Van Johnson Stands Out in Murder In The Big House (1942)
Certainly a title they'd notice coming in, even if it placed second on most bills --- second, that is, until support player Van Johnson hit very big and inspired Warners to reissue and re-title this asBorn To Trouble, with all new credits Billing Johnson first and above selfsame title. There must have been foreheads slapped over how they let him get away, though honestly, WB had not the resource and certainly not the patience to bring Van along as MGM would. Look at how they bungled Craig Stevens, George Reeves, DeWolf (William) Hopper --- this was not a proper lab for male ingénues. Van was congenial enough, but needed further training, which he'd get via TLC from Culver City. Murder/Bornis a B, directed brisk by B. Reeves Eason, "Breezy" a nickname his work lived up to. The set-up's a puzzler. A gangster set tofry is instead struck by lightning through his prison bars --- or was he? Van suspects foul play, and there's the mystery. Lucky for Warners that VJ becomes focal point after a tepid first reel w/o him; crowds lured by changed billing would call foul had his part been so minor as initial scenes suggest. There's newshound backdrop, thus much irreverence about guys getting the chair, burnt to a crisp, etc. Were scribes in life really so insensitive? A lot of fun for the 59 minutes it lasts, and TCM's print carries Born For Trouble moniker. I wonder if it even exists anymore as Murder In The Big House.