Old Movie Review: Blonde Ice (1948)

Movie: Blonde Ice (1948)

Starring: no one I immediately recognize, but the lead, Leslie Brooks, was in a scene in The Scar, one of my favorite old timey movies. She was Virginia. IMDB and Wikipedia will resolve all other lingering issues.

Was it noir? In the sense that there’s a tragic romance, but what leads to the tragedy is a lack of self-respect for the guy, and being a serial killer for the girl. Not a lot of irony or poetic justice there.

You can see it/get it at: Youtube, it’s public domain.

I have to confess that though I love old movies, I have this initial “face blindness” problem where I have a hard time keeping track of the male characters, at least early on in the film. I attribute this problem due to the fact that it’s black & white, some cheaply made movies don’t have close ups on characters to give you (me) some visual recognition, and that the men all wear dark suits. So, typically, everyone’s in the background, taking up the frame, talking to each other, guys all wearing suits. Usually at least ONE character has a pencil thin mustache, and I can use that to separate him from the rest of the cast and allow me to figure out who is who before future scenes  focus on characters separately, etc. etc.

Well, within minutes we’re introduced to at least two guys with pencil thin mustaches. It’s a wedding. There’s a wealthy groom, and the bride’s jilted lover. Both guys are wearing dark suits and have pencil thin mustaches.

Arrrrgh.

Can’t…tell…them…apart…

Well, anyway, Leslie Brooks aka Claire marries wealthy Carl, and for some reason invited her ex-boyfriend Les Burns to the wedding at Carl’s mansion. Both Les and Claire work at a newspaper. Claire and Les meet on the balcony and she gives him a runners-up make out session, with promise that there might be more when she gets back from her honeymoon.

Carl sees this, and on the honeymoon he informs her that the marriage is already over. Claire expresses concern about her finances since he wouldn’t be giving her a dime, but c’mon, she has a JOB, amiright?

Clair goes and asks a pilot to take her to San Francisco and back, offering extra money to do so without telling anyone. So she leaves and comes back to her hotel and orders breakfast from room service, and that’s how you know she was gone for the day.

We cut to Les, who is a sportswriter at the newspaper. He’s invited by his secretary (I assume) to a dinner party, and he pretty much brushes her off when Claire calls to meet him. Les picks Claire up from the airport and she calls him darling and says how great it is to be together again. She’s really aggressive while he’s like, “uh, you’re married.” They go to Carl’s mansion and start making out and that’s when Les notice’s Carl’s body. Carl is DEAD! By apparent suicide.

Les tries to do the right thing and calls the police. The police suspect Les while Claire lies about her relationship with Carl. Claire then gets her job at the newspaper back, and she and Les go out to dinner. While out at dinner, the publisher’s assistant, the 3rd guy with a mustache, introduces her to a lawyer (Stanley) who is running for congress. She’s immediately intrigued by the candidate, as he looks like the guy who had influence. Les gets taken away by the police who want to interrogate him some more. Claire shows her concern for Les being seen by the police as a suspect, by setting up a meeting with Stanley under the assumption that he’d help her out with the estate she’d like to inherit Carl’s estate. Of course the lawyer is smitten with her, and she plays it cool and hard to get once he’s helped her out.

When Les had found out that Claire left with Stanley, he starts drinking hard. Les’ coworkers (with the exception of his lovelorn secretary, who is writing his articles for him) start making subtle accusations that Les may have planned Carl’s murder, with suspicions that Claire had flown up and back and killed Carl.

Before a hot ‘meeting’ with Stanley, she is confronted by the airline pilot, who demands money, and takes her necklace as partial payment. She goes back and forth, trying to appease the boozy Les and then continuing to date Stanley. A psychologist is introduced as a dinner guest of Stanley’s, and the doctor pretty much breaks down her sociopathic need for power and wealth for her, and for us. This is wonderful exposition, including a line from Stanley about Claire’s parents (her father ran out on her, her mother had to WORK).

The pilot calls her and demands more money. She picks him up, gives him money, and then SHOOTS him.

By now, roughly 40 minutes of the movie have passed since her husband’s murder. Since there had only been suggestions, I wondered if there was an actual mystery. If 3rd guy with pencil mustache was the murderer this whole time and was going to be revealed in a twist ending. And that there’d be an innocent reason for her midnight round trip flight. Well, this removed my doubt.

Anyway, it’s election night, and everyone but Les knows that Claire is dating the newly elected congressman. Stanley uses the victory moment to announce in front of everyone that he and Claire are also engaged. Les leaves and goes home to drink. Claire follows him, they argue, she professes her love for him but also for her need for wealth. Then Stanley shows up, asking to speak to Claire alone. So Les leaves.

At some point I expected Les to do SOMETHING. Nope, he just drinks.

Stanley (4th guy with mustache…you’re killing me, movie!) figures out what is going, breaks up with Claire, and Claire murders him. Les stumbles in, she gives him the murder weapon, and everyone happens to walk in to see Les holding the weapon.

Now this isn’t a perfect movie, but it has a chance to be a good thriller, a good mystery, or even a dark tale about the extent these two would go to for love. But it takes a weird turn here. The newspaper people suspect their own coworker Claire of the murder, but you don’t see them doing any legwork to delve deeper into the story. You’re a reporter, do some digging! Your OWN employee, who covers the society page, is more interested in climbing the social ladder, whose rungs are made up of discarded (and dead) rich people! You don’t recognize the conflict of interest?

The secretary doesn’t even show up after Stanley’s murder. For someone competent enough and to write Les’ articles for him, the movie can’t entrust her to do any reporter/detective work? Doesn’t she as someone in love with Les have a stake in rescuing him?

Instead, we get this awkward scene where the doctor promises the newspaper crew he’d look into Claire’s psyche. Then the doctor visits Claire, who typing a story. He just says that he knows she did it, she denies it, and then the newspaper men show up, “we called the police.” I watched this TWICE now and there was nothing in the discussion between Claire and the doctor to suggest he tripped her up.

The denouement…she just CONFESSES. She typed it up. She typed it up before the doctor ARRIVED.

Spoiler: this is how they get her. Good job, fellas.

What? WHAT? Did the movie run out of story? When writing it, was the screenwriter like “well, let’s see, I have a lot of characters motivated to rescue their innocent friend, but we’re already at 70 minutes. Haven’t really spent any time explaining WHY she is the way she is, I guess having her dump the same guy for two wealthy guys isn’t enough. OH, I’ll introduce this doctor to bluntly tell us her motivation, and then her downfall? The doctor’s promise to trip her up in the future!”

WELL, after she confesses, she pulls out a gun. It looks like she shoots the doctor but he’s still standing when the cops walk in. She does manage to shoot herself, and dies. They have justice, I guess, but “she would’ve made a good newspaper woman” only makes me think: what a crappy newspaper.

Was it good? 2nd viewing, sure, but the end still doesn’t justify it. Still, I learned about “poverty row” while looking up the movie, so that’s something.

Did I get over my old-movie face blindness? Eventually. Claire helped by killing half of those guys.

The Moral Of The Story: I have a feeling whoever typed this in a hurry had only a lingering sting of heartbreak to motivate them. “Don’t trust dames,” because no MAN will ever recklessly seek power and wealth I guess? Even the pilot blackmails her out of desperation, as if he had a reason and is somehow more trustworthy. I wonder if we’ll ever see his movie. How about a “franchise” of movies, prequels to each other, of characters double crossing each other, only to get double crossed themselves? Poverty Row, call me!

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