As Dan notes, MISSING WOMEN features a female lead who is a "redeemer" character, a type that is prominent in early noir (particularly in the films from that period that Dan has termed "war noirs.") Prolific Republic screenwriter John K. Butler, who alternated between crime films and westerns over a fifteen year association with the studio, definitely seems to have ripped this story out of the Cornell Woolrich playbook.
It's probably worth determining just how many Republic noirs tend to recycle the plot elements of the "war noir" period that Dan identified, and how many do not. There are several other lead actresses in the Republic stable (no pun intended...) and it might be interesting to break out their credits in terms of the character types they played. Dan, if you've examined this issue from the standpoint of major studio vs. Poverty Row, that could make for some interesting reading.
Posted by Gordon Gates on 11/27/2016, 6:04 am
MISSING WOMEN 1951
This is another of the seemingly endless supply of programmers produced by Republic Pictures. This B-noir stars, Penny Edwards, James Millican, John Alvin, John Gallaudet, Robert Shayne, Marlo Dwyer and William Forest.
Newlyweds Penny Edwards and John Hedloe are parked on the side of the road swapping spit when approached by a couple of car thieves. The pair, James Millican and John Ennis, want the newlywed's car. Hedloe puts up a bit of an argument when Millican starts pawing Miss Edwards. This gets him a slug in the gut. Hedloe is dumped in the bushes and Edwards is about to get the same treatment when a passing Police prowler stops.
Millican shoves a gun in Edwards' side and says, "Smile and play nice for the cops". The Police see the "Just Married" sign and tells them to move on. The other carjacker, Ennis is hiding a bit further up the road with his own car. The Police fail to spot him. Millican forces Edwards to drive him up the road a piece.
He then grabs a quick feel and a kiss before knocking her out. He then hotfoots it away to hook up with Ennis. They feel it is a bit risky to take Edwards' car with the cops in the area. A passing motorist finds Miss Edwards and contacts the Police. A revived Edwards leads them to her now dead hubby.
Several days later, Edwards is being interviewed by Police detective John Gallaudet. He wanted details on the suspects and asks if there had been a woman involved. It seems that there are several groups of carjacker types who use a woman as a driver. The detective shows Edwards the history of one of the women, Marlo Dwyer. Dwyer is doing a year bit in the pen at the moment.
The detective steps out of the room to grab some more mug books and the like to show Edwards. Edwards reads the detail on Dwyer and has an idea. She takes off before Detective Gallaudet returns. Edwards buys some new duds and hits a beauty salon for blond dye job.
Edwards then uses details gleamed from Marlo Dwyer's files to get cozy with people involved in the car theft business. In no time straight she in knee deep with the racket types. Of course she soon runs into Ennis and Millican. With the new dye job, the low-life types fail to recognize Edwards.
Edwards lets the Police in on the set up. Detectives Gallaudet and James Brown are soon shadowing Edwards to keep her safe while she digs up more info on the racket. She is soon introduced to the boss of the operation, Robert Shayne. Of course the mandatory fly in the ointment now shows. Marlo Dwyer, the woman Edwards had used to fake her creds is released from prison.
Matters go south in a hurry and Miss Edwards is soon knocked on the head and dumped in the trunk of a car. She is up for a trip to the woods and a final resting spot in a deep hole. It is only the timely arrival of Detectives Gallaudet and Brown that saves the day. There is a brisk exchange of lead with several of the mob types expiring from severe blood loss. The dead include boss Shayne and hubby killer, James Millican.
The director of this brisk paced B-noir is Philip Ford. Ford was the nephew of the famous director, John Ford. While Philip never made it out of B-film fare, he did knock out a few decent low end crime and noir features. These include, THE INNER CIRCLE - 1946, THE LAST CROOKED MILE -1946, HIDEOUT -1949 and the excellent, THE TIGER WOMAN - 1945.
The director of Photography was another Republic staple, John MacBurnie. MacBurnie started out on serials like, RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON, CAPTAIN America, JESSE JAMES RIDES AGAIN and THE BLACK WIDOW. He then moved on to B-westerns and low rent crime and film noir. The noir include, SECRET SERVICE INVESTIGATOR, HIDEOUT, THE RED MEANCE, FEDERAL AGENT AT LARGE, POST OFFICE INVESTIGATOR, MISSING WOMEN and INSURANCE INVESTIGATOR. Several of these like, HIDEOUT, POST OFFICE INVESTIGATOR and INSURANCE INVESTIGATOR are quite nifty low renters.
Dan Hodges replies:
The YouTube description of the film begins by saying, "In a tale à la Cornell Woolrich [cf. the novel THE BLACK ANGEL (1943)]...."
In other words, Penny Edwards is a brave, strong woman. However, the plot features in 1951 are very different from those in Woolrich's novel, published in the midst of WWII, and carried over into the film version, starring June Vincent, three years later.
Unlike Vincent (and many other women in WWII era film noirs), Edwards isn't trying to prove the man she loves is innocent of committing a murder (because her man is the murder victim that launches the story). Also, Vincent conducts her investigation in the absence the police (whose only contribution is to have arrested the wrong man), whereas Edwards is ultimately dependent on the resources of the police.
To me, the way this film most stands out (and differs from THE BLACK ANGEL and the other WWII era "war noirs") is that, despite Edwards' good looks -- spoiler alert -- a Hollywood couple isn't created. A young detective speaks to Edwards and reveals something rather important to the finale, and then immediately we see "The End."