Daily Archives: November 17, 2021

Murder Over New York (1940)

*. Perfunctory entry in the series that has Charlie chasing after another saboteur. A tight enough plot, as far as these things go, but . . .
*. The casual racism is a bit much this time out. At one point the police round up every Hindu in New York, looking for the villain’s assistant. His name is Ramullah, but as things turn out every Hindu man’s name is Ramullah! Consternation! In any event, the chief is amazed at how there are so many “Ali Babas” in New York when the line-up is filled with a whole eight suspects. That’s a lot of Hindus. One of them is also tagged as being a “fakir” who the chief immediately spots as a “faker” (he makes the joke). He turns out to be Shorty McCoy (Shemp Howard, uncredited) with some shoe polish on his face. Well, at least the real Ramullah is played by a Hindu actor. That’s something.
*. Then there is a Black man, playing a frightened butler, who is one step up above Stepin Fetchit (Mantan Moreland was waiting in the wings). I don’t know why they even brought the Black guy in. Under questioning he says he is “completely in the dark.” To which Charlie sharply responds, with no sense of humour, “Condition appear contagious.” Ugh.
*. There’s a weird moment when Charlie mentions that the former wife of the villain may not recognize her ex (as we later find out he’s had plastic surgery) and says that the leopard may have changed his spots. This seems a mangling or misprision of the proverb about a leopard never changing its spots. A fumble from the master of the aphorism? Or intentional?
*. Moves well enough, with lots of action and the usual gang of suspects. Also as per usual even the innocent characters try to outdo each other in looking as guilty as possible. Adds up to another bit of product from the assembly line, and only of interest to committed fans.