Brenda Starr, Reporter (1945, Wallace Fox), Chapter 9: Dark Magic

Dark Magic fully introduces Marion Burns’s psychic character. She showed up at the end of last chapter, but she really didn’t get much to do outside her act. The act, which has everyone panicked this chapter, involves her accusing bad guy Jack Ingram of murder. Then all the lights go out and she, her assistant (Wheeler Oakman in disguise) and Ingram all disappear.

It’s not entirely clear how those events warrant a police investigation, but Kane Richmond sure is going to try to make them.

The chapter opens with him dismissing Joan Woodbury as usual, but maybe for the first time since he agreed they’d share information. They don’t. He strong-arms her for information or just tries to get her fired.

Newspaper editor Frank Jaquet doesn’t back Woodbury up at all. Though, to be fair, it’s not clear she’s a particularly good reporter. Brenda Starr, Reporter is noticeably lacking any evidence of Woodbury’s journalistic skills. Her investigating skills aren’t terrible, though she does get suckered here.

Burns is the best performance in Brenda Starr so far. She’s sick of being lackey to Oakman and Ernie Adams; she (rightly) doesn’t trust them. Leads to some desperate measures, which Fox doesn’t direct well, but Burns still manages the scenes.

As Brenda Starr captures go, it’s not terrible. Syd Saylor’s amusing this time, William ‘Billy’ Benedict’s restained, Burns’s awesome. It’s all right.


Directed by Wallace Fox; screenplay by Ande Lamb and George H. Plympton, based on the comic strip by Dale Messick; director of photography, Ira H. Morgan; edited by Charles Henkel Jr.; music by Edward J. Kay; produced by Sam Katzman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Joan Woodbury (Brenda Starr), Kane Richmond (Lt. Larry Farrell), Syd Saylor (Chuck Allen), George Meeker (Frank Smith), Wheeler Oakman (Heller), Cay Forester (Vera Harvey), Marion Burns (Zelda), Lottie Harrison (Abretha), Ernie Adams (Charlie), Jack Ingram (Kruger), Anthony Warde (Muller), John Merton (Joe Schultz), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Pesky), and Joe Devlin (Sgt. Tim Brown).


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