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No Orchids for Miss Blandish

No Orchids for Miss Blandish

Director: Legh St. John Clowes, Jack LaRue, Linden Travers, Walter Crisham

Cast: Legh St. John Clowes, Jack LaRue, Linden Travers, Walter Crisham

James Hadley Chase's 1939 bestseller reached the screen for the first time -- which a lot of critics of the book would have said was one time too many -- in 1948, in somewhat bowdlerized form, under the aegis of Renown Pictures and screenwriter St. John Legh Clowes, making his sole bow as director. Filmed in England but set in New York, No Orchids For Miss Blandish


James Hadley Chase's 1939 bestseller reached the screen for the first time -- which a lot of critics of the book would have said was one time too many -- in 1948, in somewhat bowdlerized form, under the aegis of Renown Pictures and screenwriter St. John Legh Clowes, making his sole bow as director. Filmed in England but set in New York, No Orchids For Miss Blandish tells of a sheltered heiress (Linden Travers) who is abducted on her wedding night by a trio of cheap hoods, in what starts out as a jewel robbery and turns into a kidnapping/murder when one of them (Richard Nielson) kills the bridegroom. More mayhem ensues as the three kidnappers soon end up dead, and Miss Blandish falls into the hands of the Grisson mob, led by Slim Grisson (Jack LaRue), who are pros at what they do, throwing their weight around the underworld at will and not too afraid of the police, either. Slim Grisson isn't really better than any of those around him, but he's smart enough to restrain his worst impulses, which makes him start to look very good to Miss Blandish, who finds herself strangely attracted to him, as the first real man she's ever seen, and also a way out of the sheltered existence she's known all of her life. He's as amazed as anyone around him -- including his own mother (Lili Molnar), who runs the gang in tandem with him -- that he doesn't want to ransom Miss Blandish, or plan on killing her because she knows too much; or that she'll testify on his behalf, if necessary, that the one killing she did see by him was, in fact, a matter of self-defense. They plan to run off together, but neither Grisson's mother nor the rest of the gang can see parting with a potential million dollar ransom, or leaving a witness alive -- even if it means killing Slim Grisson to get to her. And when a nosy reporter named Fenner (Hugh McDermott) starts putting the police on the trail of the gang, Slim himself isn't above committing a few more murders to bury any witnesses. The movie was so violent and amoral, that it appalled critics and social observers on both sides of the Atlantic, whose agonizing over its content actually helped turn the picture into a bigger hit than it might otherwise have been. This was especially true in America, where the movie enjoyed a five week run in one of New York's bigger movie palaces to sell-out business, though it was edited considerably and re-cut twice for US release (the second time, a couple of years later, as Black Dice). Robert Aldrich filmed the same story as The Grissom Gang (1971), with Kim Darby, Scott Wilson, and Irene Dailey.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
No Orchids For Miss Blandish was sort of the Peeping Tom of its day. Just as the latter movie proved so controversial in England as to damage the career of its director, Michael Powell, beyond repair at home, and even of its star, Karl Boehm, so No Orchids For Miss Blandish marked the beginning and end of the directorial career of its director, screenwriter St. John Legh Clowes; and it seems to have damaged the career of its star, Linden Travers, a lady of considerable beauty (even if she was at least 10 years too old for this role) and long stage experience. And it had all but disappeared from distribution on either side of the Atlantic within a few years of its release, at least in its unedited form. When it opened in England in 1948, No Orchids For Miss Blandish appalled the film critics and more -- the movie was denounced by members of Parliament, and the head of the British board of film censors was forced to issue an apology for having failed to "protect" the public from this picture, by allowing it to be released. So what was the big deal? Mostly, it lay in the amoral nature of the original novel by James Hadley Chase, which was, itself, pretty controverial when it was published in 1939, and which, although toned down somewhat from the book, was still fairly risque in England in 1948. Ironically, the book No Orchids For Miss Blandish had, in turn, been heavily inspired by William Faulkner's Sanctuary -- which, in turn, had been filmed in the early 1930's as The Story of Temple Drake, starring Miriam Hopkins as the thrill-seeking title-character and none other than Jack LaRue, seen here as Slim Grisson, in the role of her kidnapper
apist. The movie's notoriety turned it into something of a sensation in London, and offered the kind of advance publicity that distributors only dream of for America, especially when Life magazine did a photo spread about it. Despite the promises of the US Customs Bureau to block the film's importation in New York, American distributor Richard Gordon managed to get it through customs in New Orleans -- but when a threatened ban by the Catholic Legion of Decency caused original distributor United Artists (who were planning on renaming the movie "The Snatch"!) to pull out, Gordon had to distribute it himself. With a lot of cutting and re-editing, he was able to get it past the New York Board of Film Censors and open it at a movie palace in Manhattan where, thanks to the publicity, it did sell-out business for five weeks, and eventually went around the country. And it was later licensed to Realart, re-edited yet again, and re-released as Black Dice. (The original, uncut British version of No Orchids For Miss Blandish finally had its first public showing in America on September 3, 2009, sixty-one years after its original release, at New York's Film Forum, to a sell-out audience). The movie holds up amazingly well across six decades, despite some awkwardness over the accents in trying to create an American verisimilitude in England. Most of the actors do alright, but Jack Lester's police captain slips a little too much. Otherwise, the picture is an interesting and engrossing -- if not always believable -- British attempt at emulating American gangster movies and film noir. There are enough dots unconnected, in terms of the characters' motivations, to make a lot of it seem preposterous, but enough intensity in the action and the performances so that the viewer can ride over those spots by sheer forward momentum. (There's also a very funny moment of comic relief in a nightclub, where we get a glimpse of comedian/actor Jack Durant doing his joint impersonation of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre). It's not remotely a neglected masterpiece by its maker, as Peeping Tom was for Michael Powell, but it is a lot of fun, amid its unpleasant action and story, and all the more fascinating to see, six decades on.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Vci Video
Region Code:
[B&W, Full Frame]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Video interview with Richard Gordon and Richard Nielson by Joel Blumberg; Audio interview with Richard Gordon by Tom Weaver; Photo Gallery; Original British & American Theatrical Trailers

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jack LaRue Slim Grisson
Linden Travers Miss Blandish
Walter Crisham Eddie
Leslie E. Bradley Bailey
Charles Goldner Louis
Macdonald Parke Doc
Percy Marmont Mr. Blandish
Lily Molnar Ma Grisson
Danny Green Flyn
Jack Lester Brennan
Bart Norman Flagerty
Bill O'Connor Johnny
Irene Prador Olga
John McLaren Foster Harvey
Jack Durant Actor
Michael Balfour Barney
Sidney James Ted/Barman
Hugh McDermott Fenner
Gibb McLaughlin Butler
Richard Nielson Riley
Annette Simmonds Cutie
Zoe Gail Actor

Technical Credits
Legh St. John Clowes Director,Screenwriter
Manuel del Campo Editor
Len Garde Makeup
Lester Garde Makeup
Gerald Gibbs Cinematographer
George Melachrino Score Composer
Oswald Mitchell Producer
Harry Moore Art Director
A.R. Shipman Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- No Orchids for Miss Blandish
1. The Informant [9:25]
2. Small-Time Crooks [8:08]
3. Murder & Kidnapping [9:13]
4. Barney's [8:53]
5. Inquiry [6:35]
6. Grissons [8:02]
7. Love Affair [11:45]
8. The Letter [7:01]
9. Suspicions [10:50]
10. Loose Ends [8:51]
11. Betrayal [6:13]
12. Fatal Goodbyes [8:10]


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