Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

STREAMING SATURDAY! Fred MacMurray and Claire Trevor Drive Each Other BORDERLINE Crazy

Welcome to another edition of Streaming Saturdays, where we embed a free, fun movie for you to watch right here every weekend!

This week, from 1950: William Seiter’s Borderline, starring Claire Trevor and Fred MacMurray as an undercover cop and her criminal prey, cavorting all over Mexico and falling in love along the way. It’s kind of a romance/screwball comedy/gangster flick/road movie, with a just dash of noir. (I know—that old chestnut!)

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We open in the den of underworld kingpin Pete Ritchie (Raymond Burr, in a summer suit—who knew there was that much white linen?—and matching fedora), who’s scheming to dig his greedy mitts even deeper into the drug trade. Cut to the police, who’ve been at a loss to stop him and are desperate for a break. But they’ve got a plan: send a sexy female operative out to ensnare him.

After they bat a few names around the precinct, one cop points to Madeleine Haley (Trevor), a former OSS officer now with the LAPD.

“How about her?” he asks the captain.

“Ritchie goes for tawdry, cheap-looking dames,” the boss replies.

“Well she could pass!” he blurts enthusiastically.

So nice when your colleagues have faith in you!

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And off she goes… but no sooner does she wiggle and waggle her way into Ritchie’s good graces than she’s kidnapped by Johnny (MacMurray), a hood who’s stolen a cache of drugs for a rival gang. Believing she’s Ritchie’s moll, he strongarms her off to Mexico, where he plans to sell his stash… or does he?

It’s always fun watching MacMurray, a deeply underappreciated hottie—even when he’s saddled with the world’s ugliest tie. (As well as the widest: It’s as if some public-spirited designer felt compelled to keep all that hideous fabric from escaping to other ties.) Here, he and Trevor have a light, lovely chemistry, merrily tossing quips back and forth and thrilled to find someone who can keep the rally going. They feel like actual grown-ups: You get the feeling this isn’t the first time at the rodeo for either of them, but you’re hoping it’s the last.

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The fabulous Trevor, who grew up one neighborhood over from me in Brooklyn, should’ve gotten to do more comedy. But then she should’ve gotten to do more everything. She made only 12 films in the 1950s, working mostly in television—she was as smart, edgy and gorgeous as ever, but she made the mistake of turning 40. What was she thinking? Taking matters into her own hands, Trevor co-produced Borderline with her husband, Milton Bren, Seiter and MacMurray; they all deferred their salaries to make the film.

This little movie has been kicking around in the public domain for decades, and some prints are borderline awful. But I managed to hunt down a good one. I hope you like it!

STREAMING SATURDAYS is a regular feature on Sister Celluloid, bringing you a free fun film every week! You can catch up on movies you may have missed by clicking here! And why not bookmark the page to make sure you never miss another?

2 Comments

  1. I had forgotten that I saw this a long time ago. I had also forgotten how entertaining it was! Thanks! 🙂

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  1. Claire Trevor’s 3-Pronged Attack in the War on Drugs | Silver Screenings

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