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Mystery Street (1950, Ricardo Montalban, Sally Forrest)

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Oscar nominated film noir starring a young RICARDO MONTALBAN as a Massachusetts cop on his first murder investigation.

Vivian Heldon (JAN STERLING) works in a bar known as the ‘Grass Skirt’ and is having an affair with a wealthy and respected married architect, James Harkley (EDMON RYAN), a member of one of Boston’s oldest families. Vivian is pregnant by Hartley and, from the payphone of her boarding house, threatens to reveal their affair unless he gives her money.

They arrange to meet in her bar but Vivian is stood up and decides to take a ride down to the Cape with local drunk Henry Shanway (MARSHALL THOMPSON). Stealing Henry’s car and leaving him stranded on the highway, Vivian drives over to find Hartley and get her money. But Hartley shoots her and throws her body in the ocean. Three months later her body is washed up on the beach.

Lt Pete Morales (Montalban) is on the case and questions barfly Henry who lies about his trip down to the Cape with Vivian, saying his car had been stolen from the bar. But Pete believes Henry is the killer as witnesses saw the two together in his car that night. With the net closing in on poor Henry, it appears that Hartley may walk away a free man, but Vivian’s ex-landlady, Mrs Smerrling (ELSA LANCHESTER), who had overheard her telephone conversation with Hartley, has been to the architects house and stolen his gun to use as blackmail, and the chase is on to find the gun and the real killer…

Although Montalban’s subtle performance was an early example of his talent, Elsa Lanchester as the scheming, despicable, uncaring landlady, steals the show.

production details
USA | 93 minutes | 1950

Director: John Sturges
Writers: Sydney Boehm, Richard Brooks, from an unpublished story by Leonard Spigelgass

cast
Ricardo Montalban as Peter Moralas
Sally Forrest as Grace Shanway
Bruce Bennett as Dr. McAdoo
Elsa Lanchester as Mrs. Smerrling
Marshall Thompson as Henry Shanway
Jan Sterling as Vivian Heldon
Edmon Ryan as James Joshua Harkley
Betsy Blair as Jackie Elcott
Wally Maher as Tim Sharkey
May McAvoy as Nurse (uncredited)
Juanita Quigley as Daughter (uncredited)