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  Smart Girls Don't Talk Blonde Bait to trap a Three-Time Killer
Year: 1948
Director: Richard L. Bare
Stars: Virginia Mayo, Bruce Bennett, Robert Hutton, Tom D'Andrea, Richard Rober, Helen Westcott, Richard Benedict, Ben Welden, Richard Walsh
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sexy society girl Linda Vickers (Virginia Mayo) is on the scene when gangsters rob a nightclub run by rival mob boss, Marty Frain (Bruce Bennett). One of Frain's men uses Linda's car in a revenge killing so when the cops led by Lieutenant McReady (Tom D'Andrea) start asking questions, she seizes the chance for a little blackmail. Marty pays Linda off but when their relationship turns romantic, trouble follows.

It is easy to like a movie that adopts Ray Noble's timeless "The Very Thought of You" as its theme song. Warner Brothers produced Smart Girls Don't Talk as a vehicle for gorgeous Virginia Mayo, then widely considered Hollywood's quintessential voluptuous blonde bombshell. Though this particular film was in black and white, it is said audiences flocked to her many Technicolor outings simply to see how great she looked on screen and that the Sultan of Morocco proclaimed her beauty to be "tangible proof of the existence of God." Which is high praise indeed. This romantic thriller, which is too sprightly and upbeat to be classified film noir, cast Mayo in a role that combined her trademark glamour with a little grit. She is quite marvellous as the smart, snappy witted but sensual society girl who coolly faces down crooks and cops alike.

Though not quite your classic, manipulative femme fatale, Linda Vickers remains a rather bold choice for a heroine in Hays Code era Hollywood. Far from a victim she survives by her wits and tries to charm gangster Marty Frain into paying her to keep quiet. In some ways Linda proves the female equivalent of Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941), someone who plays both sides against each other to their own advantage until their conscience gets the best of them. That conscience arrives in the form of Linda's kid brother, Doc' (Robert Hutton), recently graduated from medical school as that unsubtle nickname alludes. Doc' tries to warn Linda that Marty is no good but somewhat hypocritically continues visiting the latter's club because he is sweet on chanteuse Toni (Helen Westcott). He ends up removing a bullet from an injured Marty with dire consequences as the suspense kicks up a notch.

For all screenwriter William Sackheim's attempts at complexity the moral dilemmas are treated far too lightly and compared with the fever dream style of legitimate film noir thrillers made around the same time proves prosaic. Richard L. Bare directs in solid if unsubtle fashion and is no great stylist. His eclectic career encompassed numerous mid-level thrillers including Flaxy Martin (1949), which again cast Virginia Mayo as a mobster's girlfriend, and The House Across the Street (1949) culminating in MGM's infamous failed Duo-Vision experiment Wicked-Wicked (1973). Warner Brothers surrounded Mayo with a distinctly second-string cast but to his credit Sackheim supplies her with some lively, flirty banter and irresistible hard-boiled dialogue for the tough guys. It is slow paced for a vintage Warner Brothers picture but the plot comes together satisfyingly, hammering home the message ("the police are only as good as the public's cooperation") as Linda ends up baiting a honey-trap to get Marty to confess. Or as the tagline put it: "The Scandal Squad uses blonde bait to trap a 3-time killer!" Nice.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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