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Sunday, January 06, 2008

I, the Audience: Joan Woodbury 

Joan Woodbury. Nobody knows who she is nowadays, and she was never a big star, but she made a lot of low-budget movies in the 1930s and 1940s. She's great. I first took notice of her in "A Yank in Libya," a not-very -good movie that I reviewed back in March in these terms:

The next time I hear someone disparaging old movies as "stupid" and "boring," I'll wonder if they saw "A Yank in Libya."


Joan Woodbury was described as "very cute." I looked her up on the Internet Movie Database and I was surprised to find that she's in "The Bride of Frankenstein," "The Chinese Cat," "The Rogue's Tavern," "Algiers" and "King of the Zombies," all of which I had seen. It had been some time since I'd seen some of these movies, and Joan Woodbury has a very small role in "Bride of Frankenstein." (She's the little queen in Dr. Pretorious' little menagerie.) But "The Chinese Cat" is a Charlie Chan movie that I have on DVD and I've watched it a bunch of times.

Whatever. For some reason, I noticed her in "A Yank in Libya." And I now look for movies with Joan Woodbury. Here are the Joan Woodbury films I've seen since "A Yank in Libya":

I KILLED THAT MAN - 1941

This is pretty awesome. I don't remember why. The murder is committed in a witness room, right under the noses of the cops and all the guys in the D.A.'s office. Ricardo Cortez is the assistant D.A. or something and he has to solve the murder or his career is over. Joan Woodbury is the girl reporter. It's great because it makes no sense, lots of running around on all the same sets they used for all those Monogram movies starring Bela Lugosi.

Highly recommended for all you crazy people who like this sort of thing.

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THE LIVING GHOST - 1942

There's this rich guy who gets kidnapped, but then he shows up a few days later in some sort of weird zombie trance that modern medical science can't figure out. And a whole mansion full of relatives and acquaintances who might be up to something. Scheming second wife. Resentful daughter. Her boyfriend. Business partner. Friend of the family. Crazy psychic sister. (Joan Woodbury is trance guy's secretary.)

They bring in a retired private investigator to solve the case. The first order of business is for the detective and Joan Woodbury to start a love/hate relationship.

Well, why not? They hate each other. They love each other. They have adventures. They find bodies. They get locked in a basement. They solve the mystery. They get married.

It's perfectly natural.

(This, by the way, is one of the many, many movies directed by William "One-Shot" Beaudine, probably most famous for "Billy the Kid vs. Dracula" and "Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter.")

Not bad. Kind of fun. Never boring.

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