Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Overlooked Films: THE GRACIE ALLEN MURDER CASE (1939)
I read and reviewed the S.S. Van Dine novel The Gracie Allen Murder Case a couple of years ago, but I had never seen the film - until it turned up recently on YouTube.
Van Dine wrote the novel anyway, based on his screen story, resulting in an interesting but ultimately disappointing book. As you'd expect, Vance was the lead character, and Gracie only a minor guest star. But the main problem was that Van Dine simply did not get Gracie Allen's humor. It should have been easy to make her sparkle on the page, but Van Dine failed miserably. I searched the book for a line of Gracie dialogue funny enough to quote - and couldn't find a single one!
Thankfully, the film producers took only passing note of Vance's story. There's no question who the star is here. Philo Vance doesn't even appear until the 28th minute, a third of the way into the film, and his presence is spotty after that. And when he is onscreen, he's Warren William - who always plays Warren William, regardless of the role, and is always fun to watch. The result is no great shakes as a mystery film, but it's a great vehicle for Gracie Allen. If you like Gracie, you're sure to like "The Gracie Allen Murder Case."
Not surprisingly, Gracie got plenty of good lines. A few examples:
Gracie: The Chief? Oh, certainly! I just love Indians.
Maître d': I'll get you a waiter right away.
Gracie: Make it two. I'm starved.
Vance: The question is, then, why would the killer have brought the body here?
Gracie: Well, they've got a wonderful floor show.
Vance: How about some pansies?
Flower shop owner: Well, frankly, my pansies are drooping.
Gracie: Oh, well then, you should wear suspenders.
So here's the whole movie. See for yourself. For some reason, this one won't play here on the Almanack, but after you click the PLAY button below, it will give you a link to watch the film on YouTube.