This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
bunch of other folks, all brandish- ing keys. Most notable among the cast of pretend suspects is Mar- garet Livingston, the vamp from Murnau’s SUNRISE (a looker whose career didn’t progress as it ought), as the slinky dame who isn’t married to who she says she is. Police Chief Kennedy is played by Carleton Macy, who had created the role on stage and re- prised it already in the 1917 film, while Edith Yorke plays the caretaker’s wife as she had in the 1925 version. Peters the Hermit (fondly addressed as “Hermie” by Magee) is played by Joseph Allen, another veteran of the original stage production. All these cast carry-overs suggest someone in- volved in the project had a sur- prising respect for the history of the property. Also skulking around are Old Dark House regulars Lucien Littlefield (ONE FRIGHTENED NIGHT), DeWitt Jennings (THE BAT WHISPERS) and Harvey Clarke (A SHRIEK IN THE NIGHT); Littlefield’s Coke-bottle-glasses and ex- treme comb-over look evoke the Caligariesque gro- tesques of Paul Leni’s THE CAT AND THE CANARY. The story moves so fast it’s hard to follow who everyone is and how they relate to each other and the insubstantial mystery (which is about a pay-off to secure a streetcar concession)—but then it turns out not to matter, after all. Oddly missing from the charade are actual murders, which makes the melo- drama seem near beer even before the last cards are turned over. Late in the day, Myra is apparently shot but pretty near instantly resurrects as a seem- ing ghost before it all turns out to be a put-on. The arch performances and gabby dialogue hint that all is not as it seems, but, three-quarters of a century on, the supposed real prologue and epilogue seem just as artificial.


Dix, best as tormented souls like the burnt-out


pilot in ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS, hasn’t got the suavity or comic chops that a Melvyn Douglas or William Powell in one mode, or a Bob Hope or Jack Oakie in another, brought to similar roles, though he is aptly commanding as the tough, clever, down-to-earth idealized self-image of Biggers and Cohan. Director Reginald Barker, in pictures since ON THE WARPATH (1912), turned out dozens of undistinguished silents; of his few subsequent cred- its, only a 1934 quickie version of THE MOON- STONE is noteworthy. Screenwriter Jane Murfin


Richard Dix, striking a George M. Cohan pose in 1929.


would go on to the sort of subjects Magee’s critics might think “important” (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, THE WOMEN) but here sticks closely to Cohan’s text. Unlike most adaptators, Murfin uses all of Cohan’s odd ending, which has an added fillip to pay off the love-at-first-sight angle: in his own fic- tion, Magee imagines the girl he has fallen for— supposed lady journo Mary Norton (bland Miriam Seeger)—is married to another actor, only to pull back into a reality where the girl who has inspired this character is romantically available. Like all the transfers in this set, the film belies its age: there’s damage to the print, but the B&W image is sharp, and you can appreciate details of art direction like the peeling wallpaper. The 1935 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE, directed by William Hamilton (primarily an in-house editor, working on Astaire-Rogers and Hitchcock films) and Edward Killy (a second-unit director on RKO biggies like GUNGA DIN and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME), is scripted by Anthony Veiller (THE STRANGER, RED PLANET MARS, THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSENGER) and Wallace Smith with, according to the IMDb, uncredited dialogue contri- butions by Glenn Tryon and Dorothy Yost. This keeps the set-up, with a slick, handsome Magee (ZOO IN BUDAPEST’s Gene Raymond) coming to Baldpate to write a book overnight—but drops the graft angle. The unpolitical plot now involves sto- len jewels and insurance fraud, keeping equiva- lents of all Biggers and Cohan’s characters but assigning them new roles in the mystery. The fake


41


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87