By Ed Garea
Here Comes Carter (WB, 1936) – Director: William Clemens. Writers: Roy Chanslor (s/p). Michael Jacoby (story). Stars: Ross Alexander, Glenda Farrell, Anne Nagel, Craig Reynolds, Hobart Cavanaugh, George E. Stone, John Sheehan, Joseph Crehan, Dennis Moore, Norman Willis, John T. Murray, Charley Foy, Eddy Chandler, Davison Clark & Wayne Morris. B&W, 58 minutes.
And there goes Carter. At a little less than an hour, it’s over before we know it, although there’s a lot of plot packed into that hour.
Ross Alexander is Kent Carter, Director of Public Relations at Premiere Pictures. In other words, head flack. He has a slight problem in that he doesn’t want to give his secretary, Linda Warren (Nagel), a screen test because he wants to marry her and wants a stay-at-home wife.
To make him jealous, she tells him she had dinner with actor Rex Marchbanks (Reynolds). Rex is easily Kent’s least favorite person in any case, so when Linda gives him the news, he really has a reason to hate Rex. The unknowing Rex, however, hands Kent a golden opportunity for a little revenge. Would Kent take care of his wife, who is suing him for non-support? Kent seizes on the opportunity and turns Rex in to the authorities.
When Rex is ultimately cleared, he takes revenge by getting Kent fired. Linda begs Kent to apologize and get his job back, but he refuses. Reduced to trading an autographed cigarette lighter to diner owner Bill (Morris in only his second picture) in return for a hot dog and mug of beer, he notices Bill listening intently to the radio. When he asks Bill what’s so important, Bill responds that he never misses Mel Winter’s Hollywood gossip show. This gives Kent an idea. Why not use his inside knowledge of Hollywood to make money? He offers to provide dipso radio gossip Winter (Cavanaugh) with real scandals. Winter is too timid to broadcast such damaging information, preferring press releases, but he does hire Kent as his writer.
One day, Winter is too drunk to broadcast and the sponsor hires Kent as a replacement. Kent is an instant hit, using his new position to attack Rex whenever possible. In retaliation, Rex asks gangster Steve Moran (Willis) to throw a scare into Kent. Moran sends one of his enforcers, Slugs Dana (Sheehan in an entertaining performance), to threaten Kent, but Kent Buys him off with tickets to a movie preview starring Slugs's favorite actress.
Kent secretly arranges an audition for Linda, who repays him by refusing to be involved with him as long as he broadcasts scandals in Hollywood. When Kent keeps riding Rex on the air, Moran and one of his thugs, Boots Bennett (Stone), beat him up and sending him to the hospital. Kent refuses to tell the police who beat him because he’s saving the information to announce it on the air.
Slugs, who has become a source of inadvertent news to Kent in return for preview passes, tells the broadcaster that Moran once killed a man during a robbery. Kent then breaks a story that Moran and Marchbanks are in reality brothers. Moran breaks into the radio station intending to kill Kent, but the police shoot him first. Having learned that he was responsible for her singing career, Linda reconciles with Kent, who agrees to change his profession.
Unbelievably, Glenda Farrell is second-billed to Alexander in this movie. although she appears in a minor role as Verna Kennedy, Mel Winters’s former secretary inherited by Kent when he took over the position. Although she has a nice little scene encouraging Linda not to give up on Carter, despite the fact she is mad about the boy, it’s just further proof that Warner’s didn’t know what to do with talented actresses. Just a few months later (January 2, 1937), Warner’s released Smart Blonde, which turned Farrell into a very popular star in one of the iconic roles of the ‘30s, that of reporter Torchy Blaine. Read our review of it here.
The song Nagel sings on a radio broadcast, “Thru the Courtesy of Love” (also played during the opening credits) bears a more than striking resemblance to Jackie Gleason’s composition, “Melancholy Serenade,” which was used as the theme of his television show. Compare the two some time; both are on You Tube.
Besides Wayne Morris, look for Jane Wyman as a nurse and Marjorie Weaver is a secretary for studio head Joseph Crehan. Both actresses are uncredited.
Anne Nagel was one of Hollywood’s “hard-luck cases,” never making it higher than the cusp of stardom. She met Alexander on the set of Here Comes Carter. They fell in love and married on September 16, 1936. Just a scant few months later, on January 2, 1937, Alexander, a closeted homosexual in financial straits and depressed over the suicide of former wife Aleta Freile in 1935, shot himself in the temple with a .22 pistol in a barn behind their Encino ranch home. The loss affected Nagel deeply. She signed with Universal in 1939, but stardom still eluded her as the studio assigned her to B-horror and Western films. She left Universal to freelance, but could only find work on Poverty Row, working at Monogram, PRC and Republic. Her last film, an uncredited appearance in RKO’s 1950 noir, Armored Car Robbery, was the best film she had done in years. She worked doing television guest shots until 1954 when, plagued by alcoholism, she could no longer find work. Her 1941 marriage to Army Air Corps officer, James H. Keehan in 1941, was an unhappy one and ended in divorce in 1951. She spent the last years of her life virtually penniless before passing away from liver cancer on July 6, 1966, at only 50 years of age.