For, April 4, 2014

Dick Powell is fondly remembered by audiences of a certain age — but probably unknown to a couple of generations — as an influential performer and a smart businessman, making an impact in musicals, comedies, dramas, and, in its earliest commercial era, television, developing and occasionally appearing in a string of anthology series.

Powell began as a song-and-dance man, and in his fifth movie, and his first big hit, he was famously paired with singer/dancer Ruby Keeler in "42nd Street" (1933), which created the template for dozens of understudy-takes-over-the-lead Broadway musicals to follow.

Powell and Keeler were paired in six more musical comedies in the '30s (almost as many as Astaire & Rogers), and then he became weary of being typecast as a light-and-airy crooner and sought other roles, more dramatic.

But the studio that held his contract (Warner Bros.) wasn't cooperative and it was midway into the 1940s before he was able to make headway on that front.

His opportunity came when Powell was cast in the role of Philip Marlowe for the 1944 mystery-thriller classic "Murder, My Sweet" (based on Raymond Chandler's novel "Farewell, My Lovely"). He ran with it and the role completely changed his image. Soon he became typecast as a tough guy.

One of the better film noir thrillers that followed was "Cry Danger" (1951, b/w), in which Powell plays an ex-con just out of prison after serving five years for a robbery he didn't commit. But he's not going quietly into the night; he wants to know who set him up and why. The femme fatale that strings him along is his best pal's wife (Rhonda Fleming), and no good can come of that.


A snappy yarn with zippy dialogue, "Cry Danger" packs a lot into a scant 79 minutes. This is a B-movie but it manages to rise above its limitations with excellent performances and outdoor location shooting in Los Angeles.


"Cry Danger" will make its DVD and Blu-ray debut on Tuesday (April 8) on the Olive label and is available online at Amazon.