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Monogram May: I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes (1948)

The Columbus Moving Picture Show staff are big fans of little movies from little studios, whether that means small studios or those that received little respect in their day. In May, we’ll be turning the focus on a trio of films from Monogram Studios, a studio that managed to be both of those things.

SAMANTHA GLASSER: Hoofer Tom Quinn (Don Castle) is up late, unable to sleep because of the cats fighting outside in the alley. He and his wife Ann (Elyse Knox) are struggling to make ends meet, with her job giving dance lessons paying most of the bills. Impulsively he throws his shoes out the window at the cats, hoping to silence them long enough to drift off, but immediately regrets it. Those are his only pair of shoes, and shoes are expensive to replace. He reluctantly becomes presentable enough to go out and hunt for them, but unfortunately, he can't find them. The next morning, they turn up outside his door, so he acknowledges his good fortune and goes about his business until a neighbor turns up murdered and Tom's footprint is found in the yard.

RODNEY BOWCOCK: It’s a fairly common trope in old movies to toss shoes at cats yowling on back fences. Is that a thing that actually happened, even during the days of shoe rationing? Either way, it was a real mistake for Quinn to engage in this impulse, as he soon finds himself on death row for a crime that he didn’t commit. But who did? It’s up to Ann, assisted by Inspector Clint Judd (Regis Toomey) to find out and hopefully clear his name.

SG: In many crime thrillers, the police are tracking marked bills. In this one, the stolen money is vintage and noticeable, which is an interesting variation on the cliche. Ann works to clear her husband's name even when all the evidence points to his guilt.

RB: The bills belong to a reclusive neighbor that was murdered and Quinn happened to find a wallet that had some of them in it, which further adds to his predicament. This is a tense film, with lots of twists.

SG: Charles Brown and Regis Toomey are the police inspectors. Although Brown's name is generic and won't ring any bells, his face is certainly familiar. Toomey was a leading man in the transitional silent-to-sound era but he fell into supporting parts later in his career. He makes a big impact in this film.

RB: Toomey’s film career spanned six decades and literally hundreds of movies of varying quality, making him one of the most recognized character actors in classic films, ranging from Universal serials like Adventures of the Flying Cadets (which I’m currently watching) to certified classics like The Big Sleep. His career extended long enough that he appeared with Jerry Lewis in The Errand Boy and Elvis Presley and Mary Tyler Moore in Change of Habit.

Charles Brown, as you pointed out, isn’t quite as notable, even though he appeared in over 100 films before his death in 1948. This is one of his final few roles, but while he was definitely typecast as a police officer, you’ll also spot him in The Big Sleep, as well as lots of other movies that Picture Show people may like, such as the bizarre John Wayne romantic comedy, A Lady Takes a Chance and the Carole Landis/Pat O’Brien screwball mystery Having Wonderful Crime (which we recently unspooled at a suburban Cincinnati movie house).

SG: Cornell Woolrich wrote the short story under the pseudonym William Irish. The rights were first purchased by the King brothers in 1945 with the intention of starring Pat O'Brien as Tom. The film was announced to be a musical two years later, but the finished product only alludes to the main characters being performers. We don't actually see them perform. Shooting began in early 1948.

RB: A musical would’ve been an odd choice for this material, but a choice that does seem very Monogram. Cooler heads prevailed though, and Steve Fisher, who, like Woolrich wrote for lots of pulp magazines, turned out a very solid, dark and moody script. Not one to be pigeonholed into a specific style, Fisher even penned 13 episodes of the late 70’s-early 80’s TV series Fantasy Island.

SG: Showmen's Trade Review said, "It has a special appeal for the armchair detectives for as a mystery, it will not only challenge their wits but will also provide them with all of the ingredients they enjoy: murder, excitement, and edge-of-seat suspense." Box Office magazine's reviewer said, "This is a sleeper if ever there was one. A cleverly contrived, tight-at-all-seams murder mystery, its entertainment values greatly transcend its budgetary specifications..." Harrison's Reports was less enthusiastic. "The main trouble with the picture lies in the loosely written screen play, which relies too heavily on unbelievable coincidents [sic]. As a result it lacks emotional intensity, and the suspense is reduced to a minimum."

I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes is a clunky but eye-catching title for a minor, exciting film with a satisfying ending. Three stars.

RB: This is not a great film, but again, like I’ve learned all month, it’s not a bad film and is deserving of more recognition than many “serious” film fans give to Monogram pictures. Three stars for a very solid and unheralded film noir.

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