Wednesday, July 10, 2013

CHICK CARTER, DETECTIVE (Columbia, 1946) and Julie Gibson


What would you have done if you had very little money to produce a 15 chapter serial in 1946? Well, you could have done much worse than "Jungle" Sam Katzman did with Chick Carter, Detective, one of the better examples of what I like to term "serial noir," i.e. a modern dress chapterplay set among the less than honorable denizens of a big city. Instead of gambling on inexpensive neophytes to fill the top roles of hero, heroine and sidekick(s), Sam turned to experienced "has-beens" like Lyle Talbot (in the title role), Douglas Fowley (the nominal hero who does all the derring and the do) and Eddie Acuff (comedy relief), all of whom by this late day and age could be obtained just as cheaply and who could do the job in one take and with absolutely no fuss. So what if everybody was a bit long in the tooth for this kind of action fare - even the girl, Julie Gibson, frankly looked like she'd been around the block a time or two - you relied mostly on stunt people to begin with. Katzman surrounded his august cast with even more august serial regulars such as Charlie "Blackie" King and Jack Ingram, who actually got to use their thespian skills without a single horse in sight. Pamela Blake, who was no newcomer to the serial word either, and steely-eyed George Meeker rounded up the better-than-average cast and a good time is had by all.

Julie Gibson, playing a duplicitous nightclub chantoose [sic], gets to sing a jaunty ditty, "I'm Gonna Roll Me a Snowball," that even includes props. One of these, a fake snowball thrown at the audience, knocks an old gent right off his seat to the visible delight of his wife. Much to the regret of front row kids everywhere, I'm certain, she warbles again in chapter 5, a little something entitled "Once Around the Clock." Julie, who had been around films since 1941, also turned up in a Bowery Boys entry and appeared twice with the Three Stooges: Three Smart Saps (1942) and Sock-a-Bye Baby (1942). Her career lasted well into the 1950s. Divorced from a previous husband, Julie Gibson married again late in life, in 1973 becoming the wife of B movie director Charles Barton, who left her a widow in 1981. As far as can be determined, she is still with us as of this writing, living in Glendale, CA. Julie Gibson Barton is set to turn 100 on September 6, 2013.

fig. 2 Julie Gibson (far left) with fellow Columbia starlets Noel "Lois Lane" Neill, Gloria Saunders and Kay Scott.


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