Sensational News!–1930s B movies with something special

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Look at these posters…are you feeling the thrills yet?

I’ve found two B-films recently that really excite me; Graft! (1931) and Ladies Crave Excitement (1935). There’s something special about both of them, in spite of the obvious drawbacks in their productions values. Graft! even comes with a built-in exclamation point–you just know it’s going to be good. And it is, in a funny way. A young reporter craves a real story to sink his teeth into and accidentally stumbles into a corruption plot that implicates the mayor. Sure, the chase scene seems to loop the same Santa Monica block about 5 times while supposedly headed in a beeline for “downtown,” and the lead actors laugh their way through their lines like they’re having too much fun to be serious, but it’s got Boris Karloff in a bit part, damn it! Best of all is the intro scene, which outdoes His Girl Friday (1940) for exciting tracking shots through a busy newsroom. I wish I knew who blocked that; maybe the director Christy Cabanne or the DP Jerome Ash. Anyway, it’s exciting and worth seeing if you can find a copy.

The focus of Ladies Crave Excitement is the 1930s newsreel business and a wealthy (and ambitious) young woman whose father won’t let her work in his company, so she teams up with his competitor to present a blockbuster new idea. In both of these movies, there’s something genuinely winning about the aw, shucks expectation that talent and daring will get you ahead. (It helps if the boss’s secretary is only your side as Esther Ralston is in Ladies.) The highlight of this film is the early film and newsreel production footage and a humorous chase scene at the end.

It ain’t art, folks, but it’s fun and it makes you feel good about the chances in life. If only…

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