It's interesting to compare this to the 1935 Warner Brothers film
Rhoda Reynolds has just married Carl Reynolds who is the son of a wealthy man, Philip Reynolds (John Hoyt), who despises her, probably because this marriage was the first time Carl stepped out from the shadow of dad and thought for himself.
Rhoda has been paying blackmail money to her first husband whom she never divorced because she had been told he was dead. It's clear this guy is not going away until he bleeds her dry. One night in the middle of the night Rhoda goes to let her first husband know she can't get the money he wants now. He threatens to take a family heirloom off of her finger in payment. The scene switches to a neighboring apartment where the scuffle wakes the resident who calls the police. When the police arrive, they find Rhoda's first husband, Arthur Kaine, has been murdered. They quickly trace things back to Rhoda and she is arrested for the murder. Perry is on the case.
Considerable time is spent on some games that Perry Mason plays with a doorbell to the victim's apartment. Specifically, he muddies the water as to whether it was a buzzer or a bell, and if it was a bell, was what was heard in fact an alarm clock? None of this clears Rhoda of guilt, but it does cast doubt on how reliable a crucial prosecution witness is, which infuriates D. A. Hamilton Berger.
I'm not sure why Berger tried Rhoda for first degree murder rather than second, degree because any sentencing portion of the trial would definitely show the victim up as an unconscionable liar and blackmailer who was constantly menacing Rhoda, probably winning her the sympathy of the jury.
This same Perry Mason mystery was made into a movie in 1935 by Warner Brothers and directed by Michael Curtiz. It is interesting to compare Warren Williams' light-hearted interpretation of the role of Perry Mason versus Raymond Burr's more dramatic presentation. That film had Erroll Flynn in his second American film in a bit part as a corpse.
Even when lounging at sea, Perry Mason an attorney must be
Carl Houser, a bookkeeper at a bank, tells his boss he is quitting. He's not unhappy with his job, he says, he just wants to spend more time with his family and take them on a vacation. Houser then goes and loads up his money belt with cash before leaving.
Next we see Perry and Della on a cruise ship that is sailing from Vancouver to Los Angeles. The two have been working on some contract in Vancouver and decided to take a leisurely voyage back. I don't understand why a Canadian client would want an American lawyer, or why that would be the least bit legal, but at least Della is getting a sea voyage out of it.
On board Perry and Della meet the Houser family, on the previously mentioned vacation. Mrs. Houser wants to meet with Perry discreetly. When alone she says that she thinks that her husband has embezzled the money they are vacationing on and that she counted the money he has in his belt and it amounts to over ninety thousand dollars. She is hoping if she agrees to give the money back that the bank won't prosecute her husband.
But Carl Houser is lost at sea during a storm before anything can be done or discovered about the mystery money. And even though Mrs. Houser claims not to have been with him on deck it is proven that she was, and besides that Perry saw her go outside with Carl. Mrs. Houser is charged with killing her husband, even though there is no body at this point. When Paul Drake investigates, he discovers that there is no money missing at the bank where Carl worked. His books balance perfectly. So where did that money come from? Watch and find out.
One of the plot devices is pretty obvious even for novice viewers, but the mystery of where the money came from is pretty well done. However, I was never satisfied that Mrs. Houser had any motive to kill her husband.
The best episode of the series that I have seen so far
This episode has everything - suspense, obvious lying and not so obvious lying, head scratching moments when you wonder exactly what law school that Hamilton Burger attended, and red, green, and blue herrings.
Lawrence Balfour (Bruce Bennett) is getting on a train headed for Mexico and kissing his wife. Harriet, goodbye. But it is just a ruse. Lawrence gets off of the train and follows his wife in a car he has stashed nearby. He follows her to a remote cabin, she greets her lover, and Lawrence waits for her to leave. Lawrence, armed with a revolver, goes into the cabin to confront the other man, that other man shines a bright light in his eyes, there is a struggle, the gun goes off, and the other man falls to the floor dead. Lawrence frantically calls - not the police - but the Balfour family fixer as to what to do. The fixer, Steven Boles, tells Lawrence to catch the same train that he got off of at the next stop, try to get on unobserved, and act as though he never got off of that train. Boles says that he will take care of the body. Did I mention that the Balfour family is very wealthy, thus they can afford an able and loyal fixer.
Things don't go as planned. The body is discovered too soon, somebody sees the license plate of Steven's car as it speeds away from the dead body - the license plate belongs to Lawrence's nephew Ted. Ted was out drinking that night at the goodbye party for Lawrence, and can't account for his time during the accident. Ted is charged with vehicular manslaughter.
There is a hung jury before Perry gets involved in this case of the wrong man charged with the wrong crime. How does Perry figure out what actually happened? He doesn't have to figure out what I just told you. The fixer actually TELLS Perry everything just to let him know who has all of the power in this situation. It is the only time I can remember that somebody told Perry Mason to sit down and then he does so.
If you know what to look for in an episode of Perry Mason, some "tells" will hit you, as in - This is a common situation on Perry Mason, why did they do this scene in this particular way? Also note that, in the age of DNA and hard rules about forensics, the kinds of mistakes being made here by the prosecution would simply not be made today, or even in 1958.
Robert Crane (Denver Pyle) warns his brother in law David Reed that if he continues to try to sue to have his son taken from his mother, Crane's sister Helen Reed, that he will kill him.
It turns out that Helen Reed is a very mousy proper woman, but she has a boisterous bon vivant alternate personality, Joyce Martel. Joyce likes to hang out in bars and is having an affair with a super jealous nightclub owner. Helen is not aware of Joyce's existence, but Joyce is aware of Helen's. Joyce even has her own apartment under her name for her night life existence. Then Helen's husband is found murdered in Joyce's apartment with her brother's gun. The brother is arrested for the murder, and Perry takes the case.
By talking to Helen's psychiatrist Perry learns the facts of Helen's illness and about the existence of Joyce Martel. The good doctor tells him that Helen could not have committed the murder, but that Joyce easily could have done it. The only way Perry can get to the bottom of things is have Joyce testify, and that involves putting Helen in a trance. You can just imagine the objections coming from Hamilton Burger.
The idea of multiple personalities had been explored in "The Three Faces of Eve" the year before, but it was not commonly discussed on TV yet. And even then the show mislabels Helen Reed's illness. The psychiatrist says that she has schizophrenia when that is NOT the same as multiple personality disorder.
... and probably the best part of it is that Angie Dickinson is the guest star/defendant in this episode.
Marian Fargo (Angie Dickinson) is being blackmailed for a large amount of money - ten thousand dollars so far, and the blackmailer says he will turn over what he is blackmailing her with if she gives him a lump sum of another ten thousand. Here's the problem - The person she is covering for is her brother who was sent to jail as a teen for stealing food during the Great Depression. He had it with a bullying guard one day and hit him in the head and then escaped. He has made a pretty good life for himself as an adult, but could be sent back to jail if discovered. Paging Jean Valjean.
The thing is - If Marian's family was so broke in the 1930s where did all of this money come from? It is her money, because when she tells her husband about the blackmailing scheme he says - "After all Marian it is your money...". Just to clarify, twenty thousand dollars in 1958 is like over two hundred thousand dollars in 2022. And it's not like women in the 1950s had great avenues to make money. They were pretty much limited professionally to teaching, secretarial work, and nursing.
Also, one of the actual murder victims is faking his own death so he can keep the blackmail money and disappear. Except he doesn't disappear. He comes up with a not so cunning plan to get Marian convicted. Why would he care who is blamed? Why not just leave with the money?
All of this and Marian's brother saying on top of everything he caught TB in prison followed by lighting up a cigarette is just too much. For a series that prides itself on details, this was a surprising disappointment somewhat redeemed by the regular cast.
The defendant may be demure, but apparently she still has allure...
Nadine, a young woman, is the perpetual unpaid servant of her rich and unkind uncle. She tells him she is soon to be married and he will need somebody else to tend to his needs. He responds by showing her a copy of something and saying that if she walks out on him he will send that to her fiance. Nadine seems very distraught by this turn of events.
Later, when she visits her fiance's chemistry lab - he's a chemist himself - she steals some cyanide. Her uncle drops dead of cyanide poisoning shortly after she serves him some soup. She has a mental breakdown upon his sudden death, is hospitalized, and confesses to her uncle's murder, although she is in a distressed state. Perry is on the case.
Nadine is made up to be a rather plain young woman. She has a very short haircut that does not complement her and she wears clothes that don't complement her. She seems to have a problem with confidence and with helplessness. But in spite of these issues, her fiance does love her and apparently so does one of the other suspects, to the point that his wife is jealous of her.
This episode was a rather average one for Perry Mason, but even average Perry Mason is good viewing because of the cast. There is one humorous thread I see going on here. In this episode, as in "The Case of the Drowning Duck", Perry has to take a trip to the desert community of Logan City. In both episodes, each time the cast of Perry Mason is visiting there, they frequently wipe their brow with a handkerchief, I guess to underscore that it is hot there, just in case you forget that this is the desert. A rather pedestrian touch made cute by the fact that Perry Mason is usually such a subtle show.
... the line uttered by Wile E. Coyote right before he is run over by a train courtesy of the Roadrunner is who Hamilton Burger reminds me of in this week's episode. We all know Burger always loses, but this time he is a pawn in the skilled hands of Perry Mason.
A rather androgenous mink clad gossip columnist steals a book of past clients from a doctor who specializes in matching the children of unwed mothers to adoptive parents who would not be able to pass the strenuous standards of adoption agencies. He doesn't do this for money, but for the good of the kids and the adoptive parents who are frequently disqualified by nothing more than being five years too old to adopt. How he makes his money is not divulged, but I am curious since he is able to afford a comfortable home and runs a hospital, yet I digress.
The columnist demands that the doctor let her adopt a child since she has told her estranged husband and her column that she is pregnant when she is not. If her husband believes this then they could not be THAT estranged, but I digress again. If the doctor doesn't meet her demands she plans to publish the list of names in the book in her next column.
The doctor's nurse goes to Perry Mason seeking help in this situation as she has been working for the doctor for decades AND she believes in his work. She runs out of the office hysterical before Perry can really talk to her. Later the columnist is found dead. The nurse walks into Burger's office and confesses. And yet without a retainer, without clear word from the nurse that she even considers Perry her attorney, Perry begins work on the case. What a guy.
Like I said before, what makes this case different is that Burger plays right into the hands of a ruse orchestrated by Perry Mason meant to reveal the actual killer. Burger is so upset that he sends back evidence that he got from Mason shattered into a million pieces. Why is he so angry? Would he have preferred to convict an innocent woman? Burger is truly a fascinating fellow.
The episode opens with a muscular young man with thick glasses going to a mailbox inside the office of a lonely hearts' magazine and gathering all of the letters in that mailbox. When the editor of the magazine tries to discreetly follow the man, he not so discreetly punches the editor in the nose.
The editor goes to Paul Drake and says that he is in trouble with the feds because the person who is writing to the magazine and whose box it was that the young man cleaned out appears to be a fraud - Someone claiming to be an heiress looking for a man who is the outdoors type. The editor wants to find out who the person claiming to be the heiress is, so he can get the feds off of his back for the fraud. Later, after Paul Drake solves the mystery, he realizes the editor may be making him a fall guy for the fraud, and goes to Perry for help. Of course this case comes to murder.
It's interesting because the woman writing the magazine is not a fraud and has her own agenda apart from romance. The man who ultimately attracts her attention among those who answer her ad has his own agenda apart from romance too. And strangely enough the mechanics of diabetes enters the fray in the final act. Also, kudos to Robert H. Harris as the magazine editor for playing to perfection a slimy little weasel. When he is testifying, he is sweating so badly that I'm surprised Perry isn't wearing a raincoat.
The opening scene has an outlaw shooting a person for no real reason in a remote area. He leaves him to die. But he is still alive when Elmo Sippy comes by, but Elmo can't be bothered to help the man, and he dies. This is to establish that Elmo really has no conscience, but he hasn't had the opportunity to become a criminal. That is about to change.
In Dodge City, Elmo gambles and loses to the outlaw who shot the man he came across. The outlaw says he will kill Elmo if he doesn't come up with the money that he owes him. Elmo finds it easy to steal money from the general store's cash register when the owner is not looking. It's easy because the guy has no moral core.
This causes Elmo to go on a crime spree, robbing and shooting people in isolated situations, leaving no witnesses. Meanwhile, Matt has lots of anecdotal evidence that Elmo is responsible for the crime spree, but no evidence. He seems to find the entire thing hard to believe since Elmo has such a mild outward demeanor. But "nice" does not mean "kind".
Later, Elmo comes back to Dodge City to gamble once again with the outlaw whose demands caused him to go down a dark path in the first place. The end is ironic to say the least.
Matt suspects Elmo, trails Elmo, but ultimately has no proof because there was no such thing as forensics at that time. Today, if you zero in on the correct suspect, forensics can usually provide the proof.
I feel like I was denied certain need to know information...
... and I'll get back to that.
The episode opens with a man entering a woman's bedroom with a butcher's knife in his hand. The woman awakens, sees the man, and begins screaming. Someone else enters the bedroom and awakens the man. He's been sleepwalking, and it looks like he planned to stab his wife to death.
We get caught up on everything we just saw with the next scene. Apparently the sleepwalking man was Peter Cole and the woman was his wife Doris. The scene is a conversation between Peter's partner Frank Maddox and Peter's soon to be ex wife, Doris. After the sleepwalking incident occurred Doris moved out of the house and filed for divorce. Her divorce will be final the following day. Frank Maddox has come up with a scheme to extort money from Peter in exchange for Doris not holding up the divorce even longer. We also see that Doris has not exactly been a loving and faithful wife to Peter given the passionate kisses that she and Frank Maddox share.
When Peter gets this ultimatum from Frank, he and his stepbrother, his other partner, employ Perry Mason. Perry comes up with a scheme that will turn the tables on Maddox and enable Frank to be free without paying extortion money. The parties all meet at Pete's house and decide to stay the night so things can be settled in the morning. That night Maddox and Cole's stepbrother change bedrooms at the last moment. The next morning Cole's stepbrother is found stabbed to death in his bed, and the murder weapon - a long and sharp kitchen knife from the cupboard - is found under Peter's pillow. Peter is missing, the obvious implication being that Peter stabbed his brother in his sleep, thinking that it was Maddox since those were the sleeping arrangements of which he was aware at the time he retired. What goes on here? Watch and find out.
Although it was a fascinating entry, I felt a couple of things were out of place. First, right before the divorce is final, we see Pete, his niece, and some woman named Lucille May celebrating his imminent divorce. We never see much of this woman. We don't know where this woman came from other than that she and Peter have waited fifteen years to be married, which is a phrase, unexplained, that is stated repeatedly. Why? Why didn't he marry her fifteen years ago rather than faithless greedy Doris? Questions never answered.
The other thing that was odd was that Perry gave a very important surveillance job that would normally go to Paul Drake to some twenty year old engaged to Pete Cole's niece who due to his inexperience could really mess up this vital task.
Finally let me just state that I would never employ Perry Mason for an attorney in some routine civil matter. Divorces, cheating spouses, business partner and trust disputes all evolve into murder cases at a time when being convicted of murder meant the gas chamber. Yikes!
Ed Davenport comes home fuming at his wife, claiming that a lab report says that she poisoned some of his sandwiches a couple of weeks back, and he therefore knows she poisoned her uncle so that she could inherit.
Davenport is on his way out of town on a business trip and checks into a motor court for the night. He begins to feel ill and calls a doctor who then calls his wife. Shortly after his wife arrive, Ed dies, accusing, with his dying breath, his wife of poisoning the chocolates she packed for him. The doctor locks the room and says the law dictates that he must summon the police. When the room is unlocked after the police arrive, there is no Ed. Sometime later, Ed's body is found buried in a shallow grave nearby. The odd forensic evidence here - Ed did die of arsenic poisoning, but his stomach contents were bacon and eggs with no chocolates. The doctor had pumped Davenport's stomach on arrival so the lack of chocolate makes sense, but where did the bacon and eggs come from?
Perry had been retained by Ed's wife Myrna to deal with issues concerning her estate, but that effort now transitions into defending her for murder. A couple of odd things here besides the corpse with a taste for breakfast - Myrna's constant companion is her cousin Louise. These two are always together. Why? Maybe Myrna needs somebody to talk to since Ed Davenport is a nasty unattractive man in just about every way possible. Also, when Paul is doing some sleuthing he notices somebody following him who immediately runs away when noticed.
Of course the police and the DA have come to all of the wrong conclusions, but the nice thing about Perry Mason is, not only does he get his client off, he generally provides the prosecution with the actual murderer. Hamilton Burger should be grateful, but surprisingly he is not.
... for all of the time Perry Mason expects her to either be in a rickety boat with him or sitting on a fishing boat in the middle of the night to prove some forensic theory. But I digress.
The episode opens with two women waiting for their appointment at a beauty salon. The receptionist calls for Mrs. Bradford. Both women answer. She then pares it down to Mrs. Joseph Bradford. Again they both answer. The two women talk and realize they both live at the same address in the same house, and both have keys to that house. But they have never met. Paging Rod Serling.
Martha Bradford calls her husband at work for him to explain this, but he blows her off and goes aboard his boat in the harbor. Martha then goes to Perry Mason concerning her husband's possible bigamy. But Joe is found murdered on that boat, with Martha's fingerprints on the candle that is aboard. Martha is charged with murder and Perry Mason's representation of her morphs from bigamy to homicide.
Throughout the episode there are some rather fantastic developments that are hard to believe, not the least of which is that practically the entire cast was on Joe Bradford's boat the night of his murder, yet none of these people ever ran into one another.
The case of the very wanted yet worthless womanizer...
... because that is the real mystery here. The first scene even shows this guy's obvious pedestrian style that - for the only time in the episode - actually and understandably repulses a young woman sitting in an apartment house lobby.
Anita Bonsal and Fay Allison are roommates in an apartment building with pretty good security. You can only get into the building with a key or by being buzzed in by a resident. Pretty modern security for 1957. In a matter of days Fay is going to marry a wealthy young man that Anita once dated. Anita says she isn't bothered by this, but she obviously is. She says she is going out, but instead she goes up a floor to see the previously mentioned worthless womanizer, Carver Clement. Married not single, not smooth, and definitely not handsome, I can't see what Anita sees in this guy. She gets angry that he won't go out with her and returns home.
Later that night Perry Mason gets a call from a friend of his, Louise Marlow (Frances Bavier). She is Fay's aunt, has come into town for the wedding a day early, and has found the two girls in their beds and unconscious. Perry and Della investigate. It turns out that the two girls are unconscious from an overdose of barbiturates, but that medical intervention arrived in time. That's one mystery. The other mystery is that Carver Clement is found murdered in his apartment with a red lipstick kiss on his forehead, some of Fay's clothes in his closet, and a key to his apartment in Fay's purse. What goes on here? Watch and find out.
Like I said initially, the real mystery here are the multitude of women who are just mad about Carver Clement. Since there are a couple of mysteries here, maybe related and maybe not, I thought this episode was a very good one. And you have Perry doing some things that are out there even for him, such as walking up to women, taking out a handkerchief, and grabbing an imprint of their lips to compare to that one found on Clement's head. Why doesn't Hamilton Burger ever think of these things?
... than "Negligent Nymph". Perry Mason episode titles usually fall into two categories - titles named after some object that is central to the case, and titles that indicate that a beautiful woman is at the center of the story to pack in viewers/readers (in the case of the original stories). But I digress.
A beachcomber finds a bottle washed ashore with a message in it. The message says it is written by an heiress who drowned at sea while aboard her yacht, and who indicates that she was actually murdered by her nephew for her money.
The nephew, George Alder is a piece of work, regardless of whether or not he is a murderer. He does pay off the beach comber since he only wants a hundred dollars. And he has no problem slapping his perpetually drunk wife around in front of said beach comber AND his secretary. His secretary quits because of Alder's bad behavior. Later that night she sneaks back into the office to try and find that note, because she has always suspected that Alder did kill his aunt for the inheritance. She is discovered by the guards on the premises and chased away. What she didn't notice was that her ex boss' murdered body is behind the couch in the office, obscured from her view.
Perry, nearby on his boat on a sea bass fishing expedition, rescues the girl from the Dobermans, who are in hot pursuit. It seems Perry can't even go on a trip at sea and not end up with a client. The best part of this episode, at least to me, was the Hispanic woman who was Alder's aunt's maid. She works in a restaurant now, but she also likes to make melodramatic speeches that are too much even for attorneys.
... as in no courtroom battle. William Tallman as D. A. Hamilton Burger doesn't even appear. Maybe he finally got tired of losing to Perry each and every week and decided to open that hunting supply store he'd always dreamed of, or perhaps he hit the open road. But I digress.
Albert Tydings is an investment banker who is cheating client Abigal Leeds. Tydings' partner and Leeds' boyfriend, Robert Dawson, confronts him about the theft. Tydings pulls out a file he has and says if Dawson calls the police he will make the file contents public. Dawson backs down.
When Abigail goes to Tydings' office one night for an appointment she finds him dead. Perry, unaware of any of this, gets two visits. The first is at his home with a mysterious man and woman giving him a retainer for a case that has not happened yet. The other is an appointment with a rather loud forward middle-aged woman who wants Perry to go after Tydings for his embezzlement of Abigail's funds. Abigail is her ward.
Oh, and Tydings' body is ultimately found in his home, not his office. What goes on here? You and Perry Mason will have to find out together.
There is lots of field work here with Perry Mason and Della Street doing almost as much sleuthing as P. I. Paul Drake. But ultimately the case - and even what the case consists of - are revealed and solved in Perry's office, not a courtroom.
Perry Mason visits small town America in the 1950s
A slimy little weasel of a P. I., Donald Briggs, comes into the small town of Logan City and attempts to blackmail a woman, Mrs. Adams, as to the real name of the father of her grown son, Sam, who is about to marry a girl who is a member of a prominent local family. At the same time, he was actually hired by the father of said girl to find out the identity of the boy's father before his daughter marries Sam. It turns out that Sam's mother changed her family name for herself and her son after her husband and Sam's father was executed for murder18 years before.
Perry Mason is inserted into the situation when the man who originally hired Briggs, Clyde Waters, hires Mason concerning Briggs' attempt to blackmail him. It morphs into a murder case when Briggs is found dead in his hotel room from poison gas, and it is found out that Sam had gotten into a fight with Briggs AND did I mention Sam is a chemical engineering student? Sam is arrested for the murder of Briggs.
Mason had already been looking at the transcript of the murder trial of Sam's father, sees some inconsistencies, and feels that the two murders are related. At this point, early in the first season, Perry Mason is being presented as a more conservative figure than he was in the first episode, not trying to play games with evidence and not being physically threatening to his clients. Plus here, in small town California of the 1950s, Perry is presented with a much more conservative court than he deals with in Los Angeles, is considered somewhat of an interloper by the townsfolk, and thus has to adjust his courtroom style.
You might wonder why there was so much fuss over what the father of somebody did. Until the 1970s there was a widespread belief in eugenics - that what your parents did was a good predictor of the kind of person you'd be even if you never knew the parent in question.
Wealthy Florence Talbot goes to consult mystic Count Merlin (Holmes Herbert). She is skeptical about his powers until he addresses her by the name she had in her first marriage - Dwight - and then recounts for her how she left her first husband for her current husband and took her baby daughter, Ann, with her. What Florence wants to know is if the man she is currently having an affair with has a love that is true for her. Count Merlin answers in the negative.
After she leaves, it is revealed that the mystic is actually her first husband, Peter Dwight, in costume. He has vowed to get his daughter back and make Florence pay for keeping his daughter from him for fifteen years. He is later invited to the Talbot home to entertain the guests at a dinner party with his powers. There is lots going on in the home besides palm reading. Florence is cheating on her husband with her personal physician by feigning illness and having him brought to her room. And the doctor's wife is pretty sure she knows that something is going on. Florence has made the doctor promise to run away with her that night, but it seems he really isn't anxious to uproot himself from a good position in the community. Later that evening, when Florence is murdered, there is no shortage of suspects. Fortunately, the local district attorney is also a guest, and he immediately begins an investigation.
This was, overall, a very good film with quite a bit of suspense. However, it has quite a few plot holes, not the least of which is that Florence was murdered when all of the guests were gathered in one particular room, and thus it would have seemed obvious if one of them was missing long enough to murder her. This film was also shot as a part talking film, and I imagine problems in editing one version versus another caused some of the plot holes that I noticed, although it shouldn't have caused the big one that I mentioned.
There were also a couple of matters that seemed not so much plot holes as incomprehensible. First of all, as a mystic, Peter Dwight's costume includes a turban, indicating that perhaps he is a Sikh. But there are also curtains and drapes hung about that have the star of David on them. This wasn't just a one off art design error, because later, when Dwight appears at the Talbot home as the mystic, the cabinet that he uses for his disappearing person act has a cloth draped around it with the star of David on it. Why would a Sikh have items with Jewish religious symbols on it? Then there are the press photographers who arrive with the police to investigate the murder who ask no questions but keep taking photos of anybody who crosses the room, even though the room is completely dark.
It's all in all a very interesting curiosity from the late silent period and Universal Pictures, and I'd recommend it.
"Merthy merthy have you no thithter of your own?"...
... is a famous line uttered by Delores Costello as reproduced by Vitaphone, the recording system having a tendency to make actresses more than actors seem as though they are lisping. Audiences howled with laughter, perhaps offsetting the sting of paying two dollars a ticket in 1928, a high cost at the time, needed to offset the cost of wiring for sound. This film, including the sound discs, is completely lost. It followed on the heels of The Jazz Singer and contained four talking sequences totaling about fifteen minutes that featured Delores Costello.
It's a crime drama about a dancer, Rose Shannon (Delores Costello) who is accused of stealing fifty thousand dollars from a bag and replacing the money with poker chips and newspaper. The first of the talking sequences is Rose being given the third degree over this theft while she proclaims her innocence. A complicating factor is that the stolen money is gangland money, and gangster Chuck White (Conrad Nagel) while suspicious of Rose over the theft, has also started to care about her. The New York Times Review that I read described another talking sequence involving some criminal figure named "The Professor" (Mitchell Lewis) in some remote cabin menacing Rose over the money, and also described the dialogue as very pedestrian.
In spite of Michael Curtiz' direction and some great visuals and dance hall scenes, the critics were largely merciless in their judgment, saying that the sound conversations were more like the reciting of lines. As a result of public and critical reaction, two of the four talking sequences were withdrawn after the first week of release. In spite of the bad reviews, Tenderloin did great business in the spring of 1928, largely owing to the novelty of sound. Jack Warner could care less about bad reviews. What mattered to him is that this film, which took 188K to make, raked in 985K at the box office.
This first case concerns a waitress who is chased down the highway in the middle of the night by a man with a pillow case over his head. She had found a gun in her apartment that does not belong to her, and with it she shoots two shots in the direction of pillow guy, his car swerves and goes off the road, and she continues on to Perry Mason's office. She is ultimately charged with murder. And of course there is a complex involved tale behind all of this.
The first episode establishes Mason's dedication to his clients. His office connects him to the waitress in the middle of the night when she calls wanting help. Perry is shown, suavely dressed even for bedtime, reading in his library. Of course he'll come to the office at 1 AM. I could find Vladimir Putin napping in my spare bedroom and my attorney wouldn't return my calls at 1AM.
Likewise, Perry's secretary Della Street is shown to be completely OK at coming into the office at 1AM, cheerful with handy coffee thermos in hand. Private eye Paul Drake is tossed a job to do with only an hour to do it in and of course he comes through. Lieutenant Tragg is grumpy right out of the gate, and notice he does not read anybody their rights at this point. The Miranda case is almost a decade in the future.
Perry Mason is a much more conservative lawyer as the series progresses. But here he takes some chances and walks right up to the edge of what the law allows. He plays games with the alleged murder weapon, and actually takes it out to the scene of the crime and fires it randomly into a tree just to mix things up and confuse the police.
A humorous moment occurs when Perry shows up at the scene of the accident/murder and the cop at the scene keeps saying - "Somebody get me a winch!" Hey, buddy. Nobody is interested in your dating needs right now!
A very smart romantic comedy in which nothing is sacred
The film opens with banker Richard Gresham (Edward Arnold) meeting King Anatol XII (Henry Stephenson) in a mud bath in the king's European country of Taronia. The king mentions that he'd love to be able to give his people some modern conveniences that Americans take for granted, but that the country is too poor. The banker says he could float fifty million dollars in bonds, but that it would require a good will tour by the royalty of Taronia. The king mentions that when kings leave their country they are often not allowed to return, and suggests that his daughter Catterina (Sylvia Sidney) do the good will tour in his place.
When the princess reaches America she comes down with the mumps and must be quarantined for a month. So Gresham scours New York City for a look alike for the princess and finds her in impoverished struggling actress Nancy Lane (also Sylvia Sidney of course), who will be paid ten thousand dollars for pulling off the impersonation. Complications ensue, not the least of which is that high minded newspaper publisher Porter Madison III (Cary Grant) has a running beef with Gresham and thinks that this bond business must be shady dealings AND Gresham thus instructs stand in Nancy Lane to "vamp" him.
Cary Grant is finding his lane in comedy at this point, and it is refreshing to see Sylvia Sidney do comedy after watching her play the tragic figure in so many films. There's lots here that is pure Great Depression or at least pure pre WWII Europe- Gresham as unscrupulous capitalist, an automat turkey dinner turning ordinary people into thieves because they are starving, fast talking reporters willing to believe and do anything to get a leg up on a story, and tiny European countries that nobody has ever heard of that sound like they exist in a snow globe. And then there is Vince Barnett who steals the show as a Taronian count who is a completely unappealing man in just about every way possible.
And then there is Grant's character Porter Madison III. Madison may sound high minded, but in the end he changes his mind about the bond issue because he falls for the big sad eyes of "the princess", not because he is convinced that the investment is fundamentally sound. So Gresham does have his number in that regard.
This one doesn't have any individual great one liners like a Lubitsch, but the situations are charming, and it is an enjoyable watch with no real villains, or at least effective ones, in sight.
... as he has been noticeably absent during season eight of Gunsmoke, since Dennis Weaver wanted to go on to bigger and better things. A familiar story for Chester has been him falling in love with someone who turns out to either have ulterior motives, or actually love somebody else, or just wants to run off with what little money he has. At this point I'd think he'd be starting up the Dodge City chapter of the He Man Woman Haters Club ala the Our Gang comedies, but apparently, for Chester, romantic hope springs eternal.
This time it is a more subtle situation that creeps up on Chester. He is in the general store when a youngish widow woman comes in asking Mr. Jonas if she can set up a dress making shop within his store, but Jonas turns her down. Chester, being the kind soul that he is, finds a fixer upper rental for her instead, and offers to help her with the construction work that will be necessary to make the place shop ready. Initially, Chester seems to have more interest in the widow's little girl, and even her horse, than he does the widow herself. But after the two spend quite a bit of time together they come to an understanding - or pre engagement.
And apparently the widow's idea of an understanding is to run every aspect of Chester's life - how he dresses, where he goes, who his friends are, even how he speaks. Then the widow's little girl mentions that this was just how it was with her dad right before he - went away and did not come back?? So there was no actual death, no grave??? Complications ensue as Chester ultimately and surprisingly shows the wisdom of Solomon in this situation.
... using production stills, the shooting script, and a score by Robert Israel. I am rating the reconstruction's ability to recreate the mood and story of the film, as the film itself is lost. It's a noticeable loss, since MGM has a better record of preserving their silent film heritage than any other studio.
Even though it is a sought after prize among lost films, it was poorly reviewed in its day. Reviewers praised Lon Chaney's performance and makeup, but thought that the script was a bit of a mess, with the central mystery being poorly resolved. And from watching the reconstruction, I have to agree.
Roger Balfour is found shot to death in his home, with an investigator arriving fifteen minutes after his death (Lon Chaney as Edward Burke) , without even being summoned. He begins to question everybody in the house - Balfour's daughter, Lucille (Marceline Day), Balfour's good friend Sir James Hamlin (Henry Walthall), Hamlin's nephew Arthur Hibbs (Conrad Nagel), and Williams, Balfour's butler (Percy Williams). A suicide note is found near the body, and the death ruled as such.
Five years later, and apparently Lucille Balfour has moved elsewhere, with the Balfour mansion in overgrown ruins. This is where Chaney's vampire character with the hideous teeth enters the picture. He actually signs a lease for the property, along with a younger looking female vampire. Shortly thereafter, Roger Balfour, apparently now a vampire, is living on the old Balfour estate with the two other vampires. Burke and Hamlin investigate and find Roger Balfour's tomb empty. Complications ensue.
I immediately recognized this plot as the same one as that for 1935's "Mark of the Vampire", also directed by Tod Browning. That one also has huge plot holes, but at least the victim there does not die from a gunshot wound and then inexplicably become a vampire. Neither does it have a vampire signing a lease and partaking in commerce. Had he not paid the rent would they have evicted a vampire? I will give the original this - the 1935 remake required two legendary actors - Lionel Barrymore AND Bela Lugosi - to replace just one legendary actor - Lon Chaney.
Today, Lon Chaney is the best known member of the cast. Marceline Day, top billed next to Chaney, was a big star in her time but sound apparently washed out her career, although her voice was fine. After she left Hollywood she would never watch or even discuss her films again.
This is often forgotten in Joan Crawford's filmography. It has lots of the ingredients of precode Hollywood, released a couple of month before the inception of the Production Code. It also has lots of the components of the films that Crawford made for MGM of the 1930s, but this one came relatively early in her career and thus seems fresh compared to later similar entries.
Sadie is the daughter of the cook in the home of the wealthy Alderson family. One night when helping out with the serving at dinner, she listens to the son and lawyer of the family (Franchot Tone as Michael) talking about how her boyfriend, Tommy Wallace, is a thief and should get no second chance from the community now that he's been fired from his job. Sadie tells them off and takes off with Tommy (Gene Raymond) to New York City. They have about twenty dollars between them, and pretend to be married to the landlady, planning to be married the next day. Sadie has a job interview, so she and Tommy agree to meet at city hall at noon and be married. He never shows. But this is not an Affair to Remember. Instead, it's exactly what you'd suspect. Brassy nightclub singer Dolly Merrick hears Tommy singing in the boarding house bathroom and offers him a job singing in her act. But the audition would conflict with his wedding. Tommy picks the audition over the wedding, clears out his clothes, and doesn't even leave a note behind.
Sadie, now a hardened jaded woman, gets a job dancing in a night club act where she meets the very wealthy Jack Brennan ( Edward Arnold). He's drunk when he meets her, drunk when he marries her, in fact the guy is perpetually drunk to the point I get tired of him, and it is so hard to get tired of the talented Edward Arnold. The complicating factor is that Michael Alderson is Brennan's lawyer, thinks the worst of Sadie, and is still a pompous glass bowl, although he was right about Tommy having no character. Sadie can't forgive him for that either.
Then comes the day when Sadie is told Brennan will die if he doesn't quit drinking, Sadie sees Tommy again and the old feelings surface, and Michael AND all of the servants think she is just a scheming tramp trying to let Brennan die drinking so she can become the rich widow. Complications ensue.
This film had lots of precode moments. There is the insinuation that Tommy and Sadie, in spite of their promises to each other to wait, do share a bed that one night they are in the rooming house. And there is the delightful Jean Dixon as Sadie's hard boiled friend who looks at the bedroom arrangements after Sadie marries Brennan and says "I've done a lot more for a lot less".
Recommended if it ever comes your way. It packs a lot of plot into its running time.
Gunsmoke starts out in a strange place and time - Texas in 1858. The leader of an outlaw gang shoots a young recruit because it appears he is going to chicken out during the upcoming bank robbery. Career criminal York (Edgar Buchanan) remarks that this was unnecessary, and the leader tells him his opinion is not wanted.
The gang goes into nearby town and robs a bank, taking a customer there, a cowboy, hostage, saying that they will release him later. Back in camp, somebody tells York that the hostage says that he thinks he recognizes York's voice and that he once put him on the straight and narrow when they were working the same ranch. York says - yes - he remembers the guy. He was starting to go wild and that York set him straight and turned him away from a life of crime. In the meantime the head of the gang says he intends to kill the hostage, not let him go. York shoots the head of the gang dead and releases the hostage. Somebody asks York - Who was so important to you that you would take such a chance? York says the kid was named "Matt Dillon".
Seventeen years later, in Dodge City, Old York comes into town. He knows Matt is the marshal there, and he plans to trade on Dillon's feeling of debt to York for his life to give him a pass on some crimes. Dillon does come to his aid and defense a couple of times. When York graduates to bank robbery, Dillon can't bring himself to shoot him as he rides off with the bank's money. The whole town is talking about how Dillon could not bring himself to shoot a criminal because of a past association, and Matt is wracked with guilt and conflict over two things that largely rule his life - loyalty to friends and impartial enforcement of the law. How will this turn out? Watch and find out.
It's interesting that Dillon's life was saved in his youth by actually doing something stupid. It's a good idea that a hostage never say he knows or recognizes his captors, but in this case it worked out. Because one of the captors recognized him, and had a bond of affection for him, his life was spared. The director was smart to only show Matt from a distance and never show his face or let viewers hear his voice. It would have intruded on the reality of the situation.
... people are willing to believe the most horrible things about Quint (Burt Reynolds) just because he is half Comanche.
Matt is bringing an accused killer back to Dodge City to stand trial. While they are on their way back they run into Quint who is out hunting rabbits with his handy bow and arrow. He joins them in their trip back. They then run across a lone cabin where a woman is digging a grave - among a bunch of graves - in her front yard. The body of her husband is nearby, dead of some natural cause. They all stop to help dig the grave - the woman is exhausted - and to cook up Quint's rabbits into a stew for food for the woman who is now alone. It is never said who the other people in the graveyard are, but some of them are bound to be her children. She, Willa, is now all alone.
Later Quint returns to WIlla's cabin with a deer he has hunted, remembering she had no food there. Willa comes on to Quint who does not reciprocate and Willa says she will make Quint regret turning her down. Later, Willa turns up in Dodge City claiming to have been assaulted by Quint. The thing is, Doc examines her and says she really HAS been assaulted. Everybody initially turns on Quint, believing the worst. Quint refuses to defend himself, angry that the town that is so friendly to him and brings him their blacksmithing business deep down believes him to be such a savage.
This rather routine plot device is redemed by Burt Reynold's acting as Quint. James Arness was interviewed in his later years and asked about what it was like to work with Burt Reynolds. Arness says that everybody could see his talent from the beginning. He said that the role couldn't take advantage of Burt's strongest feature - his talent for comedy. This particular episode is one that makes full use of Reynolds's dramatic chops.