Cinema: New Pictures

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I Married a Communist (RKO Radio) is a celluloid bullet aimed at the U.S.S.R. —a stock gangster film with Communists dubbed into the underworld roles. Its moral is addressed to the women: don't throw over a solid union man (acted in a pleasantly wooden way by Richard Roper) for a ruggedly handsome executive (Robert Ryan) whose secretive behavior indicates that he was once a Communist agent.

The terrible consequences of this mistake are illustrated by Laraine Day, who flings herself into marriage with a comparative stranger. After only a few months, Laraine discovers that Ryan was once a C.P. strong-arm boy. But it is already too late: she is one of the few characters left alive in the movie. The party has not only tied up the San Francisco waterfront, but killed her husband, run a sports convertible over her brother, and pushed her prospective sister-in-law out of a window.

Robert Ryan's appearance in a film (Crossfire, The Set-Up] has almost come to mean a low-budget picture with a future. He gives this movie some unexpected authenticity because he is capable of crossing black & white traits in a role without showing his hand. The standard rackets-film types include Thomas Gomez as a mobster who operates a sort of Murder, Inc. for Stalin, and Janis Carter as a party moll with a lazily upper-class voice and a glassy manner. The movie's one original character is a popeyed, free-lance killer (William Talman) with a jitterbug personality. Best scene: the free lance collecting his pay with the boyish happiness of a man who has done his first honest day's work at a job he likes.

Ichabod and Mr. Toad (Disney; RKO Radio) is an uneven doubleheader by Walt Disney, who has combined into one film two dissimilar literary classics: Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. The contrast in the handling of the two unrelated stories neatly illustrates some of Disney's outstanding vices & virtues.

In Ichabod Disney gets only one chance to exploit his special talents. The midnight chase through a clutching, echoing forest, with the gangling, lily-livered schoolmaster in full flight before the Headless Horseman, is a skillful blend of the hilarious and the horrible. It is Disney at his facile best. The rest of the story, dealing with quaint, legendary people, is flat and prosaic. Katrina might have popped out of a newspaper comic strip; Brom Bones looks like a Catskill country cousin of Li'l Abner.

Equally disenchanting are the narration and songs by Bing Crosby, who without ever putting in a personal appearance manages to impose his familiar personality on large chunks of the film like the second take of a double exposure.

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