I wouldn’t so much say I got lazy this weekend as I’d claim all of that snow left my back barking just enough to keep me planted on the couch without much of a guilty conscience. Over two feet of snow, well, that makes for a great movie weekend, doesn't it?
I could have chosen better, but who wants to get up to change the disc when they've got an achy back? Not I.
I first pressed play on The Corpse Came C.O.D (1947) after making my way through Orchestra Wives (1942). That one wasn’t so much for me, but a must for fans of Glenn Miller and ‘40s swing. The second feature was more up my alley, though I wouldn’t be writing about it if I hadn’t fallen asleep before George Brent even came along.
No, this isn’t my typical movie write-up, though I will say a little about The Corpse Came C.O.D. down below. What made me put the movie on again Sunday were those first few moments of being told all about Hollywood, most specifically it’s newspaper reporters and radio voices.
It was the best opportunity I’ve had to capture images of a few of the names I often quote when digging into those old newspaper archives. A couple we’ve seen before—Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons dominate this space—but it was nice to see, say Jimmie Fidler, and now have a face to put to the name.
Hedda Hopper (1885-1966) is the most familiar face of all given the film career she enjoyed prior to her becoming a Hollywood columnist in 1938. She wrote and broadcast for years, all the way until her death in 1966. A couple of the movies featuring Hopper that I've covered are Night World (1932) and, over on my Warren William site, Skyscraper Souls (1932).
Harrison Carroll (1901-1972), on the other hand, was just a name until I saw his face. He wrote for the Los Angeles Herald-Express from 1922 through 1969.
Sidney Skolsky (1905-1983) is a name that reaches beyond the page, as he’s in the mix when the Academy Award trivia turns to wondering who coined the name Oscar for those coveted statuettes. Skolsky began as a Broadway columnist in 1929 before heading to Hollywood in 1932. He also wrote and produced The Eddie Cantor Story (1953) and was producer on the 1946 hit, The Jolson Story.
Jimmy Starr (1904-1990) is the fellow who wrote the novel that this movie was based upon. He was a Hollywood columnist from the 1920s through the ‘50s.
Erskine Johnson (1910-1984) was a very familiar name, but a tough biography to track down. Seems he lived too long after retiring to rate a Hollywood obituary at the end of his days. From what I could gather he was columnist from the 1930s through the ‘60s when after 31 years he announced his retirement to manage a restaurant.
George Fisher (1909-1987) started out as copy boy for the San Francisco Examiner when he was just 15 and within 3 years was broadcasting over a Hearst radio network. Fisher spent 33 years in broadcasting plus had a news column was syndicated through the L.A. Evening News, Radio Mirror and
Louella Parsons (1881-1972) is the most famous of the bunch. She was the first movie gossip writer beginning in 1914 with a column in the Chicago Record Herald. After some moving about she settled into her column for Heart’s Los Angeles Examiner in the mid-20s. Her column was syndicated to over 600 newspapers nationwide. She came to radio in 1928 and continued to dominate the news pages until Hedda Hopper to give her a run for her money during their infamous rivalry. Louella worked until 1965 when her assistant Dorothy Manners took over her column.
Jimmie Fidler (1898-1988) wrote his “Jimmie Fidler in Hollywood” column and was heard on over 486 radio stations at his peak. He made $250,000 in 1950, which I’d imagine was that peak. Earlier he worked as a publicity man for Famous Players-Lasky and then ran his own talent agency until the Crash wiped him out in ‘29. Returned to public relations and went over big while conducting a radio interview. His own show followed. Fidler cut back on his work in the 1960’s but wouldn’t officially retire until 1983. That’s the latest any of this bunch stuck around.
Those faces just flash by at the start with a voice-over announcing each of them. These specific personalities have no bearing on The Corpse Came C.O.D. beyond those first two minutes or so of the film.
The only reason we get to see them is because George Brent stars as hard-boiled reporter on the Hollywood beat and Joan Blondell is featured as his rival reporter slash love interest. The connection between our characters, who cover a murder, and the personalities shown above, who spent most of their time writing who went where with whom, or hints at whom, seems pretty loose. They're all based out of Hollywood, I'll give them that.
After we meet those real life gossip columnists and broadcasters the story begins and it immediately lives up to its title. A large crate arrives for starlet Mona Harrison (Adele Jergens) and what do you know, but she owes a $400-plus C.O.D. charge on the goods. Her butler (William Trenk) pries it open and we’re completely prepared for the body that falls out.
Adele Jergens’ scream is so weak that it seems Una O’Connor has been hired solely to back her up with some real hysterics. At least I don’t recall seeing much of Miss O’Connor after she lets loose.
That’s when I dozed off Saturday. Gave it another shot on Sunday.
It’s routine stuff, but I must confess the murderer wasn’t who I expected. Not sure I’d chalk that up as a positive though, as it all seemed a bit of a stretch by the end.
The victim was Mona’s designer and his corpse was packed in the crate with several bolts of cloth he was having sent to her to choose for a dress.
Mona arouses suspicion by rushing to call her reporter friend, Joe Medford (Brent), rather than the police. Then when Medford goes back on his word to her and phones for his photographer and then his police contact (Jim Bannon), Mona digs herself in deeper with us by removing one of the bolts of cloth from the crate and slipping up the stairs with it.
That’s tampering with evidence. Medford notices too.
Our Hollywood set murder soon brings us along to the studio with Medford where he’s greeted by an attractive secretary (Leslie Brooks) who lets him slide past the group of reporters questioning the Head of Publicity in order to poke around on his own.
Also on the scene is the studio president played by Grant Mitchell--I had just seen Mitchell play Ann Rutherford’s father in Orchestra Wives, but he’s in everything, so that’s no big deal.
The only other reporter on the Hollywood beat smart enough to dig around on their own rather than listen to the P.R. man’s lip service is Rosemary Durant (Blondell), a friendly rival of Medford’s.
Rosemary wants to work together with Medford on this case, but Joe says she doesn’t have anything to bring to such a pairing. So throughout the remainder of The Corpse Came C.O.D. Rosemary does her best to keep up with Joe and even winds up beating him to his destination a few times.
The more we see of Rosemary the less of an item Joe and Mona seem to be. At first Joe and Rosemary are presented as established professional rivals, but the more they are together the bigger the spark between them seems. It becomes so obvious that Brent and Blondell are going to wind up together that it makes you wonder what’s going to happen with the Adele Jergens character.
That answer could be a tidy one if initial suspicions prove true. But plenty of other suspects arise: Mona’s butler, various studio people including Grant Mitchell, and most notably a shady underworld character named Rudy Frasso (Marvin Miller). There’s even another murder along the way.
It’s a shame Columbia didn’t go just a shade darker with The Corpse Came C.O.D., but they played it for laughs and succeeded on a mild scale.
Probably the biggest detriment to the movie is the distracting soundtrack. For me it sounded like a cross between episodes of Scooby Doo and Gilligan’s Island with an occasional bit of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” tacked on back just to drive me nearly out of my skin.
Directed by Henry Levin from a story originating from a novel by our real-life reporter friend, Jimmy Starr, The Corpse Came C.O.D. was released to theaters by Columbia June 2, 1947. I don't believe it's ever had a video release so check the top of TCM's page for future air dates.
Worthwhile for fans of Brent and Blondell. I'd be curious to know if mystery fans found the resolution clever or, like me, a bit clunky. Though I don't think The Corpse Came C.O.D. was meant to be over analyzed.