Saturday, November 10, 2012


CORSAIR was the movie that Thelma Todd made as "Alison Loyd".

Corsair (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Directed byRoland West
Produced byRoland West
Written byWalton Green (novel Corsair)
StarringSee below
Music byAlfred Newman
CinematographyRay June
Editing byHal C. Kern
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date(s)28 November 1931
Running time75 minutes
CountryUnited States
Corsair is a 1931 American film directed by Roland West. The film is based on the novel Corsair by Walton Green.

 Plot summary

A college football hero, Chester Morris as John Hawks, lets himself be goaded, by a wealthy socialite, Thelma Todd as Alison Corning, into forgetting about a job coaching the college team, to be "a real man, and make real money", in the big city, with her Father, Emmett Corrigan as Stephen Corning, on Wall Street.
He soon has more than he can stomach, making money, by bilking the poor, out of their meagre savings, with junk bonds.
He gets the inside dope from Ned Sparks as Slim; and Mayo Methot, his Gun moll, who taps out the information in Morse Code, with her typewriter. Then, as a modern pirate, with his friend, Frank McHugh as ‘Chub’, he captains the “Corsair”, a gunboat, which preys on bootleggers, and then resells the cargo, to their wealthy backers.
He only forgot two things: that in the cutthroat world of junk bonds and margin calls, they don’t use real knives, machine guns, and bombs, like the gangsters; and, the girl hiding, in the hold.
It’s a hard lesson to learn; but, one that will last them the rest of their lives; however long, or short, that may be.


 External links

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CORSAIR was the movie where Thelma Todd was billed as "Alison Loyd", the change being made because this was a drama, while the name "Thelma Todd" was associated with comedy. There was some publicity about the name change and Hal Roach's not liking it, but not everyone knew that Alison Loyd was Thelma Todd when the movie came out, as has sometimes been said. Some of the posters for this movie don't have either of her names on it even when she's shown. Roland West's name, of course, is always prominent.

CORSAIR was part of the early thirties cycle of gangster movies and failed to attract much attention at the time. It was not a hit and the talk was that Thelma Todd couldn't act. I liked Thelma Todd in it all right, but I don't think it's one of her better movies. Among the dramas, I thought KLONDIKE was better.

After the making of CORSAIR, Thelma Todd would eventually open her sidewalk cafe in partnership with this film's producer, Roland West. History tells us that Roland West could be difficult with under any circumstances and history also tells us that this partnership was not always a happy one.

 The hero of the story, played by Chester Morris, engages in things like piracy in addition to violating prohibition laws by dealing in alcohol. The movie attempts to excuse his misdeeds at the end, but his actions remain questionable nonetheless.

Chester Morris is prominently mentioned on the posters. He was under contract to Roland West and had previously appeared in his movies THE BAT and THE BAT WHISPERS. He would later play Boston Blackie and may be best remembered for that role today. 

Roland West retired after making this movie, during the making of which the interiors were filmed only at night, as was his want, the exteriors being filmed outside as there was no other recourse in those days of slow film. West had been quoted as saying he didn't like working in studios because of interfering studio officials ( which is why he liked working at night ) and that for his next movie he would like to shoot something entirely on location. Although West sounds like an irritable cuss ( and as a matter of fact was one ) the coming of sound had greatly complicated matters and changed the way movies were made. Things just weren't the same anymore. For a while the talkies tended to be static and stagebound, with the recording of sound taking precedence over the pictorial element that hitheroto had been their sole concern in the days of silent film.

Roland West had real-life associations with the sea. He owned a yacht named the "Joyita" which was named after Jewel Carmen ( the name means "Little Jewel" in Spanish ) which was used as one of the ships in the movie. He would go on a long voyage on this ship after the making of the movie and lived on it for some time afterwards.

West later sold the Joyita and it passed through a succession of  owners, not all whom were happy with their experiences with what would later come to be known as a jinx ship.

                               Here is a poster where Thelma Todd is billed as "Alison Loyd".

Here we see Frank McHugh with Chester Morris and Thelma Todd, whose name is nowhere to be seen regardless of which one they might choose to use.

That's Mayo Methot in the rear on this poster.

The gimmick of tapping out morse code in a typewriter is impractical as morse code requires two different symbols or signals to use ( such as dots and dashes ), and the clattering sounds made by the keys of a typewriter sound too much alike for anyone to be able to distinguish them from each other.

CORSAIR seems to have been Mayo Methot's first movie. She had real-life associations with the sea. She was the daughter of a sea captain who sailed to China regularly and she seems to have inherited a love of the sea from him. She would later marry Humphrey Bogart, and while they were married they spent much time on their cabin cruiser.

She was also in the 1933 movie COUNSELLOR AT LAW with Thelma Todd.

Author Walton Green was the former head of federal Prohibition enforcement. He knew all about things like the rumrunners who used to smuggle in booze from other countries.

CORSAIR came out as a novel in 1931 with photos from the movie.

This book came out somewhat later.

William K. Everson's THE DETECTIVE IN FILM

In his book THE DETECTIVE IN FILM, William K. Everson discusses CORSAIR and remarks that the end allows the lawless plotters to escape unpunished with their ill-gotten gains. But Mayo Methot's character does not escape - the story has it that she is killed as a result of having become involved in the plot.  Something that is completely ignored by Everson, who could have seen some sort of parallel between this and the death of Thelma Todd ( the two were similar in appearance in CORSAIR ), but missed it in his attempts to relate the happenings in this movie to West's personal views and his possible involvement in the death of Thelma Todd. Thelma Todd is not mentioned at all, apart from the reference to suspicion that West was responsible for her death. As Everson never said anything about Thelma Todd having been in CORSAIR, the implication is that he may not have even known that "Alison Loyd"actually was Thelma Todd. 

                                 William K. Everson with another famous blonde, Marilyn Monroe.


Thelma Todd would continue to be Thelma Todd for the rest of her career. As Thelma Todd, she was far more successful than she ever was as Alison Loyd.

Watch CORSAIR online:

Walton Green:

Chester Morris Site:


CORSAIR Promotion:

William K. Everson:

Mayo Methot:

Mayo Methot ( The Skeins ):

Morse Code:


Roland West:

Roland West:

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