Danger & Despair's  
  Thursday Night  
  on 16mm Film  


  Saturday July 24th - Thursday August 26th  

Gertrude Michael (1910-1965) was an Alabama-born child prodigy and concert pianist prior to abandoning her college career to join Stuart Walker's stock company in Cincinnati Ohio in 1928.  By 1930 she had moved on to New York but had to struggle during lean times to find stage work.  She first appeared on the screen in  WAYWARD as Richard Arlen's fiancée filmed at Paramount's Astoria studio in late 1931 following her first Broadway lead in CAUGHT WET.  Shortly, after appearing opposite Tex Ritter in THE ROUNDUP, she accepted MGM'S contract offer in the Spring of 1932 and came to Hollywood.  Dropped by MGM after six months following two films, including the lead in MASK OF FU MANCHU from which she and the original director were fired early in the production, she defined her early "don't tread on me" screen persona in half a dozen parts prior to accepting a long-term contract with Paramount in December 1933.  A dozen leads, many costarring roles and featured supporting parts continued through the early 1940s. 

Due to alcohol-related illnesses and accidents from 1934 on, she gained a notoriety that soon prevented her career advancement.  Her affair with Paul Cain, pulp and screen writer, came back to haunt her in 1936 after his novel "Fast One" used her persona as the basis for the fictional dipsomaniac lover.

  By the early 1940s Gertrude was appearing in poverty row films, most in which in today's perspective are much more interesting than "A" productions.  Despite news headlines of insobriety and once being committed to the psychopathetic ward, she continued in small featured roles.  In 1948 following her latest alcoholic binge in which she marched into the ocean, Joan Crawford offered her a role in FLAMINGO ROAD.  Her upstaging role in CAGED followed.

While occasional films were to follow, Gertrude found a home in television, appearing regularly from 1949 until her death.  Although never married, she was engaged to Roubien Mamoulien in the mid-1930s.  She had many male friends.  The extent of her relationship with George Gershwin, Buster Crabbe and John Lodge are to be determined.  She had a long-term relationship with Charles Wilson who appears in FOUR HOURS TO KILL as the police detective.

Her best known film roles are as Rita Ross in MURDER AT THE VANITIES and as the title  character in the SOPHIE LANG series.  She also made her scenes count as Mae West's adversary in I'M NO ANGEL and Caesar's wife in DeMille' s CLEOPATRA.  There were few actresses in Hollywood had the ability or were given the chance to enact the wide range of roles which came Gertrude Michael's way.  Don Miller in his " B MOVIES" refers to her as a unique  feminine lead who could play catty villainesses with  equal dexterity.

More on Gertude Michael at Films of the Golden Age



  Saturday    July 24th   8:00 p.m.  

Gertrude Michael in a Art Deco portrait still.         

"SEARCH FOR BEAUTY"  -  1934 Paramount
Directed:   Erle Kenton      78 mins.
w/ Buster Crabbe, Ida Lupino, Robert Armstrong,
        James Gleason, Gertrude Michael and Toby Wing.
Racy Pre-code spoof on Heath & Fitness Industry.   
Sleazy racketeering publishers promote their health and beauty magazine... which is 90 % SEX.  After hiring young Olympic stars to lure young athletes both strapping males and winsome females to Los Angeles to compete in a contest, the participants are routed instead to a health farm to entertain debauched connoisseurs of young flesh.  There is plenty of snappy dialogue by the stars with exceptional rapport between James Gleason and Robert Armstrong.  Gertrude Michael competes with Ida Lupino for the affections of a hunky Buster Crabbe. Toby Wing giggles and dances in her lingerie.




  This film was released just a few months before the "code" took effect in 1934.  Barebutt nudity and most of the dialogue would have been censored.  Paramount studio in 1933 sponsored a Search for Beauty contest in which they attracted contestants from around the U.S. and white British Commonwealth countries.

The finalists all appear in the film and a few were offered contracts which gave them minor careers.  One contestant, Ann Sheridan, was eventually able to obtain stardom although it took her 4 years and a leap to Warner Brothers where she was promoted as the "Oomph Girl" !


       Buster Crabb in 'Search for Beauty'




Series Host & Programmer Paul Meienberg will introduce the film



  Thursday  July 29th    8:00  p.m.    
"MURDER AT THE VANITIES"   -  1934 Paramount 
Directed:  Mitchell Leisen        89 mins.
w/: Kitty Carlisle, Carl Brisson, Duke Ellington,
Gertrude Michael, Victor Mclaglan
Jack Oakie and Toby Wing.
Police investigating murder at musical revue theatre are confronted with more death threats, a blackmail plot, romance, jealousy, revenge and an on stage killing all taking place during a most licentious stage production.  Near nudity abounds as chorines cavort amongst outrageous set designs conceived by director Mitchell Leisen.

Paramount bought the films rights to Earl Carroll's 1933 Vanities, entitled MURDER AT THE VANITIES.  The Broadway stage version was radically changed including its cast which had featured Bela Lugosi and Olga Baclanova.  Kitty Carlisle and Frederick Brisson are the revue stars and among other songs introduce "Tea for Two".



Kitty Carlisle & Carl Brisson in the spot light          

Gertrude Michael (left) sings "Sweet Marijuana" in a highly stylized song and dance routine. The subject matter would soon become taboo as censorship creeped in.

In another scene Duke Ellington and his big band is featured in "Ebony Rhapsody". 

'Murder at the Vanities' was barely released prior to the implementation of the "production code" in mid 1934.


  Elliot Lavine, programmer for Alameda's new art deco cinema, "Auctions by the Bay", will  introduce the film.  
  Auctions By The Bay - Movie Schedule  
  Following the movie, our Resident Historian Marc Kagan will present notes on the actors & lead a discussion group.  


  Thursday August 5th   -   DOUBLE BILL!  
    Thursday  August 5th    8:00  p.m.  
Directed:  Ralph Murphy       64 mins.
w/ Gertrude Michael, Paul Cavanaugh,
Arthur Byron, Alison Skipworth and  Leon Errol.
 Pre-code condemned by Catholic Church.
THE NOTORIOUS SOPHIE LANG (1934) is a crime/adventure comedy which is both silly at times and fun.  With a highly competent supporting cast, this was a perfect vehicle for Gertrude Michael to attract attention with her looks, intelligence and wide range of acting skills.
A trio of films starring Gertrude Michael exploiting the hi-jinks of a female jewel thief were brought to the screen by Paramount starting in 1934.  Based on the 1925 English novel by Frederick Irving Anderson THE NOTORIOUS SOPHIE LANG, the tales of an adventuress outsmarting both the police and her sometimes lover, male adversary and fellow jewel thief was a property refused by Carole Lombard among others.  A series role such as Sophie Lang, Torchy Blane or Maisie was considered a detriment to any top-flight star.  Gertrude took her first top-billed role by the horns and THE NOTORIOUS SOPHIE LANG (1934) became a minor triumph.  It's success ensured two repeat films: THE RETURN OF SOPHIE LANG (1936) and SOPHIE LANG GOES WEST (1937).  THE NOTORIOUS SOPHIE LANG was condemned by the Catholic church primarily for its light-hearted approach to crime without penalty. 
  Thursday  August 5th    9:30  p.m.    
''WOMAN TRAP'   -  1936  Paramount
Directed:  Harold Young     63 mins.
w/ Gertude Michael,  George Murphy
Akim Tamiroff  and Sidney Blackmer
Gang of jewel thieves holds up in hacienda outside Mexican border town. GM as aviatrix/heiress is rescued at sea by enterprising reporter and the two meet, then later are captured by a gang.  After being taken hostage and held for ransom in a desert hideaway, their rescue is engineered by a mysterious party.
  Rochelle Bernet  will introduce both films.  
  Ms. Bernet is a fan of classic movies and owns Little Bear Productions, a Sausalito Arts Event Planning agency.  


  Thursday August 12th   -   DOUBLE BILL!  
  Thursday August 12th   8:00 p.m.    
"THE RETURN OF SOPHIE LANG "  -  1936 Paramount.
Directed:  George Archainbaud      65 mins.
w/  Gertrude Michael, Ray Milland,
Sir Guy Standing and Elizabeth Patterson.
THE RETURN OF SOPHIE LANG (1936) is a crime/adventure drama which is as fast past as the previous film and reveals Sophie has truly been rehabilitated, Shuxks !

THE RETURN OF SOPHIE LANG produced after the implementation of the stricter production code turns Sophie into a rehabilitated criminal trying to prove her innocence to an unbelieving world.

  A new series of Sophie films was announced at this point, but with Gail Patrick in the lead, Gertrude Michael having left Paramount to star in several films at RKO and to travel to England to star in several films.  Unfortunately, Gertrude became seriously ill in New York before her departure and had to delay her commitment to the English studio by one year.  In 1937 Gertrude, never before and never again so glamorous, returned once more to Paramount to star in SOPHIE LANG GOES WEST.  This last films survives but is inferior to the first two of the series.  In 1938 Gertrude starred with John Lodge in JUST LIKE A WOMAN, an English production very much in the Sophie Lang vein.
    Thursday August 12th   9:30 p.m.  
'WITCHING HOUR'  -  1934 Paramount 
Directed:  Henry Hathaway     65min
w/ Tom Brown, Judith Allen, Sir Guy Standing,
John Halliday and Gertrude Michael
Early breakthrough film for Hathaway. Period 19th Century setting involving clairvoyance and murder.  Crime but no pre-code aspects. Gertrude Michael's part is cameo in dream sequence.  A first- rate beautifully crafted film !

Steven Scheuer comments on Sir Guy Standing:  "..this courtroom drama is a must see for students of acting just to see the great English actor turn in a magnificent performance as the defense attorney."

William K. Everson: "A glossy, handsome, carefully made film"... "with its slight supernatural angle and overall romanticism, Witching Hour can be considered something of a dry run for one of Hathaway's best films, PETER IBBETSON.

  The One & Only Paul Meienberg will present the film  


  Saturday August 21st   -   DOUBLE BILL!  
    Saturday August 21st   8:00 p.m.  
"MENACE"    1934   -  Paramount 
Directed:   Ralph Murphy      58 mins.
w/ Gertrude Michael, Paul Cavanagh,
John Lodge and Henrietta Crosman.
MENACE is a very fast-paced dark house murder mystery with a plot centering around three people who are targeted for death because of their alleged guilt in the tragic death of a psychopath's brother.  Red herring abound and while their are moments of humor, it is strictly a piece of gripping suspense up until the very conclusion.  This was Gertrude Michael's second starring role, once again paired with Paul Cavangagh, who was cast opposite Paramount's top femmes in the early 1930s.
  The late renowned film lecturer/archivist and author, William K. Everson, scheduled MENACE (1934) for a 1987 screening at the New School in New York.  When it became apparent that the 16mm print he thought was available could not be found, an urgent call went out. Considering the rarity of this film, he accepted my offer of terrible print nearly obliterated with emulsion scratches.  With some minor apologies he presented to film to an appreciative audience. Happily current print which is extremely rare is in nice condition.
  Saturday August 21st   9:30 p.m.    
"NIGHT OF TERROR"    1933  -  Columbia. 
Directed: Ben Stoloff     65 mins.
w/  Bela Lugosi, Sally Blane, Wallace Ford,
Tully Marshall & Gertrude Michael. 
Terror and murder reign in a dark house.  NIGHT OF TERROR (1933) is an unusual foray into the horror genre by Columbia Studio.  This film is played for laughs and is something of a camp classic.  A dark house mystery revolving around a secret formula, which puts people in suspended animation. A homicidal maniac and cast of characters being routinely bumped-off.  Bela Lugosi stars as a a dope-smoking turbaned Hindu who is the faithful majordomo servant at the mansion.  All this and a romance between Sally Blane  (Loretta Young's sister) and Wallace Ford.  Add Gertrude Michael in one her early nasty, bitchy roles, and you have a hour or so of diverting entertainment.
  Alan Rode a Los Angeles film historian and journalist will speak on both films.  
  His film notes can be found on-line at   FilmMonthly.com   & his lastest review of the  Palm Springs Film Noir Festival  


    Thursday  26th    8:00 p.m.  
"FOUR HOURS TO KILL"   1935  -  Paramount 
Directed:  Mitchell Leisen     72 mins.
w/  Richard Barthelmess, Gertrude Michael,
Ray Milland, Helen Mack and Joe Morrison.
A police detective with arrested killer in tow attends stage show  to kill time before meeting train.  A grand hotel theme well carried out in in the stylish settings of a theatre lobby and lounge.  Suspense, intrigue,  violence and murder while Gertrude Michael saunters about in chic Edith Head fashions.

FOUR HOURS TO KILL is based on Norman Krasna's 1934 Broadway play SMALL MIRACLES which featured Ilka Chase and Joseph Calleia in roles which were rendered on film by Gertrude Michael and Richard Barthelmess.

  The showy role of Sylvia Temple was eagerly sought by Carole Lombard in order to assist her close friend director Mitchell Leisen.  However due to a production reorganization at Paramount in 1935 during which time Ernst Lubitsch became production chief, Lombard was put on a nine-month layoff.  Her request to star was denied as FOUR HOURS TO KILL was considered too minor an assignment for a star earning $ 3000.00 per week. Lombard instead helped produce the film.

All the action centers in the theatre while a musical revue takes place.  The various musical numbers are heard but not seen while tense dramatic scenes rage in the theatre entrance, the lobby and in the lounge.  An ensemble of characters interact in a "grand hotel" style.  Richard Barthelmess gives an excellent performance as a captured gangster.  His tough yet sensitive portrayal should have revived his career but unfortunately his box office appeal ended in 1934 with his last Warner Brothers film.  Gertrude Michael emotes effectively as the adulterous wife furtively meeting her gigolo boyfriend Ray Milland. Joe Morrison, Helen Mack and Dorothy Tree provide their own angst with blackmail and abortion on the menu.  The production code is in evidence here but not as much as would be expected.  The renowned film historian William Everson considered FOUR HOURS TO KILL  Leisen's best film to date. My own impression is that DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY is the foremost early Leisen film.

  Daniel Hodges an East Bay film noir historian, will present notes on the movie.  
  His essay on the role of Women in Noir during & after WWII is included in the new  FILM NOIR READER 4  
  All film describtions by Paul Meienberg  


  ADMISSION POLICY:  By reservation only  
         email  screenings@hotmail.com   or  call  415 552-1533   

 Doors open at 7:00 pm  -  Films at 8:00 pm   -  Main Door Locks at 8:05 p.m. restricting entrance




 Come early and enjoy our 'No Host Bar'.       

  $3.00 minimum donation at the door for this series.  
  LOCATION:    Downtown San Francisco   -   Address given through a reservation.  
     Sponsored by :  
  ' The Danger & Despair Knitting Circle '      




  "No Martha!   They're not a cell of Radical Terrorists! "  
     They are:  
     Paul Meienberg  Series Host & Programmer     The Ultimate Cinematrap  
     Special thanks to Mon Ayash   'Forgotten Hollywood'  
     Daniela Powers & Allen Petrich     Series Directors   
     Marc Kagan      Resident Film Historian  
     Alan Rode,  Rochelle BernetDaniel Hodges  &  Elliot Lavine     Guest Speakers  
     Eddie Sudol & Ted Whipple     Operations  
     Lance Carnes & Edward Dickey   Projectionists  
     Roma Dolezal, Ilene Shapiro, Abby Staeble & Ron Rich     Directors of Libations  
     Dark Marc   Libations - Quality Control  




See Bela and more  Saturday July 24th - Thursday August 26th


Don't forget to make a reservation.  screenings@hotmail.com

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  The Thursday Night Screenings are private film events, admission to these events are by  

invitation only through a request and is solely at the discretion of Danger & Despair.



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