“Delightfully Dippy Detective” is one of the original taglines for Cosmo Jones in “Crime Smasher”, a short crime film from Poverty Row film maker Monogram Pictures. This black and white film runs just one hour and two minutes and co-stars two of Monogram’s favorite stars: Mantan Moreland and Gale Storm. Mantan initially starred in “race movies” then Monogram hired him to team up with Frankie Darro in a series of action films. (I reviewed two of the Frankie Darro / Mantan Moreland films in my earlier posts: “Snoopy Bellhop has Irish Luck” and “Flower Delivery Boys Chase Spies”) Mantan also gained popularity as chauffeur Birmingham Brown in Monogram’s Charlie Chan series. Gale Storm was one of the few stars created and nurtured by Monogram. Gale got her start in a Frankie Darro / Mantan Moreland film, Let’s Go Collegiate but went on to do crime dramas and musicals. She also had two hugely popular television sitcoms in the 1950s: My Little Margie and The Gale Storm Show.
Our film, Cosmo Jones in “Crime Smasher”, is actually based on a little known CBS radio show called Nightcap Yarns in the western USA but Armchair Adventures in the eastern USA. Frank Graham, who plays Cosmo Jones in our film, originated the role in the radio series and was also a writer for the series. While the film is titled Cosmo Jones, Frank Graham only gets fifth billing as he shares the spotlight with Edgar Kennedy as angry Police Chief Murphy, Richard Cromwell as straight arrow but rather dull Sergeant Flanagan, a dyed blonde Gale Storm, and Mantan Moreland playing his popular scaredy-cat role. Five co-stars is the main problem this little film suffers from: there are just too many people running around for an hour long movie. Besides our five stars we also have society girl Phyllis, her oil tycoon father, the Police Commissioner, Jake and Biff the rival gangster leaders, Jake’s wife, and half a dozen other gangster henchmen. That is a lot of people to keep track of. Cosmo Jones never really gets a chance to showcase his “country-bumpkin” type smarts which is too bad because he seems like he might be a fun character. But the camera is too busy following Chief Murphy’s meltdowns or the dull dull romance between Flanagan and Susan (Gale Storm). And Mantan Moreland only manages to get in one or two snarky comments because the story spends too much time on the gangsters threatening him near the end of the film. Mantan does great big-eyed fright but that later scene with him in peril from a gangster’s knife is way too long and way too boringly filmed.
The Internet Archive has two versions of Cosmo Jones in “Crime Smasher” available to watch online or download completely FREE. The audio quality of both is good except for a some stuttering sounds that pop up once or twice. Visual quality of both is a bit dark in places and there are some scratches and other damage. I love Mantan and I am a big fan of Gale Storm’s My Little Margie series (IA has some My Little Margie episodes and I will review them soon) so I wanted a bit more from this little film. It is just too “little”. Too little Mantan, too little Cosmo Jones, too little focus on fewer characters, too little staging in very sparsely decorated scenes. Cosmo Jones is not a complete waste of an hour. I still love Mantan even if he is completely underused but Cosmo Jones had a lot of Monogram’s best talent and the film still barely manages to be a C-minus “B” film.
Cheryl M-M is a big fan of crime and mysteries. If you are too, you will enjoy her posts on Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie:
“The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’”