This week’s surprisingly difficult mystery movie has been the 1948 Warner Bros. picture “Smart Girls Don’t Talk,” with Virginia Mayo, Bruce Bennett, Robert Hutton, Tom D’Andrea, Richard Rober, Helen Wescott and Richard Benedict.
It was written by William Sackheim, photographed by Ted McCord, with art direction by Stanley Fleischer, dialogue direction by John Maxwell, set decoration by William Wallace, special effects by Robert Burks, makeup by Perc Westmore, orchestrations by Leonid Raab, music by David Buttolph and produced by Saul Elkins. The movie was directed by Richard Bare.
The DVD is available from Warner Archive for $21.99.
Oddly enough, “Smart Girls Don’t Talk” turned out to be one of the biggest stumpers I have ever had as a mystery movie. More than the silents or the foreign films.
According to the New York Times (March 14, 1948), the film was originally titled “Dames Don’t Talk,” but the production code forbid the use of “Dames” in a title. The New York Times also reported (Feb. 10, 1948) that the film was part of Warner Bros. plan to remake literary properties in its library “as vehicles for young players.” “Dames Don’t Talk” was originally intended as a remake of the 1937 Humphrey Bogart-Bette Davis movie “Marked Woman,” but was rewritten so heavily that Sackheim received the sole writing credit.
May 9, 1948: In an interview with Virginia Mayo for “Smart Girls Don’t Talk,” Los Angeles Times movie writer John L. Scott works in the angle of what the subject of the interview is eating. This was a tired, old bit in 19-effing-48 but nearly 70 years later, we find that third-tier feature writers don’t feel they have done their job unless they report that a star is “swigging a bottled water” or “tucking into a Cobb salad at the Polo Lounge.”
The film opened in Los Angeles as the second half of a double bill with “The Decision of Christopher Blake,” which although it received the better review has never been commercially released. Writing in the Dec. 18, 1948, Los Angeles Times, film critic Philip K. Scheuer said:
“Smart Girls Don’t Talk” could be a remake of any one of a dozen Warner underworld yarns, being about a socialite, Virginia Mayo; her student-doctor brother, Robert Hutton, and a racketeering gambler, Bruce Bennett. Everybody acts very high-toned, Miss Mayo even pronouncing it “enthusi-ism” and Mr. Bennett nonchalantly ordering a steak Chateaubriand and the right wine to go with it. He’s a bad man with a gun, though.
The New York Times apparently did not review “Smart Girls Don’t Talk” and gave only a passing negative mention to “The Decision of Christopher Blake.”
For Monday, we have a dapper mystery gent.
Update: This is Mike Lally.
And for Tuesday, we have a mystery woman.
Update: This is Helen Wescott.
For Wednesday, we have this mystery gent. In a trenchcoat. And a fedora. So clearly this is an English drawing room drama.
Update: This is Richard Benedict.
For Thursday, we have these armed mystery gentlemen of the law.
Update: This is Richard Rober, center, and George Magrill, right.
And for Friday, we have our mystery leading man, non-mysterious leading lady and Wednesday’s mystery chap.
Update: This is Bruce Bennett, Richard Benedict and Virginia Mayo.
Brain Trust roll call: Mike Hawks (mystery movie and mystery guests), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie and mystery guests), Sue Slutzky (Wednesday’s mystery guest) and Don Danard (Thursday’s mystery detective).