with Sol Wurtzel's B unit at Fox in the mid- 30s - Fifteen Maiden Lane is one of the six films he made with Claire Trevor, an appealing brassy Brooklyn blonde whom the studio was grooming for stardom (which Trevor would ultimately achieve with an Academy Award nomination for Dead End in 1937). The title refers to the address of the now vanished downtown Manhattan building where New York's diamond business was centered before 1950, a setting Dwan brings to life by keeping the action (and his camera) moving up and down between floors. Present in a dealer's office when a suave jewel thief (Cesar Romero) swaps a phony for a precious jewel, Trevor impulsively plays along by allowing him to slip the booty in her purse, which allows Romero to get past the building's chief security officer - a tough little detective (Lloyd Nolan), whose name, Walsh, is a likely reference to a certain old friend and colleague of the filmmaker. But this is only the first in a series of sly double-crosses, impersonations and unexpected reversals - all smoothly assembled by Dwan into a careening narrative that keeps the viewer delightfully off-balance. Trevor provides a perfect example of the strong-willed, autonomous heroines Dwan favored; one can imagine her proclaiming, as Shirley Temple does throughout Dwan's Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938), "I'm very self- reliant". With Paul Fix as a socialist agitator who receives an unexpected windfall." Dave Kehr

15 Maiden Lane refers to the address of New York City's Diamond District from the 1800's to the 1940s.

A crime film which starts as a battle of wits between the gang of thieves and the detectives on their trail. Claire Trevor excels as the undercover detective Jane Martin who infiltrates into the gang and manages to fool even Frank Peyton (Cesar Romero). There are elaborate camouflages and cover-ups in Mission: Impossible style. There are also realistic / documentary aspects: an introduction to the diamond district, and to the security system of a jewelry store, and there is even a film-in-a-film on diamond cutting. Jane enjoys flirting with Frank ("is there anything you don't do well?"), but beyond his suave mask Frank is a cold-blooded killer. This movie is a very nice discovery.

A brilliant print from Fox.

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