Sunday, October 7, 2012

Joyce in Ellis Island (1936)

Here's how I described Ellis Island at my weblog,
Another cruddy 1930s b-movie which would have otherwise gone past my radar, had Joyce Compton not co-starred. This had something to do with gangsters and a dopey pair of Ellis Island employees who uncover their dirty deeds, but it didn’t hold my interest whenever Joyce (tiny role as the nurse girlfriend of one of the dopes) wasn’t on screen – which wasn’t too often!

The dull, often incomprehensible Ellis Island found Joyce working at yet another poverty row studio (Invincible Pictures), playing yet another thankless part as the goofy sidekick's girlfriend. She doesn't appear in too many scenes (and looks rather distracted when she does). Probably the best thing about this incompetently made trifle is that it's very short - 67 minutes. Even at that brief length, this plodding flick still seems like it's about an hour too long!

Like many of Joyce's other films, Ellis Island has slipped into the public domain and is commonly available to watch online (such as at although the print leaves something to be desired. The version that I saw was a standalone DVD offered by Alpha Home Video which contains one of the worst-quality transfers I've ever seen on a disc. Not only was the picture blurry, it had VHS-era video artifacts at the bottom of the frame throughout the entire film. Buy Ellis Island here.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Joyce in Murder with Pictures (1936)

Joyce Compton's career in the mid- to late-1930s seemed to alternate between leads in poverty row productions and supporting parts in b-movies from the big studios (With a few bit parts thrown in. Why? Only Joyce herself could tell you.) Among the big studio efforts she appeared in was 1936's Murder with Pictures, a cliché-ridden comedy/mystery from Paramount starring a too-smirky Lew Ayres (above left) as a newspaper photographer who enjoys outpacing the police on various hot cases. He winds up becoming part of the story he’s covering when an alluring mystery lady (Gail Patrick, below left) enters his apartment seeking shelter from the pursuing authorities. The woman is a murder suspect, wrongly accused and desperate to clear her name. Ayres winds up helping her AND coming up with the incriminating photograph that proves who the real killer is. A rather silly, slight film that (at the very least) moves along at a brisk pace and has a glossy production unusual for a b-picture. The plot gets needlessly complex and Ayres is more annoying than good - but raven-haired Patrick is a knockout. So is Joyce, for that matter. She’s got a fairly decent-sized role here as Ayres’ jealous fiancee, looking swanky in fur-lined ensembles designed by Edith Head.

Murder With Pictures has slipped into the public domain and is commonly available to watch online (such as at although the print leaves something to be desired. The version that I saw is included on the Mystery Classics 50 Movie Pack DVD collection released by Treeline/Mill Creek Entertainment in 2009.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Joyce in Let 'Em Have It (1935)

Let 'Em Have It is a gritty little gangster pic made as the film industry was pressured to glorify the good, hard-working long arm of the law over the bad guys. The film follows three young FBI recruits, played by Richard Arlen, Henry Stephens and Gordon Jones, as they pursue an attempted extortion/kidnapping case involving the family of socialite Virginia Bruce. Produced by indie Edward Small Productions, this was a decent, faced-paced flick with more action and violence that what you’d normally expect from a ’30s-era picture. The story is very similar to the James Cagney vehicle G-Men, with all its straightforward and often unintentionally funny procedural scenes. Although it lacks the nuance of that film, it's a moderately interesting actioner.

Joyce's appearance in Let 'Em Have It is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it turn the pretty girlfriend of an eager-beaver young agent played by actor Eric Linden (seen below in a publicity still with Joyce). Her inconsequential role amounts to a couple of brief scenes - and she doesn't even appear at the funeral when Linden's character is killed! Miss Compton's talents would have been put to better use if she'd been cast as one of the film's two gangsters' floozies. Those colorful characters are played by Dorothy Appleby and Barbara Pepper - who both do a pretty good job.

Let 'Em Have It received a DVD release in 2005 as part of Sony Wonder's Gangsters, Guns & Floozies Crime Collection. The film is decently presented on disc with no extras. Buy at here.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Joyce in Ziegfeld Girl (1941)

Here's a screen shot of Edward Everett Horton and Paul Kelly flanking a surprised-looking Joyce in 1941's Ziegfeld Girl. This luxe MGM musical stars Judy Garland, Lana Turner and Hedy Lamarr as a trio of 1920s lovelies who meet different fates on their way down the Giant Staircase of Fame, when they become the lucky few hired as chorus girls in Flo Ziegfeld's famous Follies. It's quite a fun movie, albeit overlong and campy at times (especially the scenes with a too-young Turner as the responsibility-chucking, alcoholic Ziegfeld Girl). Garland fares the best as the perky, ambitious one whose well-intentioned yet clueless vaudeville hoofer dad (Charles Winninger) is holding her back. She also gets a good ballad to sing in "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows." Stone-faced Lamarr is mesmerizing, but lacks a good storyline. First-billed Jimmy Stewart also appears as Turner's sensible trucker boyfriend, but he seems distracted - perhaps by Turner's embarrassing scenery-chewing?

Joyce appears in the first five minutes as an auditioning chorus girl in the office of Ziegfeld associate Paul Kelly, with supporting star Edward Everett Horton looking on in amusement. The gauche Joyce doesn't appear to have what it takes to be a Ziegfeld Girl. However, since the movie doesn't make her fate too clear, I prefer to think that she's in the chorus somewhere wearing those fabulous Adrian clothes during the "Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody" number. That's what the movies are for, right?

Ziegfeld Girl was given a nice DVD treatment by Warner Home Video back in 2004. The disc includes a special introduction, a deleted musical number with Garland, and bonus shorts. Buy at here.