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Noirvember 2020, Bonus Feature #1: The Inner Circle (1946)

Here's a little bonus feature, not one of my main Noirvember posts, but some of you may want to give it a whirl:

The Inner Circle (1946)

Directed by Phil Ford

Produced by William J. O’Sullivan

Written by Leonard St. Clair, Lawrence Taylor

Screenplay by Dorrell McGowan, Stuart E. McGowan

Cinematography by Reggie Lanning

Edited by Tony Martinelli

Music by Mort Glickman

Republic Pictures

(0:57) Amazon Prime

When I was a kid, you could see all these commercials for Miller Lite, claiming their beer was “less filling, but tastes great.” Think of The Inner Circle as Film Noir Lite. Certainly less filling, but as far as the taste? Well…


Warren Douglas plays Johnny Strange, a private eye placing an ad for a new secretary, “a blonde, beautiful, between 22 and 28, unmarried, with skin you love to touch, and a heart you can’t.” We immediately know two things: (1) This is a clown you can’t take seriously, and (2) we’re in for some (attempted) comedy with a very light touch.

In walks Geraldine Travis (Adele Mara), who (as far as we can tell) fits Strange’s description and takes the job, brooking no argument from the PI. Going to work immediately, Geraldine picks up the phone, taking a call from a woman with a Spanish accent who wants to hire Strange. The woman wants to meet him at a certain place later that night. Hmmm...

The woman - all in black, including an opaque black veil - directs Strange to a house where he discovers the body of a man who’s been shot dead. The woman attempts to bribe Strange, urging him to “take care of things” before the police arrive. While Strange is trying to process everything, she knocks him out and escapes, leaving him to be the fall guy.

We discover that the bullet-ridden corpse was a radio personality named Anthony Fitch, a gossip columnist whom no one liked, so the list of suspects could run into the hundreds. Almost immediately, police Detective Lieutenant Webb (William Frawley) arrives to arrest Strange. About ten seconds later, Geraldine arrives to inform Webb that she was checking up on her boss and saw the whole thing, fabricating much of the story. We know she’s got a purpose for this, which soon becomes clear (and obvious).

The Inner Circle reminds me of episodes of the radio show I Love a Mystery. It’s light and comedic, with snatches of snappy dialogue, but it’s far from original or memorable. The movie’s denouement is about as ridiculous as it gets, but the picture has some nice moments. If you’re in the mood for something light and mostly fun, The Inner Circle might scratch that itch for you, all in under an hour.

Next time: a regular Noirvember episode with a bit more bite.

Photos: The Dull Wood Experiment

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