Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Pay Off (1942)

This Poverty Row quickie from PRC stars Lee Tracy as Brad McKay, a wisecracking reporter involved in some serious investigative journalism after the city’s prosecutor is found murdered. The plot takes the usual twists and turns, as he teams up with his editor’s son (Tom Brown) and Phyllis Walker (Tina Thayer) to crack the case. There’s a twist at the end, but by that point it’s clear the most interesting thing about the film is watching Lee Tracy’s performance.

This is an otherwise-routine newspaper film with the real highlight being Lee Tracy in the kind of role that had made him famous (on Broadway in “The Front Page” and in early talkies such as “Blessed Event”). He’s a bit older here, with a sense of world weariness to his character, but plays the part with the wisecracking gift of gab that he brought to all his best work.

The direction is unobtrusive and the cinematography generally unremarkable except for the occasional camera moves that help keep things interesting during the scenes of expository dialogue.

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