Menu

DVD Discovery: ‘Among The Missing’

Lobby Card-Among the MissingThe best part of the DVD-on-demand business (or MOD, as the
studios call it) is that Warner Bros., Sony, and 20th Century Fox
are unearthing rare titles from their vaults. Many have never been on home
video in any form, and some haven’t ever had television exposure. My latest
“discovery” is a 1934 Columbia title called Among
the Missing
, directed by Albert S. Rogell and written by Herbert Asbury and
Fred Niblo, Jr., from a story by Florence Wagner. It stars Henrietta Crosman, Richard
Cromwell, Billie Seward, and Arthur Hohl—not exactly an all-star lineup, unless
you’ve seen Crosman’s memorable performance in John Ford’s Pilgrimage. Crosman was a veteran stage actress who made a memorable
talkie debut as the matriarch in The
Royal Family of Broadway
(the hilarious play based on the Barrymores) and
then gave a heartbreaking performance in the leading role of John Ford’s Pilgrimage in 1933. Older actresses were
in vogue during the 1930s, led by Marie Dressler (America’s top box-office star
in 1933), May Robson (who played the title role in Frank Capra’s Lady for a Day) and the redoubtable Alison
Skipworth.

Among the Missing-Henrietta Crosman

Crosman’s understated performance as an elderly woman who
flees from her sponging son and daughter-in-law helps make Among the Missing so watchable, despite a predictable story. But
what really makes this programmer worth seeing is the way the action is staged,
on a variety of Los Angeles locations, and photographed by Joseph August. August
shot his first film in 1912, became William S. Hart’s personal cameraman in the
teens, was a founding member of the American Society of Cinematographers
(better known as the ASC) and began a long, fruitful collaboration with John
Ford in the late 1920s. He’s responsible for the still-impressive visuals
pairing two Edward G. Robinsons in Ford’s The
Whole Town’s Talking
(1935), and was wounded alongside the director while
shooting The Battle of Midway (1942).
Their final film together was They Were
Expendable
(1945).

Joseph August-Among the Missing

In Among the Missing,
August shoots night-for-night scenes in a local park, even as a police
spotlight tracks fleeing robber Richard Cromwell. He has fun with exaggerated
shadows during a burglary scene alongside a warehouse. And a climactic robbery
at a downtown office building is clearly shot on a bona fide location instead
of a studio set, lending credibility (and suspense) to the drama. There is also a bucolic picnic scene shot at Echo Park.

Still from Among The Missing

Under contract to Columbia in the 1930s, it was typical for
a worker—even an exceptional one like Joe August—to fill time between A-list
assignments like Man’s Castle and Twentieth Century with short subjects (like Woman Haters with the Three Stooges) and
B movies such as Among the Missing.
The cast works well together. Hohl is a slick villain with a veneer of civility
and Cromwell isn’t as cloying as he is in some 1930s films. I wasn’t familiar
with likable leading lady Billie Seward, but I’ve learned that she let her
career slide after marrying Hollywood
Reporter
publisher Billy Wilkerson in 1935; they divorced in 1938 but she
never regained her footing onscreen.

Among the Missing
is hardly a forgotten classic, but its modest attributes made it well worth an
hour of my time. I mean that almost literally: the film runs 62 minutes.

You can purchase a copy through Warner Archive HERE.

 

5 comments

  1. FABIO PRATOLA says:

    Saw the film last night(among the missing) with you introducing on TCM. Really enjoyed for all the reasons you stated. Thanks.

  2. Jim Reinecke says:

    Another little gem to include in your forthcoming 3rd edition of the Classic Movie Guide. Any idea when we can start looking for it? Speaking of Columbia oldies, I caught an obscure 1931 offering from that studio called MEN IN HER LIFE on the Get-TV channel last week. The leading lady was the now long-forgotten Lois Moran but the leading man was Charles Bickford in one of his good-bad man roles. What caught my eye in this otherwise eminently forgettable programmer was the name of the villain. Portrayed by Victor Varconi (Pilate in De Mille’s THE KING OF KINGS, of course), he’s the standard European gigolo/cad type that threatened the honor of so many heroines in 30’s films (especially in the pre-code era). His character name? Count Ivan Karloff! This film, of course, was made before the release of FRANKENSTEIN and Boris Karloff’s subsequent ascendancy to stardom, but one wonders if the writers didn’t just decide to appropriate the name since Boris had appeared in two films at Columbia in ’31, THE CRIMINAL CODE and THE GUILTY GENERATION. Just a little bit of trivia!

  3. mike schlesinger says:

    Your comment about using locations reminds me of that time many years ago when we were at Cinefest watching a Tim McCoy non-western called HOLD THE PRESS. We sat there stunned as the climactic car chase went all through 1933 Hollywood, including a jaw-dropping shot of the cars passing Chaplin’s studio–and there on the other side of LaBrea was a grove of orange trees! That’s why we love those Bs; they really are little t
    time capsules.

  4. Walt Mitchell says:

    Leonard, with such notable exceptions as GONE WITH THE WIND, I am not much of a fan of dramas–I’m more of a musicals / comedies / Vitaphone shorts kind of guy. But I have to say that I appreciated what you had to say about this film! Thank you for calling it to our attention!

    Hope to see you in Syracuse!

  5. Norm says:

    Maybe another TCM pickup…buried treasure for sure.

Leave a Reply

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Ad

PODCAST

 photo MALTIN_ON_NOVIES_AD2_zpsboz6pvfm.png

PAST MALTIN ON MOVIES PODCASTS

APPEARANCES/BOOKING

 photo MALTIN_APPEARANCESON_NOVIES_AD_v2_zpscy41sntv.png

Ad

CALENDAR

October 2017
S M T W T F S
« Sep    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031