Thirteenth Guest, The (1932)

How many of the long-ago guests is the killer prepared to kill?

US / 69 minutes / bw / M.H. Hoffman, Monogram Dir: Albert Ray Pr: M.H. Hoffman Scr: Frances Hyland Story: The Thirteenth Guest (1929) by Armitage Trail Cine: Harry Neumann, Tom Galligan Cast: Ginger Rogers, Lyle Talbot, J. Farrell MacDonald, Paul Hurst, Erville Alderson, Ethel Wales, James Eagles, Craufurd Kent (i.e., Crauford Kent), Eddie Phillips, Frances Rich, Phillips Smalley, Harry Tenbrook, Robert Klein, Adrienne Dore, William B. Davidson.

Thirteenth Guest - 0a opener aThirteenth Guest - 0b

Naturally I discussed here on Noirish the remake of this movie—Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943) dir William Beaudine, with Helen Parrish, Dick Purcell, Tim Ryan et al.—before I got round to tackling the original. Ça va.

The plots of the two movies are virtually identical, so I’ll just go for a quick account here.

Thirteenth Guest - shadows 3

On her 21st birthday Marie Morgan (Rogers) arrives at the old Morgan home for an appointment with family lawyer John Barksdale (Klein). Although the place is dilapidated, phone and electricity have been installed. She bears a letter from her long-deceased grandpa containing the enigmatic instruction “13—13—13.” Yes, 13 years ago the family gathered here around a table at which the 13th chair was empty. Soon after, Grandpa died, leaving almost all of his fortune to the eight-year-old Marie. And now she’s due to inherit.

Thirteenth Guest - 6 Ginger Rogers as Marie

Ginger Rogers as Marie.

There’s a noise.

She goes to look.

A shot rings out.

There’s a scream.

Some while later the cops arrive in the form of Continue reading

Unholy Love (1932)

vt Deceit
US / 75 minutes / bw / Albert Ray, Allied Dir: Albert Ray Pr: M.H. Hoffman Scr: Frances Hyland Story: Madame Bovary (1856) by Gustave Flaubert Cine: Harry Neumann, Tom Galligan Cast: H.B. Warner, Lila Lee, Joyce Compton, Ivan Lebedeff, Beryl Mercer, Jason Robards Sr., Lysle Talbot (i.e., Lyle Talbot), Kathlyn Williams, Richard Carlyle, Frances Rich.

Unholy Love - 0 opener

Late one night, stately old Dr. Daniel “Dan” Gregory (Warner) arrives at the cottage where elderly gardener A. “Brownie” Bailey (Carlyle) is dying. Brownie is really the patient of Dan’s doctor son Jerome Preston “Jerry” Gregory (Talbot), but Jerry has for some reason chickened out on treating him, instead concentrating on comforting Brownie’s lovely daughter Sheila (Compton). Brownie soon dies and, before Dan leaves, Jerry drops a bombshell: he and Sheila have secretly married.

Unholy Love - 1 Jerry and Dan argue about Jerry's marriage to Sheila

 Jerry (Lyle Talbot) and Dan (H.B. Warner) argue about Jerry’s marriage to Sheila.

Unholy Love - 2 Sheila shows little distress over her father's death

Sheila (Joyce Compton) shows little distress over her father’s death.

Dan goes straight to the home of his old friend Mrs. Mary Bradford (Williams) and breaks to her the news of Jerry’s marriage. The two elderly people are distressed together, because it’s long been assumed that Jerry will marry Mary’s daughter Jane (Lee), who loves him dearly. The worst of it, they agree, is that Continue reading

Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943)


What is the mystery of the empty 13th chair?

vt The Mystery of the 13th Guest
US / 61 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: William Beaudine Pr: Lindsley Parsons Scr: Tim Ryan, Charles Marion, Arthur Hoerl Story: The Thirteenth Guest (1929) by Armitage Trail Cine: Mack Stengler Cast: Helen Parrish, Dick Purcell, Tim Ryan, Frank Faylen, Jacqueline Dalya, Paul McVey, John Duncan, Jon Dawson, Cyril Ring, Addison Richards, Lloyd Ingraham, Fred “Snowflake” Toones, Shirley Jean Anderson, Lester Dorr, Herbert Heyes.

Mystery of the 13th Guest - 1 The mystery envelope ...

Mystery of the 13th Guest - 1a ... and what it contained

Thirteen years ago, in the old Morgan home at 122 Mill Road, Grandpa Morgan (Ingraham) convoked a meeting of his ten possible heirs, plus his lawyer, John Barksdale (Ring). The twelve of them sat around a table at which a 13th chair remained empty—the nonexistent “13th guest” of the title, even though this would be technically not the 13th but the 12th guest. Grandpa announced that his will was contained in a sealed envelope, which he passed to his seven-year-old granddaughter, Marie (Anderson), on condition that she open it on her 21st birthday while seated at this very table.

Fast forward to today, as one dark night the grown-up Marie Morgan (Parrish) lets herself into the old family heap. She’s astonished to find that, even though the place has been closed up for thirteen years, the phone and electricity are still on. In the gloom a shot rings out and, the next we know, Marie Continue reading

Shriek in the Night, A (1933)

US / 67 minutes / bw / M.H. Hoffman, Allied Dir: Albert Ray Scr: Frances Hyland Story: Kurt Kempler Cine: Harry Neumann, Tom Galligan Cast: Ginger Rogers, Lyle Talbot, Harvey Clark, Purnell Pratt, Lillian Harmer, Arthur Hoyt, Louise Beaver (i.e., Louise Beavers), Clarence Wilson, Maurice Black.

A Shriek in the Night is among the countless B-movies Ginger Rogers made before anyone in mainstream Hollywood seemed to notice her indubitable screen charisma and her talent as a comedy actress. Later on she would show she was perfectly fine in noir and other dramatic roles too, as in STORM WARNING (1951), BEAUTIFUL STRANGER (1954), TIGHT SPOT (1955), and the non-noir Black Widow (1954), to name just a few examples.

One night, shrieking as per the movie’s title, philanthropist Adam Harker falls to his death from—apparently—the roof garden of the Harker Apartments. Inspector Russell (Pratt) arrives to investigate with his bumbling, diffident sidekick Wilfred (Hoyt), and interviews the deceased’s secretary Miss Terry (geddit?)—in fact, undercover Morning News reporter Patricia “Pat” Morgan (Rogers)—and housekeeper Augusta (Harmer).

While Russell’s in another room, Pat takes the opportunity to go through purloined papers of Harker’s and finds a card, posted to him 12 hours earlier, decorated with the picture of a hissing snake and bearing the words, cut and pasted from newspapers, “You Will Hear It!”

She phones this information to a rewrite man at her newspaper, plus the facts that (a) two hours before his death Harker received Continue reading

Night for Crime, A (1943)

US / 72 minutes / bw / PRC Dir: Alexis Thurn-Taxis Pr: Lester Cutler Scr: Arthur St. Claire, Sherman Lowe, John Vlahos Story: Jimmy Starr Cine: Marcel Le Picard Cast: Glenda Farrell, Lyle Talbot, Ralph Sanford, Lina Basquette, Lynn Starr, Donald Kirke, Forrest Taylor, Ruby Dandridge, Florence O’Brien, Rick Vallin, Marjorie Manners.

In Hollywood during WWII, Joe Powell (Talbot), publicist for the studio Motion Picture Associates, is crazy about journalist Susan Cooper (Farrell). He’s at her apartment one evening when there’s a sudden power blackout; from the apartment across the hall comes a scream, and the pair discover the strangled corpse of fledgling actress Ellen Smith (Manners).

Soon Joe and Susan are involved in solving not just this mystery but the disappearance of the studio’s star actress, Mona Harrison (Basquette), who seems to have run away leaving producer Hamilton Hart (Kirke) holding a $300,000 bill for her latest, unfinished movie.

Mona’s servants—cook Alice Johnson (Dandridge, mother of Dorothy Dandridge) and her sassy niece Louise (O’Brien), the maid—testify that Mona didn’t seem herself the night before her disappearance; depending on who’s telling the story, either she Continue reading

While the Patient Slept (1935)

US / 66 minutes / bw / Warner, Clue Club, First National, Vitaphone Dir: Ray Enright Scr: Robert N. Lee, Eugene Solow, Brown Holmes Story: While the Patient Slept (1930) by Mignon G. Eberhart Cine: Arthur Edeson Cast: Aline MacMahon, Guy Kibbee, Lyle Talbot, Patricia Ellis, Allen Jenkins, Robert Barrat, Hobart Cavanaugh, Dorothy Tree, Henry O’Neill, Russell Hicks, Helen Flint, Brandon Hurst, Eddie Shubert, Walter Walker, Virginia Howell.

Patriarch Richard Federie (Walker) is elderly and ailing, and the family are gathering at the old ancestral pile—all except reprobate son Charles (Barrat), who’s serving time for manslaughter. On getting a telegram from Charles to say that he too is coming home, Richard has a stroke; family physician Dr. Jay (Hicks) gives an optimistic prognosis, and nurse Sarah Keate (MacMahon) is called to Federie Manor to tend the comatose patient.

That evening, in turn, family lawyer Elihu Dimuck (O’Neill), Richard’s beloved granddaughter March (Ellis), Charles’s twin brother Adolphe (Barrat again), Richard’s niece Mittie (Tree) and unparticularized family member Eustace (Cavanaugh) each requests Sarah that they be the first to be informed should the old man wake.

During the night, as Sarah slumbers on a couch in the room where Richard lies, Adolphe creeps in, takes from the mantelpiece an ornamental green elephant in which, as we later discover, a vital clue is concealed, and then, as he seeks to depart, is gunned down by an unknown figure.

While the Patient Slept (1935) - Sarah (MacMahon) prepares to fire a decoy shot

Sarah (MacMahon) prepares to fire a decoy shot.

The cops arrive in the shape of Sarah’s old acquaintance and romantic aspirant Det.-Lt. Lance O’Leary (Kibbee), his irritatingly loud-mouthed dimwit sidekick Sgt. Jim Jackson (Jenkins, playing exactly the same role he did in many other movies) and Detective Muldoon (Shubert). They and the plot bumble along, O’Leary seeming so clueless that at one point Sarah tells him, “Well, the fact that you suspect me is all the defense I need.” Just as O’Leary’s about to arrest the butler, Grondal (Hurst), who’s discovered to have a police record and an old feud with Adolphe, Grondal is found strangled . . .

Eberhardt’s novel, her second, won the reportedly prestigious Scotland Yard Award, but you sure wouldn’t guess it from this farrago. It’s hard to believe the script wasn’t originally written as a stage play, then lazily filmed without alteration. About the only things the movie has going for it are MacMahon’s performance and the wisecracking chemistry she shares with Kibbee.

By movie’s end, although the mystery is supposedly solved, we’re left with various unanswered questions. For example, did Ross Lonergan (Talbot) arrive at the house because summoned by sweetheart March, as we’re first told, or to try to recover a hefty debt owed to him and his father by Adolphe, as is next spelled out? And, although it seems reasonable that March be Richard’s grandchild, she appears to have no parents: it’s made quite clear that she’s not the offspring of any of the other Federies. Oops.


On While the Patient Slept