This week’s mystery movie has been the 1948/1950 Warner Bros. film “Backfire,” with Viveca Lindfors, Dane Clark, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Gordon MacRae, Ed Begley, Frances Robinson, Richard Robert, Sheila Stephens and David Hoffman.
Screenplay by Larry Marcus, Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts from a story by Larry Marcus. Photography by Carl Guthrie, art direction by Anton Grot, set decoration by William Wallace, makeup by Perc Westmore, Miss Lindfors’ gowns by Milo Anderson, Miss Mayo’s gowns by Leah Rhodes. Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof, produced by Anthony Veiller and directed by Vincent Sherman.
“Backfire” is available on DVD from Warner Archive in a film noir set that includes “Cornered,” “Desperate,” “The Phenix City Story,” “Dial 1119” “Armored Car Robbery,” “Crime in the Streets” and “Deadline at Dawn.”
Writing in the New York Times (Jan 27. 1950), Bosley Crowther gave “Backfire” a two-paragraph review, possibly a record for brevity:
A very terse observation is all that “Backfire” deserves, in view of the feeble detonation of this Warner mystery drama at the Globe. Telling a most unlikely story of a young man who casually proves that his best friend, suspected of murdering a gambler, did not do the job, it rambles from one small coincidence to another without style or suspense until finally it puts a listless finger upon the fellow who did the deed. And even though several nice young people, including Gordon MacRae and Edmond O’Brien, are involved, the most that can possibly be said for them is that they get the thing done.
In this case, the title is descriptive of the effort expended by all. A short and sweet observation covers “Backfire”: It does!
For Monday, we have a mystery gent.
Update: This is J. Louis Johnson.
On Tuesday, in our song-filled mystery musical, we have a mystery nobleman from the mythical kingdom of Ruritania and his loyal mystery assistant.
Update: This is Monte Blue. Our familiar friend on the right remains unidentified.
For Wednesday, we have a mystery woman.
Update: This is Sheila MacRae, appearing as Sheila Stephens, in her film debut. At the time, she was married to leading man Gordon MacRae,
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (mystery movie and mystery guests), Don Danard (Tuesday’s mystery mustache), Mike Hawks (Tuesday’s mystery mustache), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie and mystery guests), Jenny M. (Tuesday’s mystery mustache) and Sheila (Tuesday’s mystery mustache).
For Thursday, we have our leading lady as our leading man sees her for the first time.
Update: This is an out of focus Viveca Lindfors.
We also have a mystery dog who does NOT approve of such goings-on.
Update: Our mystery pup remains unidentified beyond being a Cairn terrier.
And in our cavalcade of character actors we have this mystery gent ….
Update: This is Leonard Strong.
… and this mystery cleaning woman who is very interested in such goings-on.
Update: This is Ida Moore. Be sure to read Gary’s comments on Ida!
Brain Trust roll call: Sheila (Tuesday’s mystery mustache), Howard Mandelbaum (Wednesday’s mystery woman) and Mike Hawks (mystery movie and Monday’s and Wednesday’s mystery guests). Mary Mallory (she’s in the movie but not in this role).
For Friday, we have a mystery shot of downtown Los Angeles, as our leading man runs for a taxi….
Update: Gordon MacRae runs for a cab on Bunker Hill.
… and our mystery dog with a mystery dead guy….
Our mystery pup mourns Richard Rober.
…. and another mystery dead guy….
Update: Dane Clark models a checked sportcoat.
Here’s our mystery second lead and the mystery leading lady…
Update: Edmond O’Brien and an in-focus Viveca Lindfors.
… and it’s a mystery guest emerita with our mystery leading man.
Update: Virginia Mayo (last seen in the mystery movie “The Girl From Jones Beach”) and Gordon MacRae.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (Thursday’s mystery cleaning lady and leading lady), Mike Hawks (Thursday’s mystery guests), Gary (with a delightful recollection of Thursday’s mystery cleaning lady), B.J. Merholz (Thursday’s mystery cleaning lady, Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery houseboy and mystery cleaning lady), Don Danard (Thursday’s mystery houseboy), Diane Ely (Thursday’s mystery cleaning lady) and L.C. (mystery movie and mystery cast).