Lew Landers | Subjects
| Structure and Story Telling
| Visual Style | Rankings
| Comparison with Howard Hawks | Detour
Night Waitress | The Man Who Found Himself
| Twelve Crowded Hours | Conspiracy
| Alias Boston Blackie
Bat Masterson: Dead Men Don't Pay Debts
Cheyenne: Riot at Arroyo Seco
Classic Film and Television Home Page (with many articles on directors)
| Television Western Articles
Lew Landers is an American film and television director.
Lew Landers: Subjects
Some common subjects in the films of Lew Landers:
Crime and Justice:
- Symbolic names (Tailspin, Tiger: Tailspin Tommy,
Wad Madison: Without Orders,
Mousey, Old Timer: Flight from Glory,
"Stag" Cahill: Sky Giant,
"Sock" Conway: Smashing the Rackets,
Crusher McKay, Britches: Pacific Liner,
Tex, Spud: Cowboy Canteen,
mobster Bugs Kelly: Crime, Inc.,
"Corny" Van Rennselaer Jr.: Easy Mark)
- Nice young couple who suddenly have a deep attraction (Sheriff and heroine: Dead Men Don't Pay Debts,
Corny and Abagail: Easy Mark)
- Dancing as public celebration (telegraph messengers dance around cop: Alias Boston Blackie,
heir and girlfriend at end in office: Easy Mark)
- Entertainers put on a show in an odd place (prison: Alias Boston Blackie,
Western ranch serves as World War II canteen for servicemen: Cowboy Canteen)
- People tied to chair (Paul Guilfoyle handcuffed: Crashing Hollywood,
lie detector: The Truth About Murder)
Impersonation and Disguise:
- Macho District Attorneys (Walter Abel: Law of the Underworld,
Chester Morris: Smashing the Rackets, Morgan Conway: The Truth About Murder,
Robert Shayne: Law of the Barbary Coast)
related (Police Commissioner: Double Danger, shrewd judge: Riot at Arroyo Seco)
- Jail (drunks in jail: Border Cafe, They Wanted to Marry,
judge sentences vagrants: The Man Who Found Himself,
Smashing the Rackets, escape from police station: Conspiracy,
show in prison, escape: Alias Boston Blackie,
planned Alcatraz jailbreak: Devil Ship,
hero undercover in jail, jailbreak: Under the Tonto Rim,
escape: State Penitentiary,
attempted lynching of jail prisoner, trial held in jail: Riot at Arroyo Seco)
- Crime writers (Hollywood screenwriters: Crashing Hollywood, novels about gentleman thief: Double Danger,
reporter: Twelve Crowded Hours,
reporter hero: Crime, Inc.)
- Criminals' inside knowledge of crimes (source for film story: Crashing Hollywood,
exposing killer at end: The Truth About Murder)
- Financial fraud and schemes (vicious boss keeps workers in debt: Flight from Glory,
stock fraud and preventing heir from reaching stockholder's meeting: Easy Mark,
fraud over town water so properties can be bought cheap: Riot at Arroyo Seco)
- Disguising in enemy uniforms in imaginary countries (Conspiracy, The Black Parachute)
- Other adoption of uniforms or clothes (hero dons airline uniforms: The Man Who Found Himself,
fake security guard, fake cop, chauffeur uniform: Double Danger, as fake cop, as clown: Alias Boston Blackie,
men join Army: Cowboy Canteen,
mobster dressed as executive in lavish business office: Crime, Inc.)
- Impersonation (crook and actor: Crashing Hollywood,
young man claims to be famous jewel thief: Double Danger,
radio broadcaster impersonated by Nazis: Stand By All Networks,
fake King on radio: The Black Parachute,
Blackie poses as extortion victim: A Close Call for Boston Blackie,
switched identities: Easy Mark)
- New identities (hero takes on new identity as airplane worker: The Man Who Found Himself,
new names for pilots exiled to Latin America: Flight from Glory,
hero undercover as crook: Under the Tonto Rim)
- People change jobs (photography vs advertising: They Wanted to Marry,
doctor to hobo to pilot: The Man Who Found Himself,
lawyer to Western drunk to rancher: Border Cafe,
barred pilots from USA go to Latin America to fly: Flight from Glory,
crooks to crime writers, breaking in to Hollywood: Crashing Hollywood,
new job at flight school: Sky Giant,
FBI to district attorney: Smashing the Rackets,
women entertainers volunteer as ranch hands, heroes join Army: Cowboy Canteen,
lie detector administrator quits: The Truth About Murder,
airline president to engineer: State Penitentiary,
Cheyenne quits Marshal's job at end, young assistant quits deputy job, people leave town because of drought: Riot at Arroyo Seco)
related (amnesiac: The Power of the Whistler)
- Father-son job conflicts (lawyers: Border Cafe, doctors: The Man Who Found Himself,
pilots: Sky Giant, stock vote: Easy Mark,
father tries to save town from drought but sons exploit drought: Riot at Arroyo Seco)
- Working women (waitress: Night Waitress, nurse: The Man Who Found Himself,
cook: Flight from Glory,
secretary: Crashing Hollywood, nurse: Double Danger,
nurse: Pacific Liner,
dancer: Alias Boston Blackie, pilot, assistant: Stand By All Networks,
ranch workers, entertainers: Cowboy Canteen,
lie detector operator, photographer: The Truth About Murder,
veterinarian: My Dog Rusty)
- Airplanes (young pilot: Tailspin Tommy, rival pilots at airline: Without Orders,
airline: The Man Who Found Himself,
dangerous flights in Andes: Flight from Glory,
flight school: Sky Giant, seaplane: Conspiracy, US Army training base: Canal Zone,
woman amateur pilot: Stand By All Networks, aspiring pilots: Junior Army,
using plane to parachute into Balkan country: The Black Parachute,
stewardess school: Air Hostess,
president of airline: State Penitentiary, Alaska: Arctic Flight)
- Ships (docks: Night Waitress, Pacific Liner, international intrigue in dictatorship: Conspiracy,
showboat: Ridin' on a Rainbow, Mystery Ship, torpedoed ships: Stand By All Networks,
Nazi sub: U-Boat Prisoner, prison ferry, tuna boat: Devil Ship, Tripoli: Barbary Pirate,
sailors getting killed on land, Steve Brodie in Navy: Climax)
- Trains (trip to Hollywood: Crashing Hollywood, murder: Twelve Crowded Hours,
killing: Inner Sanctum, train trip comic thriller: Easy Mark)
- Ambulances (The Man Who Found Himself, Alias Boston Blackie)
- Construction (Golden Gate Bridge construction praised as human ideal: Night Waitress,
road construction, surveying instruments, dynamite: Dynamite Pass,
huge water well being drilled: Riot at Arroyo Seco)
- Escapes on the move (boats, planes: Conspiracy, police motorcycle, ambulance: Alias Boston Blackie, train: Easy Mark)
- Communication (photography, carrier pigeon: They Wanted to Marry,
long distance phone calls: Flight from Glory,
radio transmission of chimes from London: Living on Love,
backstage in Hollywood, radio interview at Hollywood premiere, television mentioned as future technology: Crashing Hollywood,
pluggable phones in restaurant, switchboard: Twelve Crowded Hours,
radio operator and sets: Conspiracy,
silence imposed in police station and ways around: Alias Boston Blackie,
radio reporter, heliograph: Stand By All Networks,
radio sound effects hero: The Ghost That Walks Alone,
mobster gets orders from boss through intercom: Crime, Inc.,
speaking tubes: Easy Mark,
telegraph: Riot at Arroyo Seco)
- Hoaxes using sound technology (executive overhears story through phone: Crashing Hollywood,
recording: Smashing the Rackets,
impersonator on radio: Stand By All Networks,
impersonator on radio: The Black Parachute)
related (phony telegram sent signed by sheriff: Riot at Arroyo Seco)
- Water technology (ducks raised in Hollywood swimming pool: Crashing Hollywood,
town water supply and contamination: My Dog Rusty,
water system in prison: State Penitentiary, irrigation: Jungle Manhunt,
water shortage, water well drilled, water wagon: Riot at Arroyo Seco)
- Dogs (dog flies with pilot hero: Flight from Glory,
Ace the Wonder Dog debuts: Blind Alibi,
ventriloquist makes it look as if dog can speak: Cowboy Canteen,
The Son of Rusty, My Dog Rusty, I Found a Dog)
- Animals (news photographer hero's carrier pigeon: They Wanted to Marry,
monkey sent as gag: Living on Love,
bug race: Flight from Glory,
ducks: Crashing Hollywood,
possible killer snake: Murder in Times Square,
ventriloquist makes horse and dog "speak", trained bird imitates other birds' calls: Cowboy Canteen,
filmmakers make movie about talking animals: The Windjammer,
dog attacked by snake: My Dog Rusty,
cows' ownership disputed: Riot at Arroyo Seco)
- African adventure films with animals (chimpanzee, lion: The Call of the Savage,
Jungle Jim's chimpanzee Tamba: Jungle Manhunt,
elephants menaced for ivory: Jungle Jim in the Forbidden Land)
- Plants (man raises orchids in Florida: State Penitentiary, botanist hero and his cactus: Easy Mark)
- Working class food (coffee and donuts in lunch counter: The Man Who Found Himself,
stew as typical dinner for pilots: Flight from Glory,
soup for dinner in ethnic home: Twelve Crowded Hours,
cupboard full of canned beans as food for struggling playwright: Murder in Times Square,
cola and chicken salad on train: Inner Sanctum,
milk churns shot open drenching heroes: Easy Mark,
food ordered for prisoner: Riot at Arroyo Seco)
- Ordinary restaurants (fish palace at waterfront: Night Waitress,
lunch counter: The Man Who Found Himself,
restaurant lunch joined by hero: Stand By All Networks,
cafe where opening murder occurs: Crime, Inc.,
suspect works as dishwater in ordinary restaurant: Climax)
- People live and eat together in modest establishments (pilots: Flight from Glory,
ranch workers: Cowboy Canteen,
rooming house: Inner Sanctum)
- Gordon Jones (Night Waitress, They Wanted to Marry)
- John Beal (The Man Who Found Himself, Border Cafe, Stand By All Networks)
- Richard Dix (Blind Alibi, Sky Giant, Twelve Crowded Hours, The Power of the Whistler)
- Chester Morris (Sky Giant, Law of the Underworld, Smashing the Rackets, Pacific Liner, Canal Zone,
Alias Boston Blackie, After Midnight with Boston Blackie, A Close Call for Boston Blackie)
- Lucille Ball (Annabelle Takes a Tour, Twelve Crowded Hours, The Magic Carpet)
- Arthur Lake (Double Danger, The Ghost That Walks Alone)
- Allan Lane (Pacific Liner, Twelve Crowded Hours, Conspiracy)
- Wynn Pearce, Frank Ferguson (Easy Mark, Riot at Arroyo Seco)
Lew Landers: Structure and Story Telling
- Sweet tales (Crashing Hollywood, Double Danger, Alias Boston Blackie,
Cowboy Canteen, Dead Men Don't Pay Debts, Easy Mark)
- Comic visions (man hallucinates that men singers are women: Cowboy Canteen)
Lew Landers: Visual Style
- People seen through windows (heroine sticks head out ambulance window, boy seen on train: The Man Who Found Himself,
last shot of character seen through windows after going inside: Twelve Crowded Hours,
Peggy seen then later shot through window: The Truth About Murder,
young deputy enters jail through back window: Riot at Arroyo Seco)
related (character in film-within-film thrown out window: Crashing Hollywood)
- Movements accompanying walking characters (inside cafe: Night Waitress,
in room: Living on Love,
last shot of character walking down sidewalk and upstairs: Twelve Crowded Hours,
clown in police station, sidewalk: Alias Boston Blackie,
reporters enter cafe, crane shot following people entering huge nightclub, singer walks onstage: Crime, Inc.)
- Pans (hero runs down sidewalk and across park: Living on Love)
- Complex moves (policeman interrogates witnesses at cafe: Crime, Inc.)
- Leather flying gear (hero's jacket: The Man Who Found Himself,
Van Heflin's jacket and helmet: Flight from Glory,
pilots' jackets: Sky Giant)
- Leather (Maverick's buckskin jacket, Corny's vest: Easy Mark)
Here are ratings for various films directed by Lew Landers. Everything at least **1/2 is recommended.
Mr. and Mrs. North:
- Night Waitress *1/2
- They Wanted to Marry **1/2
- The Man Who Found Himself **1/2
- Flight from Glory *1/2
- Crashing Hollywood ***
- Double Danger ***
- Law of the Underworld *1/2
- Blind Alibi *1/2
- Sky Giant **1/2
- Smashing the Rackets **
- Twelve Crowded Hours **
- Conspiracy **1/2
- Alias Boston Blackie **1/2
- Murder in Times Square **1/2
- Cowboy Canteen **1/2
- The Power of the Whistler **1/2
- The Truth About Murder *1/2
- Under the Tonto Rim **1/2
- Inner Sanctum *1/2
- The Magic Carpet **1/2
- Dead Men Don't Pay Debts **1/2
- Easy Mark **1/2
- Arizona Black Maria *1/2
Much of what public interest exists today in Lew Landers centers on his horror films,
such as The Raven and The Mask of Dijon. If it were better distributed, Murder in Times Square
about a serial killer who seems to strike through a poisonous snake and curses, might also attract interest.
This is a favorite of Bill Krohn's. I like Murder in Times Square due to its mystery elements.
This script is partly by great mystery writer Stuart Palmer,
and shows his gift for Howdunit mysteries (plot in which the very manner in which the crimes are committed is a mystery).
- Riot at Arroyo Seco **1/2
Dave Kehr talked in one of his video appearances recently about how
the horror-fantasy fans are the center of the DVD market.
This group is perhaps the strongest element of interest in pre-1970 films.
Comparison with Howard Hawks
Lew Landers shares a number of interests with the great director Howard Hawks:
There can be a feel of snappy adventure in both director's films.
- Jobs and Work
- Camera movements following walking people
A Note on Detour
Detour (1945) is a famous film noir directed by Edgar G. Ulmer.
Bill Krohn writes, at a_film_by: "Lew Landers' name is on the script for Detour as its original director."
Detour is much more noir like than Landers' earlier work. Landers' characters often do wind up dropping through the
cracks in society, just like the hero of Detour. They often emerge in strange
places at the bottom of the social order.
Night Waitress (1936) is a crime thriller, set in a waterfront cafe.
It is a film I've never been able to enjoy.
It is unfair to say that the cafe in Night Waitress is a dump.
Proprietor Billy Gilbert tries to set standards, and the waitresses work hard.
This modest cafe could be a decent restaurant, except for one thing: the customers.
These men all seem to have majored in sexual harassment in college - and that's assuming they went to college.
They spend all their time making offensive sexual remarks to the waitresses.
Clearly, none of these women would be working there, if they weren't starving in the Depression.
It is unpleasant to watch these women relentlessly hounded by their sleazy customers.
The alleged hero of Night Waitress also harasses the heroine. It is hard to find him at all likable.
It is wrong-headed for Night Waitress to eventually reward his behavior, by having the heroine agree
to go out on a date with him.
There are several fairly complex camera movements, that follow various characters as they walk around
inside the cafe.
The Man Who Found Himself
The Man Who Found Himself (1937) is a combination medical and flying drama.
Like Another Country
The hero works as a surgeon in New York City, then runs away to California and goes to work for an airline.
This feels a bit like Conspiracy, where the hero visits another country.
The other country is an enemy of the USA, and the hero eventually infiltrates it by putting on an enemy uniform.
There is no war in The Man Who Found Himself, but otherwise there is something of a similar feel:
- The hero of The Man Who Found Himself does indeed don the uniforms of the airline:
first a mechanic's coverall, then a leather jacket (not an actual uniform), and finally a full scale pilot's uniform.
Like the uniform in Conspiracy, this is sharp and dressy.
- The hero in The Man Who Found Himself adopts a new identity and name
in the California airline: rather like a man undercover in a thriller.
- The two worlds in The Man Who Found Himself are not enemies at war, but they are
in opposition: Medical/aeronautic, upper crust/middle class, New York/Los Angeles.
Food: Working Class
When the hero's greedy upper class fiance rejects sharing working poverty with him, one of her reasons
is that she wouldn't be able to afford to eat "expensive food".
By contrast, we later see the hero and heroine sharing coffee and donuts at a lunch counter.
This is perhaps a "working class food". Coffee and donuts will return as the food of the poor in
Sullivan's Travels (Preston Sturges, 1942).
A Beautiful Friendship
When the hoboes joke about being separated from each other, one says the other is "breaking up a beautiful friendship".
This anticipates the final line of Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942).
A similar phrase also appears in the mystery novel The Dragon's Teeth (Ellery Queen, 1939).
It always refers to a close relationship between two men.
The hoboes also talk about their "Civil Rights". This is perhaps an early use of this politically charged phrase
in a movie. The hoboes are all white, and they are referring to their rights under law,
not racial integration.
When the hero and hoboes are working on the City project, the dialogue tells us that the hero's job
is to wave a "red flag". We see the hero waving the flag - a common symbol at construction sites to wave traffic away -
but cannot see the color red in this black-and-white movie. One wonders if someone is sneaking in
a little left-wing political symbolism with this red flag.
When nurse Joan Fontaine leaves in the ambulance with her patient,
she sticks her head out the back window to say goodbye to the hero.
Later, a little boy will be rescued from the train, through a broken window.
Twelve Crowded Hours
Twelve Crowded Hours (1939) was co-scripted by famous hard-boiled pulp writer
Paul Cain, who wrote his film scripts as Peter Ruric.
Cain/Ruric also wrote Ulmer's film The Black Cat (1934).
Paul Cain has been well-known and admired in the mystery community for decades: I read his novel Fast One in 1980.
But he is just now being discovered and taken up by the literati, as their big New Thing.
High Tech Phones
In Twelve Crowded Hours the thriller plot exploits the
properties of phones that can be plugged into various tables in restaurants.
In the short lived American TV series Middle Ages (1992), one of the
characters was a high-powered political consultant (Michael O'Keefe). He was
always talking rapid-fire into his cell phone, which he would then fold up and
put away in his suit. He was a yuppie with important business.
This must have been my first contact with cinematic characters with cell phones.
Whenever I see one in a movie, it immediately brings to mind this guy.
What Fritz Lang could have done with cell phones!
An Imaginary Country
Conspiracy (1939) is international intrigue. It is set in an imaginary foreign country,
a vicious dictatorship.
Conspiracy goes to great lengths, to depict its imaginary country.
There are building signs everywhere, in a made-up foreign language. The words look like a Romance Language,
such as Italian, Spanish or Portuguese, but are not any of the above.
By contrast, when government officials speak, their accents sound German (not a Romance Language). This suggests Nazi Germany.
Conspiracy is indeed an anti-Nazi film, with its totalitarian country a stand-in for Nazi Germany.
The soldiers in Conspiracy are in made-up uniforms, that don't directly suggest those of any real country.
In a gambit that is common in war or spy films, the American heroes wind up in some of these uniforms,
impersonating and infiltrating government installations.
Ships, Planes and Escape
Conspiracy shows Lew Landers' fondness for ships and planes. The hero and other characters are sailors,
and much action takes place on boats and ships. SPOILER. A seaplane makes an exciting appearance towards the end.
The last third of the movie has the heroes attempting escape on such vehicles.
Lew Landers clearly liked tales of adventure and escape, on such moving vehicles.
Alias Boston Blackie
Alias Boston Blackie (1942) is part of the Boston Blackie series of comedy-detective stories.
There is a good deal of simple but vigorous camera movement, following characters.
The camera follows the clown in the police station. And moves back and forth along the sidewalk.
The Escape from the Police Station
Around two-thirds way through the film, Blackie stages a complex escape from the police station.
This is a delightful set piece. It is full of clever plot ideas and twists.
Towards the start, just before the escape, there is a witty section where Blackie and his sidekick
are ordered not to talk by the police. This ties in with Landers' interest in communication.
The escape itself recalls the one in Conspiracy. SPOILERS:
The Christmas decorations are sweet and funny. They seem wildly incongruous in a
"tough guy" area like the police station. They add to the comic joy of Alias Boston Blackie.
- It is exuberant and full of joie de vivre.
- It involves vehicles: in Alias Boston Blackie, a police motorcycle and an ambulance.
- It involves dressing up in the uniform of the "enemy": in Alias Boston Blackie, a police uniform
The zany dance of the telegraph messengers is also a highlight. Such public expressions of joy
through dance are also in the very end of Easy Mark.
Bat Masterson: Dead Men Don't Pay Debts
Dead Men Don't Pay Debts (1959) is Landers's first episode of Bat Masterson.
Cheyenne: Riot at Arroyo Seco
Riot at Arroyo Seco (1960) is an episode of Cheyenne.
The judge addressing the townspeople at the end, recalls District Attorney Chester Morris addressing the women witnesses in
Smashing the Rackets. Both are exhortative, and seeking justice.
Coincidentally or not, Riot at Arroyo Seco shares cast members Wynn Pearce, Frank Ferguson
with a previous Lew Landers TV episode Easy Mark.