Comedy · Thriller

How to Survive Shipwreck with a Murderer and a Stupid Detective

Gwen Lee surveys the morons around her.
Gwen Lee surveys the morons around her.

If there’s anything the movies have taught us, it’s this: Whenever you go on a boat, always wear your best gown and pearls – and bring your fur coat, if you have one.

The movies tell us how exciting ships are. A person is forever running into millionaires or Royalty In Disguise. If you’re really lucky, you’ll become shipwrecked on an uncharted island.

Something even more exciting happens in the 1933 comedy-thriller, The Intruder, and it begins on a dark and stormy night – which, as you know, is the best time for evil-doers to run amok. A cruise ship is knocked off course due to strong winds while a murder is being committed on board. Not only that, the murder victim is robbed of diamonds that were stolen from someone else.

Then the ship crashes and the murder suspects – along with the murderer – are forced into a single lifeboat. They land on a deserted island, where the intrigue continues!

See? If a person had decided on a road trip instead of taking a cruise, they would have missed all the fun.

The Intruder is a campy, pre-code treat recommended to us, in an off-handed way, by our friends at Noirish.

There is a good collection of characters in this film, including the bossy-but-thick-headed detective (William B. Davidson), who offers such insights as, “Well, either they’re alive or they’re not.” There’s also an inebriated passenger (Arthur Housman), who wonders if the rescue ship will feature a well-stocked bar.

The best character in this film is Daisy (Gwen Lee), a mashup of Joan Blondell and Mae West. Daisy is the ultimate Pre-Code Woman: smart, brash and capable. She’s the type of character you want on your side if you’ve been shipwrecked on an uncharted island with:

  • a crafty murderer
  • an assortment of murder suspects
  • a diamond robber
  • a stupid detective
  • a wisecracking drunkard
  • a crazed castaway
  • a man in gorilla suit (Don’t ask.)

Daisy shows us how handle this situation and still look as fresh as, well, a daisy.

The key lies in her Alfreda gown, accessorized by a multi-strand pearl necklace, which she wears throughout the ordeal. (Let this be a lesson, Dear Reader: One need not let fashion suffer when dodging murderers on a remote island.)

Gwen Lee (right) tells Lila Lee (no relation) to straighten her stockings.
Gwen Lee (right) tells Lila Lee (no relation) to put on her big girl stockings.

Hollywood costume designer Alfreda enjoyed her greatest popularity in the early 1930s. Her gowns were featured in such pre-code gems as Forgotten Terrors, Officer 13 and  A Shriek in the Night. Not only were her gowns gorgeous, they gave heroines an important quality: courage.

For example, in The Intruder, Daisy never becomes flustered. When she and another female passenger, Miss Wayne (Lila Lee) fall into the clutches of a kidnapper, the women duck into a castaway’s shelter. Here they they discover a human skeleton named “Mary” sitting in a chair. Miss Wayne, understandably, becomes fretful about being killed. Daisy promises she won’t allow the murderer to harm them: “Over my dead body,” she quips.

Alfreda was not one to design a costume without practical features. Daisy’s gown is black, sleek, and durable enough for shipwrecks. But it has an added feature – a handy slip which Daisy tears away and uses as a bandage to save Miss Wayne’s life.

The Intruder seems to draw mixed reviews from audiences. Many people have a “meh” reaction, but we think this pre-code flick is a fun mix of black humour and genuine intrigue.

The Intruder: starring Monte Blue, Lila Lee, William B. Davidson. Directed by Albert Ray. Written by Frances Hyland. Allied Pictures Corp., 1933, B&W, 54 mins.

This post is part of THE PRE-CODE BLOGATHON, hosted by Shadows & Satin and pre-code.com. Click HERE for a list of all the entries.

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31 thoughts on “How to Survive Shipwreck with a Murderer and a Stupid Detective

      1. So glad you enjoyed it! I was amused that (quite rightly) you saw no need to mention the movie’s supposed star, Monte Blue: the man had no screen presence whatever, and it’s alarmingly easy to forget he was there!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Ruth, The Intruder may not be to all tastes, but it sure sounds like fun for Pre-Code goofy fun! Certainly the men in the audience must have enjoyed the our heroine getting her gown getting torn! 😀 Swell post, my friend, as always! 😀

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  2. Loved your write-up, Ruth! I’ve never heard of this movie, but I suspect that I would not fall into the “meh” category. (And I REALLY want to see that black gown!) Thanks so much for this most awesome contribution to the blogathon!

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  3. I never heard of this one and now of course I have to see it. I don’t even think I know much about Gwen Lee! Great thing about movies– always news things to discover!

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  4. Surely pearls and a fur coat are the *only* way to travel? Although I must admit my sea-faring excursions (admittedly limited to crossing the Channel to France) are nowhere near as glam.

    And I’m so glad you mentioned Alfreda (I’ve been planning a post for a while) – who in my opinion is one of the most overlooked costume designers of the pre-code era. I love that you highlighted the courage-giving potential of the designs – in all fairness if I could wear such designs everyday, I wouldn’t be afraid of anything!

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  5. Wow, this sounds like a fun little film. I’ve never heard of Gwen Lee before, but if she’s a cross between Blondell and West (at least in this), then I’ll have to check her out. And I’ll have to scout out this movie as well – thanks for sharing!

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  6. Whoa! This sounds like a lot of fun! A guy in a gorilla suit? In a dsert island? After a shipwreck? With a Joan Blondell and Mae West mashup? I nned to watch this movie! (And I agree that you need fur and jewelry whenever you travel by ship… things classic movies have taught me).
    Thanks for the kind commnet!
    Le

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  7. I enjoyed your review of this movie, Ruth! My family has been trying to convince me to go on a cruise, but I wasn’t that excited about going. I have to remember that if I take my long black dress and pearls I’ll be just fine no matter what happens if this movie is any indication. Daisy’s character sounds like a lot of fun, as are your posts. Thanks for calling this movie to my attention!

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    1. Ha ha – yes, be sure to pack a sleek black gown and pearls if you do go on a cruise. A gal must always be prepared.

      This is a crazy movie, and it’s too bad the quality isn’t that great. It would be so much fun to see a remastered copy on the big screen.

      I hope your family is able to convince you to take that cruise one day. 🙂

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