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Bureau of Missing Persons (1933) DVDRip (SiRiUs sHaRe).avi
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Bureau of Missing Persons (1933)
Butch Saunders has been transferred to Missing Persons because he was too brutal in other police work. He regards the assignment as "kindergarten" work. When a young woman asks him to help locate her husband, Therme, he learns that she is really Norma Phillips, wanted by Chicago police for murder of her husband. She escapes, but Saunders borrows a corpse from the morgue to arrange her fake funeral. The trap brings the woman and Therme to the mortuary out of curiosity.
Bette Davis ... Norma Roberts
Lewis Stone ... Captain Webb (as Lewis S. Stone)
Pat O'Brien ... Detective Butch Saunders
Glenda Farrell ... Belle Howard Saunders
Allen Jenkins ... Det. Joe Musik
Ruth Donnelly ... Gwendolyn 'Pete' Harris
Hugh Herbert ... Detective Hank Slade
Alan Dinehart ... Therme Roberts
Marjorie Gateson ... Mrs. Paul
Tad Alexander ... Caesar Paul
Noel Francis ... Alice Crane
Wallis Clark ... Mr. Paul
Adrian Morris ... Detective Irish Conlin
Clay Clement ... Burton C. Kingman
Henry Kolker ... Mr. Theodore Arno
This is one of the fastest-moving classic films I've ever seen....and very interesting. The story tells of the many people who report missing persons In New York City, and some of the wild stories behind these disappearances. Some are humorous, but most are sad. The main one here centers around Bette Davis, who is wanted in Chicago for allegedly murdering her husband. She meets up with Pat O'Brien, a tough-talking, hard-nosed cop who has just been reluctantly signed up to the bureau.
The dialog is dated but that's what makes some of these early 1930s films interesting. Today, O'Brien would have been slapped with numerous harassment charges the way he talked to women in here and then beat one up late in the movie.
Lewis Stone is excellent as the compassionate head of the bureau. All the characters are interesting and there are some neat plot twists near the end concerning Davis, O'Brien and another man whom Davis says is framing her. I never thought Davis was that attractive but, as young actress here, she looked hot, perhaps the best she ever looked.
'Bureau of Missing Persons' is a solid B-movie programmer of the type that Warner Brothers did so well, featuring excellent lead performances by Bette Davis (not yet at her full stardom) and MGM stalwart Lewis Stone (on loan-out to Warners) as Captain Webb, the head of the Missing Persons department of New York City's police force. Pat O'Brien, in his cynical tough-guy mode, plays a hardboiled cop who's been excessively violent in his previous assignments, and who is re-assigned to Webb's division. There's a fine scene early on, in which Stone informs O'Brien that the Bureau of Missing Persons is different from the other police divisions ... because they specialise in finding people rather than making arrests.
Some of the finest Warner Bros supporting players are here, including Allen Jenkins (always excellent, but even better than usual here) as O'Brien's partner, plus Glenda Farrell and the underrated Ruth Donnelly. Two of my favourite supporting actors, Dewey Robinson and Charles Sellon, are fine in small roles. Even Hugh Herbert is less annoying than usual here, avoiding his usual 'Woo, woo! Oh my!' schtick.
The film is somewhat episodic, yet realistic (as usual for Warners) when O'Brien goes from case to case. There's a touching sequence in which he's assigned to locate a boy genius who has inexplicably vanished. The way O'Brien solves the case is convincing ... and what happened to the boy, and why, is extremely plausible. (A good performance by Tad Alexander as the prodigy.) The film has excellent direction by Roy Del Ruth, an underrated craftsman who shunted among the major studios, rather than concentrating his talents in one place.
SPOILER COMING. The excellent character actor Alan Dinehart is less impressive than usual here, playing a role that's less plausible than usual for him. Dinehart plays a crooked businessman named Roberts who turns up dead when his crimes catch up to him, apparently a suicide ... until his crony Bette Davis reveals that Roberts conveniently had an identical twin brother, totally unknown to the world, who was shut away since birth because he was 'a babbling idiot' (as Davis puts it). Sure enough, Roberts faked his own suicide by murdering his twin. This is utterly implausible. The facial muscles of severely retarded people are much slacker than the faces of normal people, and over the course of 30 or 40 years the cumulative difference in muscle tone becomes so pronounced that a retarded man (even a dead one) could never be mistaken for a normal man. Coincidentally, I saw 'Bureau of Missing Persons' at an art-house cinema in New York City, shortly after the scandal in which a corrupt New York politician named Donald Manes committed suicide. Manes was survived by his identical twin brother, and for a moment I thought: 'You don't suppose...?' But Donald Manes's twin brother wasn't retarded.
I'll rate 'Bureau of Missing Persons' 7 points out of 10. It's a short feature with a fast-moving plot, and no annoying romantic subplots. I recommend it.
If you are a fan of the Hollywood films of the Thirties and Forties, one of the ways you can recognize one studio's product from another is the list of supporting players. Lewis Stone I don't think ever did another sound film away from MGM. Yet here he is in the Bureau of Missing Persons along with Warner Brothers regulars Pat O'Brien, Bette Davis, Glenda Farrell, Allen Jenkins, and Hugh Herbert.
As the head of the NYPD's Bureau of Missing Persons, Stone brings his firm, but wise head to the job he has. An additional job in this film is to break in new detective Pat O'Brien.
O'Brien's been transferred over there because he's a by the book cop who's not squeamish about getting rough, occasionally too rough at times. Later on at Warner Brothers, O'Brien played a lot of the same role in The Great O'Malley.
Both of those roles are a bit odd for him. O'Brien is usually tough, but smart. In most of their films together it's usually James Cagney who's the roughneck and O'Brien his wiser superior. They made their first film together the following year. I wouldn't be surprised if Jack Warner saw this and decided to give Cagney the O'Brien role and move O'Brien up to where Lewis Stone is.
In a fast 73 minutes the detectives deal with a bunch of cases, including finding that one of their own is a missing person. The most complex is one with Bette Davis coming in from Chicago and asking NYPD to find her boss. What she doesn't tell them is she's on the run for murdering that same party.
There's also a little after hours kanoodling with O'Brien and Davis that if things hadn't worked out could have landed O'Brien in one huge jackpot. But it's within his character who is impulsive to say the least.
This movie really can only be enjoyed if the viewers turn off their brain. That's because although the movie is unique and diverting, at times the plot and writing is abysmal. The plot has holes and improbabilities galore and the character played by Pat O'Brien must be most the stupidest and most unbelievably violent cop of the 1930s. If policemen had REALLY been this dumb, I don't know how we ever could have made it through the decade! Plus, if you combine all his civil rights violations (kicking in doors without warrants, arresting people recklessly and savagely beating his bigamist wife at the end of the film), you get a truly annoying character.
However, if you turn off your brain and watch the film JUST for its entertainment value, it's pretty good stuff. Plus, while it didn't do a lot to make Bette Davis a star, it did give her top billing AND her character was a lot better written than O'Brien's.