Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

STREAMING SATURDAYS! Claire Trevor and Fred MacMurray Drive Each Other BORDERLINE Insane

Welcome to another edition of Streaming Saturdays, where we embed free, fun movies for you! Today’s offering is part of the 110 Years of Claire Trevor Blogathon. Daylight Saving Time may render March 8 the shortest day of the year, but it still leaves you plenty of time to raise a glass to Claire on her birthday.

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From 1950, we present William Seiter’s Borderline, starring 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, along with Seiter and MacMurray; they all deferred their salaries to make the film. A year later, the stars reteamed for a one-hour Lux Radio Theater reprise.

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 semi-regular feature on Sister Celluloid. You can catch up on movies you may have missed here! And why not bookmark that page to make sure you never miss another?

5 Comments

  1. Many thanks for this awesome review Janet! I had never heard of this film before and I must admit I’m not the biggest Fred MacMurray’s fan, but you definitely picked my curiosity. It sounds like a fun film and if Fred and Claire have a good chemistry, then it’s probably totally worth watching. Thanks so much for your participation to our blogathon!

  2. 1. Thanks for the decent copy of Borderline.

    2. Your review of the tie cracked me up!

    3. Could not agree more that the one thing we all needed was more Claire Trevor in our lives, but it was denied us. The world is cruel.

    • Thank you, Paddy! I really had to hunt for a good copy. Glad you liked it and of course not surprised you share my Claire love!! ❤

  3. The film isn’t the greatest, but you’re right, Trevor is terrific – she’s an actress who never got quite the right breaks in her career. And her chemistry with MacMurray in this film is fun to watch.

  4. The Flapper Dame

    IF anyone can pull of a noir comedy mix Its Fred Macmurray- the two things he was best known for- as much as he could be good, he was soo good at being bad.
    And I would love to see Claire in a comedy- she seems like she would be marvelous in it!

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