Running exactly 58 minutes, this is a light thriller with quite a complicated plot. Preston Foster is a footloose photo-journalist who is ready to go anywhere in the world for a good picture.image

The film roams from the Ministry of War in Paris to Marseilles and onto Algiers (via a boat carrying a cargo of guns to re-arm Algerian rebels fighting the French Foreign Legion!)
Lynn Bari is the daughter of an Algerian patriot and Henry Wilcoxon is a French intelligence officer.image
Preston and his sidekick Wally Vernon get involved in all the subterfuge and it’s interesting to see Harold Huber in a serious role, as a foreign criminal.
Joan Woodbury  is good as an Arab girl in love with Huber and jealous of Lynn.

Accents are not even attempted at. Although in the lead, Preston has no romantic attachment once he realises Lynn and Wilcoxon have a history together.

Fast paced and enjoyable.

FREE BLONDE AND 21. (1940)


How can you resist such a title! Presumably back in 1940 ,it would be regarded as quite racy!
Set in an upper class New York hotel for women, heading the cast is Lynn Bari who tries to help Mary Beth Hughes who is an inveterate liar and is only interested in what she can get out of men.
Mary Beth has the more interesting role as she uses every one she meets. At the start we see her annoyance when an older man makes it clear he is going back to his wife. She then pretends suicide and ends up in hospital where she and Lynn meet head doctor Henry Wilcoxon and his associate Robert Lowery.
Lynn and Henry start seeing each other and Mary Beth sets her sights on Robert. When Mary Beth tires of Robert she starts an affair with Alan Baxter – they go to boxing matches,racing and gambling clubs.
A nice contrast shows Lynn and Henry going to the opera,concerts and art galleries.
Baxter involves Mary Beth in a robbery and she implicates Robert in her cover up when Baxter is killed.
The ending, with Mary Beth unknowingly revealing her true character to Lynn,Henry and Robert is well done.
On reflection, this is Mary Beth’s film although Lynn gets top billing.

Mary Beth Hughes

Mary Beth Hughes

Mary Beth Hughes was 21 when she made this film. Joan Davis provides light relief as the hotel maid whose boyfriend is taxi driver Chick Chandler.Joan and Chick have some good scenes.
Two of the other girls at the hotel were Kay Aldridge and Elyse Knox.

I was surprised to see Ricardo Cortez directed both films. According to IMDB Cortez directed 7 films in 1939 and 1940.Another of his films is HEAVEN WITH A BARBED WIRE FENCE, a catchy title from 1939 with Richard Conte in his first film role and a 23 year old Glenn Ford. Would love to see it.

2 responses »

  1. These are my kind of movies! I enjoyed Foster and Bari in SECRET AGENT OF JAPAN (what a title!). Sound like a lot of fun, I’ll look forward to tracking them down in the future.

    And how interesting about Ricardo Cortez! HEAVEN WITH A BARBED WIRE FENCE is shown from time to time on Fox Movie Channel.

    Best wishes,

    • Thanks,Laura. Secret Agent of Japan sounds good too. Preston and Lynn make a good team.
      If you ever see Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence, I would interested to hear about it.

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