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The Housekeeper’s Daughter

(1939 b 80')

En: 6 Ed: 5

Adapted from a novel by Donald Henderson Clarke and directed by Hal Roach, a beautiful woman leaves a gang and stays with her mother where she meets a wealthy man who becomes a reporter and covers a murder case with two veterans.

         Five men and a woman are playing poker. One man is losing, and Hilda (Joan Bennett) tells him to go home because he can’t win. The man leaves. Floyd (Marc Lawrence) complains they could have taken him for more, and he tells Hilda to go without taking anything with her. She hands over some jewelry and goes out.

         In a taxi Hilda is changing her clothes as the cab driver watches in the mirror. He asks what is the idea, and she tells him to move the mirror.

         Hilda is at the front door and is welcomed by her mother Olga (Peggy Wood). She brings in her suitcase. People leave on a trip, but Robert Randall (John Hubbard) tells Olga he has decided to stay. She asks if it is okay for her daughter to stay there, and he says it is.

         Newspaper editor Wilson (Donald Meek) takes a call from Randall who tells him he decided to accept the position. Hilda comes into the room and meets Randall. He asks her to sit down, and she sits on the desk. She asks if he is waiting for someone, and he says he is Robert Randall. She is glad to meet him and says she is the housekeeper’s daughter. Olga comes in and goes out with her mother. Hilda and Robert say goodnight

         Floyd is waiting in a car, and tells Benny (George E. Stone), who is selling violets to leave him alone. Gladys Fontaine (Lilian Bond) comes out of the theater, and Benny is glad to see her. He asks if she is her girl, and she says she is. Gladys sees Floyd, who makes her get in his car. Benny sees this and climbs on the back of the car.

         On the waterfront Floyd and Gladys go into a houseboat. She goes to the kitchen to make coffee. Benny knocks quietly, and she lets him in. She tells him to go, but he says he makes good coffee. She goes back to Floyd, who complains she took so long. He holds her roughly, and Benny sees it. He pours coffee into a cup and gives it to Gladys for Floyd. He does not want it and gives it to her. She drinks it.

         Time passes, and Floyd finds Gladys passed out on the floor. Outside Benny sees Floyd carry her body and throw her in the river.

         In the morning Lefty (Victor Mature) sees in the newspaper that the Fontaine woman was killed, but Floyd dismisses him.

         Randall and Hilda say good morning to each other. She thanks him for letting her stay there. She asks about relics, and he says he is writing an article about them. He says Egyptian kings gave them to their wives so they could hear them walking. Hilda puts them on her legs, and they clang with each step. Randall comes back with the newspaper and says he would like to do reporting on a murder. She encourages him to phone the paper, and he does so. He tells Wilson that he wants to cover the Fontaine case with the reporter Maxwell. Wilson plays along and is surprised that Randall believed him. Randall says Maxwell is famous.

         Deakon Maxwell (Adolphe Menjou) is in a restaurant and takes a call. Two attractive women come in, and he hands the phone to his photographer Ed O’Malley (William Gargan). Maxwell comes back to the phone, and a woman slaps him.

         At the police station Randall introduces himself to Maxwell and Ed, but they do not react. Maxwell says he might be a guy who borrows money, but he collects money. Reporters are let in to watch police question the men they picked up at the crime scene. The captain (J. Farrell MacDonald) asks them questions. Randall throws in some questions too. Benny admits that he killed this girl too, but he didn’t mean to. He says he wanted to kill the bad man. He says Gladys was his girl. The policemen do not believe anything he says. He keeps saying it, and they try to hold him down. Randall stands up and diagnoses Benny as a schizophrenic, and he says brute force will not avail them anything. The captain releases all the suspects. In the hall Benny talks to Randall who says he believes him. Randall gives him money for food, and Maxwell suddenly is interested in him. He introduces Ed to Randall, and they welcome him to the fourth estate. Maxwell suggests they go out for dinner, and next time it will be on him.

The three men go out on the town to various clubs. At a table Maxwell talks on the phone and says a woman he sees knows all the answers. Maxwell and Ed get up from the table. Drunk Randall talks with Benny about the case, and Benny tells him that she was thrown in the river from a houseboat by Macy Street. Randall calls Wilson and repeats what Benny just told him. Wilson asks who the guy was, and Randall passes out.

         In a cab Maxwell and Ed talk about drunk Randall. Maxwell says this guy throws around money. The cab stops, and the three go into Randall’s house. Benny follows them, and Randall invites him to come in too.

         Randall sits on his bed, and Olga gives him milk to drink. Ed and Maxwell are in beds in another room.

         In the morning Hilda is making orange juice and talking to Olga, who goes out for the newspaper. Benny comes up to Hilda and says she is pretty. He says she is prettier than the one who was his girl. She says she will be his girl and offers him coffee. He says he likes to make coffee, and sometimes it puts them to sleep. Olga comes back. They hear a buzzer, and Hilda takes the breakfast up to Randall.

         Randall is in bed, and Hilda puts the tray on his lap. He does not feel well, and she goes to get water. From the other room Maxwell sees her in the bathroom. He tells Ed to look at the beautiful woman. She goes back to Randall and puts a wet towel on his head. Maxwell and Ed go to Randall who tells them to ring the bell, and she will bring their breakfast too. They get back in bed and agree to leave it up to the girl with no tricks. They hear a knock, and Olga brings in breakfast. She says she is the housekeeper, and Hilda is her daughter. Maxwell says Olga is young and beautiful too. Ed sees the headline about the houseboat murder mystery, and Maxwell sees the article by the cub reporter Robert Randall. He calls Wilson and criticizes him. Wilson says the police are at the houseboat now, and he hangs up. Maxwell and Ed get up and take the paper to Randall. Maxwell says he double-crossed them. Randall says he does not know anything about it. They decide to ignore him. Maxwell looks for a clean suit.

         Randall goes downstairs and shows the newspaper to Hilda. Maxwell and Ed rush out, saying goodbye to Hilda. She tells Randall he can do better drunk than the others when they are sober. She sends him off to do better.

         In the newspaper office Wilson mocks his “ace reporter” and his photographer. They say they were with Randall. Wilson fires Randall by mistake and says he will do big things. Wilson insults Maxwell and gives Randall a desk.

         Floyd is pacing and talking with his gang. He leaves with Lefty, who goes into Randall’s home and is glad to see Hilda again. He says the chief wants Randall to lay off the Fontaine case. She says she will tell him, and he leaves. Outside Lefty tells Floyd he wasn’t home, but he saw Hilda who will tell him. He tells Lefty to smack him.

         In the office Maxwell and Ed talk about Hilda. Ed calls Randall and tells him to lay off the Fontaine story or else he will be shot. Randall goes to Wilson and tells him he has to resign because his life has been threatened. Wilson says that is great. Wilson orders Ed to bring his camera to get a picture of Randall. Ed takes one photo. Maxwell calls Hilda and invites her to the movies. Ed goes to Maxwell, sees Ed, and tells him they need some photos. He says he will meet him there in an hour and goes out.

         Hilda lets Maxwell in, and he takes her hand. He says he will break the story. He likes the room and plays out the crime, sitting beside her. He puts his arm around her. She says she tried to get away. Benny sees this and goes out. She laughs and says it did not happen that way. She says she repulsed him, and he laid in wait to get even. She tells him to get under the couch, and he lays on the floor. Olga lets Ed in, and he hides flowers. He calls to Hilda and takes her the flowers. He says it will be her and him. Benny comes back with a cup of coffee. Ed says she has beautiful eyes. He warns her she is not safe around Maxwell, a vulture. Benny offers Ed the coffee, but he does not want any. Benny offers it to Maxwell underneath. Ed realizes he is there, and Maxwell gets up and sits down. He takes the coffee and argues with Ed. Randall comes in and hopes they are not still angry with him. Olga tells them a man is there to see a newspaper man. Maxwell goes out to Lefty, who asks if he writes for the Globe and knocks him out. He leaves, and the others attend to Maxwell. Ed and Randall carry him up the stairs.

         In a bedroom a doctor had bandaged Maxwell. Randall says he will probably be the next victim. The doctor tells Olga to give him only liquids. Ed tells Randall that he made the gangster call that threatened him.

         Lefty tells Floyd that he smacked him hard. He sees the photo of Randall in the paper and says that is not the guy he hit. Floyd says he can’t trust anybody.

         Randall asks Hilda if anything is wrong. She tells him the newspaper racket is not for him. She urges him to go back to archaeology. He does not understand. He says he should do what he wants, and they kiss. Benny sees them.

         Olga gave Maxwell milk and removes his bandage. He wishes he had alcohol.

         Randall tries to tell Wilson something, but he only wants more on the Fontaine case. Randall tells Ed he could not tell Wilson there are no gangsters. He says Wilson wants to make him a hero. Ed makes a call to have a man come who looks like a gangster. He says he will take a picture of Randall throwing him out.

         In bed Maxwell talks with Olga, who is knitting. He offers to marry her so that he could be Hilda’s father. She is pleased and goes to fix him some dinner.

         Lefty sees Randall and pushes Hilda inside. Randall throws Lefty down the steps, and Ed takes the picture. Lefty tells Floyd in his car that he cannot figure it out. Floyd says he will figure it out.

         Inside Randall tells Hilda he will make history. A man from circulation reports to Ed to do the stunt. Ed gives him the film to take to the paper.

         Ed brings in packages, and Maxwell tells him he is going to marry Olga. Ed says he has fireworks for the 4th of July.

Drunk Ed and Maxwell carry the fireworks up on the roof and shoot them at each other, ducking each time.

         Two cars pull up to the house, and the gangsters take Hilda into a room. Floyd has the lights turned out.

         Ed and Maxwell are firing rockets at each other.

         Wilson pushes past three men, and Olga lets him in. Randall greets him, and Floyd hears them, reproaching Hilda for telling him he is not home. Wilson says he will tear the gangsters limb from limb. Randall says there are no gangsters. He says the photo was a stunt that Ed thought up. Wilson fires Randall. Floyd and the gangsters come into the room. Wilson calls them phonies. Lefty grabs Wilson, and they make Randall sit down. Floyd pulls out a gun, and Wilson faints. Hilda names the gangsters. Benny says he is taking the coffee to the bad man. Two men stop him and take it. They split the coffee.

         Floyd asks Randall who killed Fontaine. Hilda says he does not know.

         On the roof Maxwell waves a white handkerchief. Ed throws fireworks down the chimney.

         Floyd hears them and sends men on the roof. Ed and Maxwell shoot fireworks at the gangsters in the street, hitting one. The gangsters get in a car and leave without Floyd. A man is hit on the stairs inside and falls down. Floyd sees him. Wilson calls for emergency help. Floyd says he is dead, and it must be poison gas. An older couple comes home. Ed and Maxwell come down the stairs, and Ed has Floyd put his gun away. Maxwell has a candle and a bomb. Maxwell threatens to light it and does so by mistake. It creates fireworks and goes out. Floyd gives Maxwell orders, and Olga comforts him. Benny offers coffee to Floyd, who tells him to get out of there. Lefty drinks it. Floyd says he will kill them all. Randall tells him he is the one who should be killed because he wrote the story. Hilda says she is the one who knows what happened. She explains how she was working for the gangsters. The woman tells her to leave her house. Maxwell says he is going to marry Olga. Floyd fires his gun. Hilda goes to him, and they throw her on to the couch next to Randall. Benny tells Floyd that he gave the coffee to the woman. Maxwell says Benny put poison in the coffee. Benny says he made it for him. Floyd shoots Benny. Hilda says Lefty drank the coffee. Hilda says she will get a doctor. Floyd tells her to stay there. A gangster shoots Floyd. Police arrive outside, and shooting starts. They throw tear gas in the house. Hilda asks Randall if he really wants to marry her. Maxwell with Olga says they will make it a double wedding.

         This farce satirizes gangsters and the newspaper business. A beautiful woman is the center of attention for several men while a poor and insane man, who is important in the case, is ignored.

Copyright © 2011 by Sanderson Beck

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