Martha Carstairs was charged with murder twenty years earlier. Now, as her daughter Edith is about to be married to Malcolm Sims Jr., son of a wealthy industrialist, a sensationalistic radio station revives interest in the case, leading to the suicide of Martha and her husband. Opposing the station's policy is Sherry Scott, supported by his secretary Alma Ross, "two against the world."
Humphrey Bogart ... Sherry Scott
Beverly Roberts ... Alma Ross
Linda Perry ... Edith Carstairs
Carlyle Moore Jr. ... Malcolm Sims Jr.
Henry O'Neill ... Jim Carstairs
Helen MacKellar ... Martha Carstairs (as Helen McKellar)
Claire Dodd ... Cora Latimer
Hobart Cavanaugh ... Tippy Mantus
Harry Hayden ... Dr. Martin Leavenworth
Robert Middlemass ... Bertram C. Reynolds (as Robert Middlemas)
Clay Clement ... Mr. Banning
Douglas Wood ... Malcolm Sims
Virginia Brissac ... Marion Sims
Paula Stone ... Miss Symonds
Robert Gordon ... Herman Mills (as Bobby Gordon)
After a couple years of searching for the Humphrey Bogart film, "Two Against the World", it unexpectedly showed up as a TCM offering under the title "One Fatal Hour", a First National film from 1936. Bogey's character is Sherry Scott, the man who runs WUBC, a radio station whose program lineup is losing listeners. The owner Bertram Reynolds (Robert Middlemass), is a pathetic executive who calls the shots at the station, but hides behind his decisions by pawning them off on Scott.
In an effort to boost the audience base and revenues, Reynolds has the idea of reviving a twenty year old murder case, and offering it as a fifteen chapter radio play. Scott enlists the aid of Dr. Martin Leavenworth (Harry Hayden) to write the play and present it on the air.
The Pembroke Murder case involved a woman who was acquitted of murdering her husband, the circumstances of which are not made clear. However Gloria Pembroke has married, and is now living as Martha Carstairs (Helen MacKellar), married to a successful banker (Henry O'Neill), and their daughter Edith (Linda Perry) is about to be married (on the same day no less as the radio play is to reveal the identity of Gloria Pembroke). About to be faced with the devastating effects of this revelation, Martha and Jim Carstairs embark on a crusade to have the program stopped. Simultaneously, Edith's future in-laws respond by demanding that the marriage not take place.
Without revealing the final outcome, the film takes a devastating turn to jolt the viewer. Edith Carstairs confronts the principals of the radio station, vigorously admonishing Scott and the sniveling Reynolds. While accepting his share of the blame for the outcome, Scott partially redeems himself by quitting his job, firing his secretary, and hauling her out of the office, recognizing her for the conscience he once had. With an entirely abrupt finish, the film leaves one as disoriented and unsettled as any movie that doesn't have a happy ending.
With about a dozen films under his belt, Humphrey Bogart gets a chance to take center stage here with intriguing results. With no name supporting players, Bogey rises to the occasion by taking charge in the confines of the radio offices, and runs the show as if it was his own. In an interesting bit of characterization, he expresses his exasperation by crossing his hands over his bowed head, predating by a half dozen years a similar effect we'll see him do in "Casablanca". For Bogart fans, it's a genuine treat to catch an unexpected nuance like this.
This cheapo remake of the terrific Five Star Final suffers from terrible acting. Humphrey Bogart stars as the manager of a sleazoid radio station that is desperate to boost sagging ratings. The owner decides to have a series of morality plays written about a famous murder case from 20 years ago. So they hire the fake preacher (Harry Hayden) to track down the murderess, who was acquitted and has been living quietly under a fake name. The preacher arrive on the daughter's wedding day, but the ruthless radio station refuses to back off exposing the mother and ruining their lives.
Bogart is always good. Hayden is good the the slimy preacher, and Henry O'Neill is good as the father. Everyone else is just awful. Helen McKeller wins no sympathy (crucial for the role), Linda Perry is a lousy actress, Beverly Roberts is OK but always looks old, Claire Dodd and Hobart Cavanagh have no parts, Carlyle Moore is a dud as the boy friend, Virginia Brissac is miscast as the society mother, Robert Middlemas overacts as the station owner.
This one comes in under an hour but is a pale copy of the original which boasted dynamic performances by Edward G. Robinson, Aline MacMahon, Frances Starr, and Boris Karloff. But it's always worth watching Bogart.
Jack Warner was a movie mogul who never let a good story go to waste. After doing an acclaimed version of Five Star Final with Edward G. Robinson four years earlier, Warner Brothers did a cut rate B picture version, shifting the location to a Fox News like radio station.
Humphrey Bogart steps into Robinson's role as the programming director of the radio station where the owner has a new idea for ratings. He commissions a dramatization of an old murder to be done as a multi-part serial over several weeks.
Helen MacKellar is the woman in question. She killed her husband and a jury acquitted her. Since then she's been living quietly, married again with a daughter. The daughter, Linda Perry, is about to be married to the son of a steel tycoon and she knows nothing about her mother's past.
After MacKellar and her husband Henry O'Neill try every means of pressure to bring to bear against the radio station, they fail and tragedy results.
If it all sounds melodramatic, take my word for it, it is. Still it has Humphrey Bogart in it and there's a nice performance by Harry Hayden who is the genius behind the program in question. Boris Karloff did the part in Five Star Final, but Hayden is fine as the sanctimonious fraud.
# The play, "Five Star Final," opened on Broadway in New York City, New York, USA on 30 December 1930 and closed in June 1931 after 175 performances. The opening night cast included Arthur Byron, Berton Churchill and Allen Jenkins.
# The Turner library print was titled "One Fatal Hour" and ran only 56 minutes; many of the actors in studio records/casting call lists did not appear or were not identifiable in their print. These included Ferdinand Schumann-Heink, Milton Kibbee, Paul Regan, Jack McHugh, Charles E. Evans, Edward Peil Sr., Bill Elliott and Emmett Vogan. Some of these actors may have supplied several offscreen voices in the movie. It is not known if some of these actors appeared in the uncut print.