Red-Haired Alibi (1932) Poster

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Pretty 'Bad' Woman
zardoz-1331 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
A young Shirley Temple appears briefly in "Scared to Death" director Christy Cabanne's bland but inoffensive potboiler about a homicide and a desperate dame on the dodge. This trim, 68-minute crime saga concerns a perfume counter girl, Lynn Monith (Merna Kennedy), in a Columbus, Ohio, hotel. She experiences a close encounter with a notorious mobster. This elegantly-attired but crafty mobster, Trent Travers (Theodore von Eltz of "The Divorcée"), needs somebody to substantiate his whereabouts after he has committed a crime. He wants a woman who knows how to keep her mouth shut. Our naive heroine doesn't realize the enormity of her situation until Travers slips her a smoking revolver and orders her to dispose of it. Moments earlier Travers had slipped out of his car and gunned down another gangster.

If only the Savoy Hotel where she once worked had not gone out of business, Lynn probably wouldn't have moved to New York City to act as a companion to Travers. Poor Lynn finds herself in a predicament that goes from bad to sour fast. After she has arrived in the Big Apple, Traver installs Lynn in a plush apartment, provided her with a clothing allowance, and her a $100 a month. Guilty and terrified by the implications of what she has done to ensure that the criminal boss goes free, Lynn vanishes off the face of the earth, but she doesn't stay gone long enough. Lynn tries her best to elude Travers, but it is only a matter of time before he finds her again.

Earlier, after Lynn arrived in New York City, our heroine crossed paths with wealthy Bob Shelton (Grant Withers) when he comes searching from his top hat. Bob finds Lynn sitting on it on a couch. Bob has troubles of his own. Shelton's wife seems to have abandoned not only him but also their cute daughter Gloria. Bob wants Lynn to marry him and help him raise his four-year old daughter. Nevertheless, Travers gets in touch with her again and demands that she fork over $10-thousand dollars so he can hide out. She meets him on a rainy night at a restaurant and brandishes the same gun that he had killed a gangster rival. The police show up and clear Lynn of Travers' murder because the bullet that the coroner dug out of Travers didn't match the gun that Lynn had.

Merna Kennedy generates more than enough sympathy as a twenty-three year old woman who is duped by a cunning criminal. Shirley Temple spends most of her time being cuddled. She is never in direct jeopardy. Theodore von Eltz is good as the sinister crime boss who prefers to handle his problems in person. He has a low opinion of women, The quality of this print is abysmal, but the dialogue survives intact. Imagine "Pretty Woman" with an amoral heroine who protects her own, and you've got the gist of "Red Haired Alibi." Unfortunately, nothing in the Altogether, this tolerable crime thriller doesn't wear out its welcome.
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Better than you'd expect.
MartinHafer1 October 2014
"Red-Haired Alibi" is a b-movie from a low-budget studio. Because of this, the adult actors in the film are mostly no-names. However, despite this, the film is pretty good--and better than you'd expect.

When the film begins, Travers meets a young lady, Lynn (Merna Kennedy) in a shop and offers her a job without even knowing her. Soon, she leaves her small town and moves to New York to work for the man-- even though she has no idea what the work will entail. Her job is odd and yet she asks no questions--she is to pretend to be his wife and provide him with an alibi if needed. So, for example, when they go out to eat, they eat in a private dining room and soon Travers sneaks out. She is to keep the door locked and vouch for him being there even though he wasn't. The pay is good and Lynn, foolishly, goes along with it.

Surprise, later turns out that Travers is a gangster and Lynn nearly gets herself thrown in jail. She comes clean with the police and is fortunate that they let her go. However, getting another job is difficult considering she now has a reputation. However, when she meets an old acquaintance once again, Bob asks her to come work for him. It seems his wife has left him and their adorable moppet (a very young Shirley Temple) and she will become the child's governess. Not surprisingly, after some time, Bob asks Lynn to marry him and they are quite happy. However, she has not told him about her past and he's refused to even hear about it. Later, however, Travers returns. He's a wanted man and needs to get out of the country and demands that Lynn help him or else he'll tell everyone who she is and about her sordid past. He also says he'll implicate her in a murder she didn't commit. What's next? See the film.

The best thing going for this melodrama is the acting. Although Myrna Kennedy and the rest of the cast are folks you'll very unlikely recognize (apart from young Shirley), they are quite good and manage to make the most of the script. Enjoyable if a bit far- fetched.
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She Ordered Milk.....
kidboots16 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
.... so you knew Lynne Monteith (Merna Kennedy) is really a nice girl!! She catches the eye of gangster Trent Travis (Theodore von Eltz) who knows that the hotel where she works is soon to be demolished and makes her a job offer she can't refuse. A rent free apartment, $100 a week plus $600 for a new wardrobe - people comment throughout the movie about what a nice, smart girl she is but can she really be that dumb!!! The catch is that she must be seen out at night clubs etc with him, masquerading as his wife but above all to say nothing (the last order she obeys literally!!) She is his red haired alibi to be used while he wipes out his rivals with bullets and "pineapples"!!

Along the way she meets wealthy Bob Shelton (poor old Grant Withers has even less screen time than Shirley Temple, even though he is third billed) who is smitten by her niceness - at this stage she realises she has been used as a "patsy" and is now trying to find a legitimate job as a nanny. Bob has an adorable daughter Gloria who instantly looks on Lynne as her "new mommy" (her real "mommy" having run off with the latest boyfriend). But like a bad penny Trent shows up in need of his red haired alibi for one last dangerous time.

The "blurb" on the DVD box promises a surprise twist but it will only be a surprise if you have never seen a pre-coder in your life before. Merna Kennedy's high point was her debut as Charlie Chaplin's leading lady in "The Circus" (the Chaplin movie that no one remembers) but it wasn't long (1930) before she was a poverty row fixture. Joining her in this was Grant Withers whose promising career had nosedived since his speedy annulment to Loretta Young in 1931. I know Shirley Temple's name is plastered all over the DVD and one reviewer is annoyed that she is only in it for five minutes but would a 4 year old be the star of a movie about a woman used as a front for a gangster trying to escape the electric chair!! I ask you!!
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Shirley's first feature is only for completists
jjnxn-115 July 2015
Assembly line drama that gets more ridiculous as it goes along. Very early Shirley Temple flick, she is NOT the Red-Haired Alibi of the title, she's precious but for one of the few times in her career not entirely relaxed on screen. It's not surprising considering she had just turned four but she was always so effortlessly natural on screen it's a bit odd to see her obviously waiting for her cue at times. She's only in the film for about 5 or 6 minutes tops.

As for the rest of the film it's the standard tale of a naive girl who gets in over her head with a gangster who she doesn't realize is leading her astray and then is trapped when she gets wise and tries to break free.
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Innocence lost in just a matter of moments.
mark.waltz7 December 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Hanging around with a man of ill repute gets shopgirl Merna Kennedy in deep trouble thanks to her agreement that no matter what, she'll keep her mouth shut. Theodore Von Eltz basically bribes her into being his alibi for a murder (with her ending up with the gun) then when she becomes the wife of a prominent man (and stepmother to four year old Shirley Temple) blackmails her into getting him $10,000 so he can get out of the country. The gun comes in pretty handy when she finds herself and her new family in jeopardy, but this stirs up a whole new pot of trouble.

Crackling prints and slow pacing, along with a cliched script and poor acting make this poverty row pre-code crime drama only moderately interesting only because director Christy Cabane tries to get this out of the sound studio and onto the streets. Kennedy is supposed to be young and innocent, but she seems a good decade older than what the part calls for.

Temple, already in her trademark curls, isn't as cloying as she would later be but is obviously being led around the set in her few scenes and doesn't seem really comfortable. Some ridiculous twists erupt to be quite a convenient way to turn the plot around as it tries painfully to resolve its plotline.
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Red Hair in Black and White
boblipton29 December 2018
Merna Kennedy is offered a well-paying job by Theodore von Eltz. She's to appear with him in public and keep her mouth shut. Eventually it turns out he is a gangster and she is his red-headed alibi.

It's directed by Christy Cabanne, surely not a name to conjure with. However, he was a skilled craftsman and, given a decent budget and a good script, he could certainly turn out a good movie, and he has done so here, even for Poverty Row producer Sigmund Neufeld. In a period when the camera was static, he filled his movies with moving shots, and there are many of them here: pans, tracking shots and pull-outs are executed with beauty by cinematographer Harry Forbes. The script is also good, and although Miss Kennedy is a little weak in her longer speeches, the characters are nicely drawn. Purnell Pratt has aa nice role as a sympathetic policeman. There's also Shirley Temple in her first appearance in a feature.

Merna Kennedy had become a minor star after appearing with Chaplin in THE CIRCUS. It did not last long, and although she continued appearing in minor roles through 1934, she retired that year to marry Busby Berkley. She died of a heart ailment in 1944, only 36 years old.
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Shirley's Brief Moments!
Sylviastel9 May 2014
This forgettable film appears on the Shirley Temple film collection even though she is only in about 5 minutes in the film. Of course, she is quite a scene stealer as always. The story is about a fallen woman played well by Merna Kennedy. The script is quite flawed. Since this film was done in the early 1930s, you have to account for the time period of film making and the time period of the Great Depression where money was tight even for studios. Still this film should be considered an early film noir collection but not the Shirley Temple film collection. I doubt that I would have seen this film otherwise though. The cast doesn't have memorable names from Hollywood's early film era.
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