NOTES: Third of the "Hildegarde Withers" series of six films, all produced by RKO and all based on works by the character's creator, Stuart Palmer. The first three films starred Edna May Oliver. On completing this assignment (for which she received rave notices), Miss Oliver accepted a tempting offer to sign with MGM. RKO, unwilling to pay MGM's price for Miss Oliver's continued service, teamed James Gleason with Helen Broderick in film number four, and with ZaSu Pitts in films five and six. To quiet public outrage at these substitutions, RKO put it out that Miss Oliver was "too ill" to continue with the role. This lie fooled no-one except, it seems, present-day critics who still repeat this canard from time to time in various books and reviews.
COMMENT: By common consensus, this one has always been regarded as the best of the series. Directed by Lloyd Corrigan, the actor/writer, who whipped out around a dozen films in the 1930s before resuming his acting career, Murder on a Honeymoon boasts some very fine performances, both comic and dramatic, which help to bolster an already intriguing script. Seton I. Miller supplied the drama, Robert Benchley the comedy and both blend perfectly together. Atmospheric photography also helps.
However, not everyone will agree that Edna May Oliver outshines the rest of the cast. Some might even go so far as to suggest that her highly mannered portrayal seems both old-fashioned and out of place. Certainly the rest of the players are far more realistic in their approach, be it with comedy (Spencer Charters, Willie Best, Arthur Hoyt) or suspense (Lola Lane, Leo G. Carroll, DeWitt Jennings). However, as far as I'm concerned, the player who walks away with the acting honors is the little-known Dorothy Libaire, with equally unknown Harry Ellerbe not far behind. I also enjoyed seeing Robert Homans without his customary patrolman's cap, and sitting behind a desk for once!
As with the first two entries, production values are high. Plane connoisseurs and nostalgia buffs will both revel in the flight to Catalina Island.