Cinema: The New Pictures: Oct. 2, 1939

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Espionage Agent (Warner) tries to do for spy hunters what G-Men did for the FBI in 1935. A timely, slapdash nerve-racker, it has none of the sophisticated humor with which, in such superbly organized spy thrillers as The Lady Vanishes, The Man Who Knew Too Much, smart British Director-Producer Alfred Hitchcock makes improbable situations plausible. Espionage Agent is filled with as many improbabilities as spies, and it is almost as hard to avoid spotting them.

Barry Corvall (sulky, hulky Joel McCrea) is a trig young U. S. diplomat in Morocco when civil war strands dark, sultry-eyed, plump-lipped Brenda Ballard (Newcomer Brenda Marshall) in his consulate. When Barry returns to Washington for a stretch at the foreign service school, he takes femme fatale Brenda with him. Though she is more suspicious as a woman with no past at all than many a woman with one, Career Diplomat Barry very undiplomatically marries her. But Brenda is pledged to an exclusive spy ring, continues to be tapped by them even when she turns a cold but lovely shoulder. When her spy fiends (who all resemble Nazis) request her to snitch state secrets through her husband, Brenda makes a clean breast of things to Barry. Off he strides to tell the State Department about it and resign, then sets out with Brenda to track down her erstwhile employers.

In the usual chase through the train at the frontier station, Barry and Brenda having grabbed the little black bag with the evidence, make the usual jump while the train is moving, as usual escape. Last shots show Brenda being kissed by a State Department official.

Honeymoon in Bali (Paramount) is one of those over-jaunty comedies that have too good a time the first part of the evening, suddenly begin to stagger around, then fold up for the night. The rest is hangover.

Gorgeous Bachelor Girl Gail Allen (Madeleine Carroll) was doing just about as well bossing a Fifth Avenue department store as British Cinemactress Carroll is doing in U. S. pictures. Gail knew all the answers and none of them was masculine. But when cocksure Bill Burnett (self-consciously cute Fred MacMurray) blew in from Bali like a tropical monsoon, scripters were hard put to it to keep him from thawing icy Gail too fast, convincing her too soon that woman's place is in the home when not in the maternity ward. Vainly trying to stave off this inevitable ending, they tossed in trim Noel Van Ness (Danish-born Cinemactress Osa Massen), also blown in from Bali and quite tropical too about Burnett. When that fails, the story just starts running around in circles, from Nassau to Bali to Manhattan. Hero MacMurray is like Poet Kenneth Fearing's hero: wow he woos her, zowie he kisses her, wham he MacMurrays her. Fans fagged out with so much traveling take the producers' word for it that the happy couple have enough energy left to make another trip to Bali for the honeymoon.

The picture's best gag is wordless. MacMurray has been Bali-hooeying Madeleine Carroll about his home life with five native maidens. One of them, he brags, sweeps for him, one sews, one cooks, one dances. . . . Carroll: "But that's only four!" MacMurray: arch silence, a coy smile.