Good thing I missed this when it came out in 1937. It’s Headline Crasher, from Conn Pictures Corporation. This was during the period 1936 – 1939 when a handful of production companies came and went, turning out, in the course, some of the worst ever. Even Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry. I’m getting details from IMDb. This is brought to us through the largess of Amazon Prime Video, seemingly prepared to ensure we never forget our past transgressions, even after 80 years.
I’m not going to detail the plot. It’s inconsequential. I will just give a sketch and show some screen shots. It goes like this.
An attractive young piece named Helen (Eleanor Stewart) has suitcase in hand and is attempting to hitch a ride. Nobody stops until along comes a speedy sports car, driven by Jimmy Tallant (Frankie Darro) the son of Senator James Tallant (Richard Tucker), who is running for re-election. Helen tells Jimmy she needs to get to the airport in 20 minutes. It’s a matter of life and death. Since the airport is 26 miles away (do the math) that means some laws are going to be broken, and there is going to be trouble.
There is. Climbing aboard what appears to be an American Airline flight, the gracious Helen thanks Jimmy for being such a sucker. Then the plane takes off as the police arrive in pursuit.
Booked at the police station, Jimmy learns he’s going for forfeit his driver’s license. He’s also going to get some unwanted publicity. Standing by is ace reporter Larry Deering (Kane Richmond). His paper gleefully reports the Senator’s son is a criminal. Larry’s employer is working 24/7 to see the senator is not re-elected.
Larry stages further incidents, for instance having it appear Jimmy is driving without a license. As scandal piles on top of engineered scandal, Jimmy takes a powder and hitches a ride to the family vacation home by the lake. Larry drops by the senator’s office to get a line on Jimmy’s whereabouts, meeting the delightful Edith Arlen (Muriel Evans). She lets slip where Jimmy went, and Larry heads that way to look for more dirt.
Edith and the senator figure out what Larry is up to, and Edith takes it on herself to go to the resort and work the situation. In the meantime there is a bank robber on the loose, and Jimmy is accused of helping Helen, who is working with the gang.
Larry arrives at the resort. The caretaker, Martin (Ray Martin) tells Larry the place is closed for the fall (also winter and spring). Martin is typical of Hollywood’s portrayals of black people in those days. He speaks like an illiterate, and is completely subservient, saying “sho ‘nuf ” and “yassuh” sufficiently often to cement his position in society. Ray Martin played the part uncredited, as was often the case.
Surprise, surprise! The bank robbers’ hideout is walking distance from the senator’s resort home. One of the wounded robbers is driving there and encounters Jimmy on the road. Jimmy, ever the fall guy, gives him a lift to the hideout and gets taken hostage.
The robbers raid the resort home and take everybody prisoner. The sheriff arrives. The sheriff departs. The senator arrives. There are multiple turnings over of power as first one faction has the guns, then the other faction has the guns. Finally, thanks to Jimmy and Larry, the bank robbers are defeated, and Larry and Edith make wedding plans.
The cops arrive to put the arm on Jimmy.
Jimmy gets booked as Larry looks on.
A series of embarrassing headlines
Larry makes time with Edith.
Ray Martin welcomes Larry to the resort house, acting the required part.
Larry has the gun. But not for long.
Now the crooks have the guns, and the senator.
First thing you’re going to notice watching this right after reading this review is the drawn out police chase early on. Jimmy is driving Helen to the airport, doubling the speed limit, laughing at stop signs. First one, then two, then three motorcycle cops fall in behind. And on and on. Yes, we know the cops are trying to catch the elusive Jimmy, but does it take two minutes worth of celluloid to get the notion across?
The gang leader is Tony Scarlotti (John Merton). Yes, he’s Italian because… because, you know, gangsters are Italian. His gang robs a bank. The senator has previously prosecuted bad-as-bad Tony, and Tony has vowed vengeance. And his hideout is just blocks away from the senator’s summer resort. How much coincidence can a plot hold still for?
When evil Helen gets stranded heading for the airport with the stolen bonds in her suitcase, who gives her a ride but the senator’s son?
Yes, it’s a nice story, but the plot is overly contrived, if that’s not being redundant.