Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Overlooked Films: PERRY MASON solves The Case of the Curious Bride (1935)

I haven’t read this book in a coon’s age, so can’t say how faithful the film is. But this movie, the second in the series, is at least more faithful to Gardner’s vision than the first, The Case of The Howling Dog (reviewed HERE).

Perry’s sprawling law firm, with its herd of associates and score of secretaries, is gone. This time we see only his private office, with Della guarding the gates. Filling in for Paul Drake is a pug called Spudsy, played by Allen Jenkins (Sgt. Holcomb in the first film), who provides both investigative services and comic relief. With Warren William in the lead, though, comic relief is not really necessary. He keeps his tongue planted firmly in-cheek, and wields it freely. Paul Drake is paid a little lip-service, just so viewers know the filmmakers were aware of him. On the phone with Spudsy, Perry calls him Mr. Drake, to which Spudsy responds, “You know I don’t like to be called Mr. Drake.”

Perry makes eyes at his new Della.

I was perfectly happy with Helen Trenholme as Della in Howling Dog, but was equally pleased with Claire Dodd in this one. Warren William seems able to generate chemistry with all of his female co-stars.  D.A. Claude Drumm, tormented by Perry in the first movie, is strangely absent from this one.

The film opens on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, looking much the same as it does today (or at least last year, when I was there), with Perry picking out lobsters. In a distinctly uncanonical move, this movie depicts Perry as a gourmet cook - and one of the best in the world (the writers borrowing from Nero Wolfe, perhaps?). As Perry tears around town in his roadster, we’re treated to many familiar views of the hills, the streets and the Bay.

The pre-murdered Flynn.

One of Perry’s old girlfriends turns up, recently married, worried that her previous husband may be less dead than she thought. This makes her a “curious bride.” She’s right, of course, but only temporarily. Her ex promptly turns up defunct, and she’s suspect number one.

Like many movies of the period, this one found a way to include a dance hall number. Perry and Spudsy pay a visit to a burlesque theater, where one of the suspects sings, accompanied by a bevy of scantily-clad dancers.

Unlike Howling Dog, this was directed by Michael Curtiz, who was responsible for two of my top ten favorite films - Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood, and such runners-up as Casablanca, The Sea Hawk and Santa Fe Trail. And like four of those films, Curious Bride includes an appearance by Errol Flynn. I saw his name in the credits, so I was watching for him, but didn’t spot him until the last five minutes. The reason: He played the murder victim, and we didn’t see him alive (in flashback) until the killer finally confessed.

Curious about the rest of this week's Overlooked Films? Find them at Sweet Freedom.


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I'm a big fan of this film which, like Curtiz' KENNEL MURDER CASE, moves at a great pace and handles the complex plot and flashbacks with great style (I love the caption you have for Flynn - 'pre-murdered' indeed!)

Anonymous said...

I like William, but he played too many detectives to be firmly identified with one role: Perry Mason, Philo Vance, Lone Wolf Michael Lanyard, and even Sam Spade (sort of).

Art Scott

Evan Lewis said...

I liked the KENNEL case too, Sergio.

The (sort of) Spade was was the only time I've seen Warren William suck. He tried so hard to be funny that he came off as a buffoon.