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Anna Q. Nilsson subsequently reunited, playing themselves, in SUNSET BLVD (1950). On this evi- dence, Cohan was a somewhat stolid wiseguy hero, projecting a fraction of the charisma Cagney deliv- ers—but, shorn of his own dialogue (as playwright, he gave his character all the snappy comebacks), he has little to do but look aghast as some new weirdo pops out of the woodwork.


There was a 1925 remake, directed by Harold Lloyd’s collaborator Fred Newmeyer, with Douglas MacLean in the lead, and script adaptation by Wade Boteler, who also played crooked Mayor Cargan. This Paramount production is sadly absent from the Warner Archive Collection’s SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE TRIPLE FEATURE, which assembles three talkie versions from RKO Pictures in an ap- pealing package which shows how the piece evolved and streamlined from remake to remake. No ver- sion of SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE is in the league of the 1927 or 1939 CAT AND THE CANARY or James Whale’s THE OLD DARK HOUSE—Whale, incidentally copped Cohan’s premise for his 1937 historical romp THE GREAT GARRICK, in which a


troupe of French actors ensnare the arrogant En- glish theater star in a live roleplay melodrama at an inn—or even Roland West’s two versions of THE BAT (THE BAT, 1925, and THE BAT WHISPERS,


1930). None of the Baldpate films assemble a cast of star eccentrics to match Whale’s or are built around first-rate light leading men, which perhaps accounts for their relative obscurity. Nevertheless, all three RKO films are fast, good-natured and carry over some of Biggers’ and Cohan’s smarts. Less familiar than many Old Dark House mysteries, they make engaging rediscoveries and slight variations in plot mean each version has its surprises. The 1929 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE is an early all-talkie vehicle for Richard Dix, who makes for a tough, flippant hero. When Bentley (Crauford Kent, who also played the role in the 1925 film) wants Magee to write something serious, Magee insists his fantastical ideas are more like realism than conventional fiction. He keeps commenting on the cliché aspects of the unfolding plot—though, of course, the endings undercut any point he might be making. He turns up at the inn along with a


The central interior of the 1929 version, art direction by Max Rée (THE WEDDING MARCH, QUEEN KELLY), photographed by Edward Cronjager (HEAVEN CAN WAIT).


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