Dead Men Are Dangerous / dir. Harold French / 1939 / star. Robert Newton

Robert Newton is a writer whose bills are getting him down. IMDB writer Sculpt Again’s summary: “A down-and-out writer being hounded by collectors stumbles upon dead man lying under a fallen tree limb. Little did he know the man had been murdered, and he concocts a scheme of exchanging clothes and identifications in hopes of making a clean slate of things. Coincidental happenings lead the police to his new alias. A secret diary and a murder weapon hold the truth to his innocence while Scotland Yard is now the hound on his trail. The true killers are eventually exposed to him and his sweetheart. Then the truth is exposed. A somewhat frustrating story as the viewer watches errors in judgement from all angles. But a good ending for all except the murderers.” Robert Newton punches a miser’s son. The note says “failure.”

Newton disguises himself and sits in on the court proceedings. Camera story time lapses forward, apparently with Robert Newton closing his eyes and falling asleep. At least, his closed eyes accompany the lapse in time. These transitions are not naturalistic.

The actress who plays the maid is Merle Tottenham, who plays the maid in This Happy Breed. “I think it’s horrible, pandering to sensationalism.” “What do you mean?” “Why, publishing a dead man’s story.” Nice mess you’ve gotten yourself into. Boy yells “murder, murder” to sell papers. [Similar to the boy in The Third Man 1949 and the children in Odd Man Out 1947.]

The maid brings Robert Newton tea. Robert Newton tells his romantic partner he wants to flee Britain. Shot of their clasped hands.

Cut to hands of thug [as if they might be Newton’s hands].

[The situation: as if Robert Newton’s character is on trial for his “failure.”] Police search and remove woman from the room, [reminiscent of The Third Man scene but without language barrier.] Out of work man asks for coppers for tea, picks up suit, falsely accused, like Newton’s character. [As if on trial for asking for coppers.] Police methodically comb Hyde Park. Trees sway, as they did during the storm at the beginning. “I must get those tailors!”


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