Born in Florida in 1922 on either April 12th or April 14th, depending on which source you use, Audrey Long can be considered both a saint and a sinner – the saint part of course being her long-standing marriage to Leslie Charteris, creator of the eponymous fictional character, until his death in 1993. By the way, I wonder how many of you knew that Leslie was half-Chinese, born in Singapore, and claimed to be able to trace his lineage all the way back to the Shang Dynasty in the second millennium BCE?
Leslie Charteris with Roger Moore, one of the most popular Saints
On the sinning side, Audrey starred as the wayward wife alongside lawyer Tom Conway in A Night of Adventure (1945) in which she takes a lover. But the lover also has another lover, who is murdered - and Audrey’s lover is then charged with her murder. So naturally Audrey asks her c1uckolded husband to defend her lover from the murder charge, as you would……
She then featured in Perilous Holiday (1946), a Pat O’Brien vehicle about a counterfeiting ring in Mexico. This was followed by Lady of Deceit, the amazing Claire Trevor noir in which a manipulative femme fatale risks her chances at wealth and security with a man she doesn't love by getting involved with the brooding force of nature that was Lawrence Tierney.
Audrey then starred alongside Steve Brodie in probably her best role – Anthony Mann’s Desperate (1947) about a married couple on the run from the law. Raymond Burr also stars as the ruthless Radak – a long way from his Perry Mason persona.
In Stagestruck (1948) with Conrad Nagel, she plays a vengeful force on the trail of the racketeer who murdered her sister. Going undercover, she penetrates his underworld of crime and vice in order to pin him down.
An Interrupted Honeymoon (1948) sees Audrey and new husband Warren Douglas on the trail of a gang of killers who have already murdered two of the three women whose testimony sent them away. Will they thwart them in time?
In the surprisingly good Post Office Investigator (1949), Audrey features with Warren yet again but this time she’s on the wrong side of the law. She plays a classic femme fatale in a convoluted tale about a $100,000 postage stamp. The plot really hangs together and Audrey is magnificent in this little gem of a movie.
The lighter Alias The Champ (1949) is about gangsters who try to muscle in on the California wrestling scene. A wrestler who won’t submit is framed for murder but with the help of his fans, he is able to bodyslam his opponents and win the match. Gorgeous George also features along with Tor Johnson, who in real life was apparently a bit of a sweetie.
Audrey now drifted into very-low budget land but some were surprisingly good. Trial Without Jury (1950) was followed by the excellent David Harding, Counterspy (1950) and the perfectly structured Insurance Investigator (1951) in which Richard Denning investigates a double indemnity scam. It proved to be Audrey’s noir swansong – but what a legacy she has left us!
You can listen to the radio series of David Harding, Counterspy here: