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.)
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.