Auto magnate John Sinclair is working himself to death. Friendless and without family, he suddenly proposes marriage to a nurse, Joan Martin. He wants to spend his remaining days with someone who cares, offering her "my entire fortune for a few months of your life."
To Joan, who grew up poor, this sounds dandy -- until Sinclair gradually regains his health... and discovers that she's sick of living in a lonely lighthouse with a husband she loathes... and her former fiance comes by, rekindling old feelings...
The fourth in Columbia's Whistler movies based on the popular radio series, Voice of the Whistler shows how loneliness affects the lives of its principal characters. By the end, it has killed two of them physically, and one psychologically. Try pitching an idea like that at one of the major studios today, see where it gets you.
Voice of the Whistler appears to rise above its B-movie status by opening with a newsreel straight out of Citizen Kane. From that point on, however, it's onto the slightly shabby Columbia soundstages, starkly furnished and with as few knickknacks as possible in order to save some dough.
The sense of cheapness even affects the dialogue. When John Sinclair initially decides he needs a vacation, he books passage on a steamer to Duluth. Duluth?! Dude, you're a multi-millionaire! At least try Block Island.
|Sinclair is taken under Sparrow's wing.|
|"Pay no attention to the fiance behind|
|Living in a Maine lighthouse miles from|
anyone else with a rich husband who
didn't die and a dumbass boxer who smells
like seafood -- what's not to love?
No fool he, Sinclair immediately figures out that Fred has come for more than fried clams and a can of New England Ale. In one of the sickest moments of any of the Whistler movies, Sinclair manipulates Fred into murdering him, only to turn the tables at the very last minute. And Ernie doing the same to him. And Joan doing the same to them.
Of course, none of the Whistler movies would be half as good without Richard Dix, the Bogart of the B's, as their perennially doomed "hero." Dix plays Sinclair with a stark reality and empathy that appears shockingly personal.
When we first meet him, Sinclair is a walking corpse, rich in money and celebrity, but devoid of any life. Regaining his health, he appears to be the happiest, heartiest person on earth. By the end, the now-insanely jealous Sinclair transforms into a stone-cold killer. In each phase, Dix is totally convincing.
|Don't mess with Dix.|
Indeed, Richard Dix became an even better, more interesting actor as he drifted into B's and his health deteriorated. He seems to be willing his characters to life as he himself was dying. Watch Voice of the Whistler and picture any contemporary actor his age -- only 52, but looking much older -- doing the same job. It isn't a coincidence that when he could no longer work, Columbia shot only one Whistler movie without him before ending the series. Richard Dix was irreplaceable.
(Click on the Richard Dix label below for more of his movies.)