The Case of the Curious Bride (1935) – Tuesday’s Forgotten Film

This stylish and fast-paced thriller, adapted from the eponymous Perry Mason novel by Erle Stanley Gardner, was just one of the fifty movies made in the 1930s by Warner Bros. auteur Michael Curtiz, a director still under-appreciated despite regular periods of critical re-evaluation. The new Blu-ray of Casablanca (for which he won the Oscar) includes a new documentary devoted to him entitled, ‘The Greatest Director You Never Heard Of’. He was remarkably versatile, as happy directing swashbucklers and Westerns as gangsters films and thrillers.

One of his most deserving of rediscovery may be the second in the Warner Bros. Perry Mason series starring Warren William, The Case of the Curious Bride (it’s easy to see how it got lost in the shuffle as it was just one of five Curtiz movies released in 1935). The following review is offered as part of the Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme hosted by Todd Mason over at his Sweet Freedom blog and you should head over there to see the many other fascinating titles that have been selected.

The Plot: A bit like the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout, I always find it hard to remember the plots of the Perry Mason books – so here is a brief rundown of the how the story was adapted for the film, relocating the action from LA to San Francisco and Paul Drake transmogrified into ‘Spudsy’ Drake, tailor-made for the wonderful comic stylings of long-faced Allen Jenkins (later to play Officer Dibble in Boss Cat, or as the shown was known in the UK, Top Cat). Mason has just won another major case, is planning a long vacation in China and is celebrating at a restaurant in San Francisco. He is approached by an old friend, Rhoda Montaine (busy Warner contract player Margaret Lindsay). She claims that a ‘friend’ is in a real bind as her first husband, long-thought dead, has in fact turned up and is trying to blackmail her now that she has remarried into a wealthy family. Mason sees through the ruse and realises she must be talking about herself and Gregory Moxley, her first husband. Their tete-a-tete is interrupted and she leaves. When he returns, he finds a gun and some narcotic in her purse. While dining with the coroner, he learns that an exhumation order has been made for Moxley as the man has been sighted some four years after his presumed death. Perry and Spudsy go to the morgue and find that the coffin only holds the statue of a wooden Indian! Perry talks to the doctor who prescribed the sleeping draught for Rhoda – its clear he was once in love with her as he now refuses to say anything more about her.

Mason, using a cable found in Rhoda’s purse, is able to track down Moxley, but finds the man dead, stabbed in the back. Rhoda’s keys are found next to the body by the police and, now wanted for murder, she goes on the run, leaving her husband to avoid any scandal for his wealthy family. Perry stops her at the airport and, using his connections in the press, turns her in to them before the police so that her story gets into the media. She claims that Moxley struck her when she refused to pay him and after hitting him back with a poker the lights went out. She fled the scene but dropped her keys in the fracas. Perry of course postpones his trip and takes her case, though an unexpected problem occurs when her father-in-law, desperate to avoid a scandal, insists that the marriage was invalid if Moxley had been alive at the time and thus his son could testify against her. Unfortunately for everybody, the son turns out to be something of a weakling, unable to stand up to his father, even for his wife’s sake (much to the opprobrium of just about anyone in the film). Mason hires a woman to pretend to have married Moxley to avoid this problem, though Spudsy actually finds out that Moxley really had got married to someone else. It seems he did this as a racket to extort money (there must be easier ways to make a living, even for scoundrels and cads …).

After tracking the wife down to the theatre where she sings every night they learn that she called Moxley only half an hour before his murder. This leads to an amusing interlude with the woman’s brother, played by perpetual 30s lug Warren Hymer, who briefly gets the best of Spudsy, It turns out he saw a man coming out of Moxley’s apartment and was paid to keep silent. Mason invites all the suspects to a cocktail party at his house to explain what really happened, which we see in an elaborate flashback. Rhoda is freed, Perry gets a new client to defend and once again has to postpone his trip to China – as Della says to him at the curtain call, “You’re so wonderful. If only you couldn’t cook.”

The Cast: Warren William had already made a name for himself playing a character based on real fast-talking lawyer William J. Fallon in The Mouthpiece (1932), so he was a natural to play Mason, a character who is barely described in the books anyway. Lawyers tended to get a bad rap in movie then, as now, so Mason was unusual, though as depicted onscreen here (as in the book) he bends the rules near-breaking point in a way that he would never have done on TV as played by Raymond Burr in the 50s and 60s. Claire Dodd make for a bright and shiny Della, very much bantering in the style of Nora Charles, and it’s a shame that she only played the role once more in The Case of the Velvet Claws, though that is the entry in which she finallt gets to marry Perry! In general though this is a film that makes good use of the Warner Bros. stable of character actors – Jenkins had appeared in the previous film in the series The Case of the Howling Dog as a cop before playing Drake, Barton MacLane plays a nasty copy and would turn up in the next film The Case of the Lucky Legs as another cop entirely. But of course this is the film mainly remembered for launching the career in America of Errol Flynn. It has become something of well-told tale that Flynn made his debut here as a corpse, but this is not strictly speaking true – yes, he is dead from his first scene, but is then seen very much alive in flashback later in the film – and as this is the most dramatic and dynamic set-piece of the movie (i.e. the murder), strikingly staged in front of a very larger mirror, he got a slightly better intro than one might have been led to believe. Apparently Curtiz was not too impressed, but in the end he would make a star of the Tasmanian devil in Captain Blood (as a replacement for an ailing Robert Donat) and would ultimately shoot eleven more films with him (although not very harmoniously apparently).

The Style: Warner Bros. executive Hal Wallis was acutely sensitive to the fact that MGM had just had a massive hit with The Thin Man, a comedy thriller made in clear imitation of the fast-paced, low-budget, wise-cracking, urban movies usually associated with his studio. He immediately fired-off a memo to producer Harry Joe Brown to see what could be done about it:

“I saw The Thin Man tonight and it would certainly be great if we could [get] the treatment into The Case of the Curious Bride that they got into that picture … if you could get the lightness into the character of Perry Mason and let his solve the case … in that manner, it will make twice as good a picture as if it is handled in the usual straight, detective story fashion.”

To top it all, MGM had even used William Powell, who had been under contract with them until shortly before and had just scored a sizeable hit with them as Philo Vance in The Kennel Murder Case, directed by Michael Curtiz, who was dutifully signed to help turn Mason into the kind of character that Powell had made so popular at the rival studio. This of course infuriated original Erle Stanley Gardner, who saw the tone of his novel changed quite considerably from his tough, pulp style to something much more overtly comedic – in fact Mason never even steps into a courtroom in this movie!

The Director: Why is the name of Michael Curtiz still known to so few? It seems remarkable given the breadth and range of his output. Based for nearly thirty years at Warner Bros, from 1926 to 1953, he directed all their major stars and was instrumental in launching the careers of such varied actors as Errol Flynn, Doris Day and John Garfield. On top of which he also directed such solid gold classics as The Kennel Murder Case (1933), Captain Blood (1935), Angels with Dirty Faces, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Four Daughters (all 1938), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). After leaving the studio he was also responsible for such musicals as the blockbuster White Christmas (1954) and that fine Elvis vehicle, King Creole (1958). For his only Perry Mason movie he has the camera moving in almost every shot to keep the plot bubbling along, while transitions from one scene to the next are handled via an unusual use of zoom and dissolve created via an optical printer that was a real innovations at the time – it gets a little bit tiresome perhaps but it is certainly distinctive. There is much evidence of the director’s customary use of long shadows and a heavy emphasis on mirrors (which proves to be crucial to the plot anyway), making this another stylish little beauty and great fun too.

The Perry Mason series

Warners Bros started the series with high hopes and the first three are definitely 8-reel A-pictures with first-rate directors and casts – after that the returns must have been a little disappointing though as they clearly got downgraded to B-movies. Running times got cut down by about 15 minutes each to last about an hour on the second half of the double bill. The first four starring Warren William as Mason are definitely the cream of the crop, climaxing with Perry and Della actually getting married! This was reversed after William left with Della single again opposite as played by Ricardo Cortez first and then Donald Woods, who in Curious Bride had played the weasel second husband of Rhoda.

  • The Case of the Howling Dog (1934) – starring Warren William as Perry
  • The Case of the Curious Bride (1935) – starring Warren William as Perry
  • The Case of the Lucky Legs (1935)- starring Warren William as Perry
  • The Case of the Velvet Claws (1936) – starring Warren William as Perry
  • The Case of the Black Cat (1936) – starring Ricardo Cortez as Perry
  • The Case of the Stuttering Bishop (1937) – starring Donald Woods as Perry

Robert Downey Jr is apparently set to play Perry Mason for Warner Bros. in a new movie – with luck that will help revive interest in the studio’s early adaptations, which at present are officially AWOL on DVD. Some listings erroneously give the 1941 film The Case of the Black Parrot as being a Mason movie, but it isn’t, though it is due out in May as part of the Warner Archive series of MOD releases – which is more than can be said for the Mason series so far. Let’s hope more (real) Mason titles will follow …

DVD Availability: So, nothing legal but it is currently on YouTube

For a really detailed look at the film, check out the Moviediva site here. For a review of the original book see Patrick’s typically excellent blog post, At the Scene of the Crime.

The Case of the Curious Bride (1935)
Director: Michael Curtiz
Producer: Harry Joe Brown
Screenplay: Tom Reed with additional dialogue by Brown Holmes (based on the novel by Erle Stanley Gardner)
Cinematography: David Abel
Art Direction: Carl J. Weyl
Music: Bernard Kaun (uncredited); music director: Leo F. Forbstein
Cast: Warren William (Perry Mason), Margaret Lindsay, Allen Jenkins, Claire Dodd (Della Street), Barton MacLane, Warren Hymer, Errol Flynn

***** (3.5 fedora tips out of 5)

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40 Responses to The Case of the Curious Bride (1935) – Tuesday’s Forgotten Film

  1. I absolutel love Warren William’s Perry Mason. I know I[ve seen several of the films on TCM, but the onlu one tthat comes to mind at the moment is The Case of the Howling Dog. I don’t have a clear memory of the film itself, but Warren Willilam blew me away. He’s just so darned irreverent–or somelthing. Fast talking, slightly slezay, and fun. For someone who grew up on the Raymond Burr version (and I do love Perry Mason in any way, shape of form), it was a revelation. One has the impression that Perry had a sex life..

    • Thanks for the comments Marley – Warren William really does seem to sum up so much of that invigorating movie style from the Great Depression era before the Production Code finally bit in 1934 – and on top of that, his Perry even gets to marry Della at the end!nThe hardboiled Perry of the 30s is a very different man from his later incarnations, no question about it.

  2. Fascinating – I had no idea that anyone other than Raymond Burr had played Perry Mason. Maybe I do need to look up some of those books after all…

    • Hi Steve – the books from the 30s are well worth reading in my opinion and the Warner movies probably reflect at least part of the books quite well, even with all the added humour and the reduction in courtroom theatrics. Apart fromt he 3 actors in the 1930s, even on TV the role was played by at least one other actor – Monte Markham was rather poorly cast in The New Perry Mason in the 70s – you can watch whole episode on YouTube (such as here). These were actually made by the same writers and producers that made the Burr show, but it was an almighty flop.

      • So that would be between Burr in the TV show and his return in TV movies, yes? I think the more modern TV movies are the only ones that I’ve seen.

        • Yup – the original Raymond Burr series ran from 1957 to 1966. The New Adventures of Perry Mason show starring Monte Markham ran briefly in the 1973-74 season and got cancelled half way through; and then Burr and Barbara Hale returned for the very popular TV movies made between 1985 and 1993 (26 were made before Burr’s death – a further 4 were made with other actors playing a different character, though under the title ‘A Perry Mason Mystery’). I particularly liked the initial batch in which William Katt, Barbara Hale’s son in real life, played Paul Drake Jr, which was a nice touch I thought. The style of the later 2-hour TV-Movies closely follows the original TV show, with the main exception being the addition of a young detective seemingly modelled on Archie Goodwin, not least because Burr had by this time a Wolfe-like girth (and was getting on a bit too). It also meant they could have chases and so on to help keep interest over the two-hour running time – quite often they would have the junior detective track down a paid assassin, for Perry to then unmask the person behind the hired gun in court, which was mostly specific to the TV-movies and not derived from the earlier Perry Mason iterations to the best of my recollection.

          • I did enjoy these when they were on – very much of the feel of Murder, She Wrote, which I loved at the time too.

            Not sure how well it stands up now – can’t bring myself to watch a repeat…

          • The casts are good value (especially the leads) but they are very padded in the main and as for the fashions … Some of the scripts are actually quite intrioguing and some were written by Brian Clemens of The Avengers fame. Dean Hargrove was the main person in charge and he wenton to develop shows like Diagnosis: Murder, McBride, Jane Doe, Jake and the Fatman and of curse another very Perry Mason-ish legal drama, the frankly bizarre and hugely successful Matlock, which all look, sound and feel exactly the same with the same actors, writers, directors, music composers etc etc. Decent little mystery shows that are perhaps a bit slowly paced but which never offend on any level …

  3. Bacon Fry says:

    I haven’t seen it, but I’ve seen plenty of Curtiz’s other directorial efforts and quite agree he’s been unfairly overlooked. The impression I get is that this might be because he set out to do nothing but entertain, offering slickly made, nicely paced films that didn’t try to say too much about the human condition. The Adventures of Robin Hood is one of my all-time favourites for this reason – just pure entertainment.

    • Thanks for the comments Mike, much appreciated. I think Curtiz was more of an individualist that he is often given credit for, though it is clear that he needed the supprt of a studio in which to work and was not comfortable with the kind of independence that directors like Huston, Welles and Wyler thrived on. At Warners he was often matched by their anti-authoritarian outlook and often downbeat stories, which suited his personality and an often ruthless and unsentimental approach to stories and characters. But his work is much more distictive that of most of his more anonymous contemporaries like say Roy del Ruth, Lloyd Bacon or Mervyn LeRoy. Along with his trademark cynicism though there is much warmth in some of his finest films like The Breaking Point for instance – together with the fact that his films are always so visually impressive, watching his output always makes me surprised that he isn’t better-known. Althogh he may very well have been amongst the very best of the studio directors (including the likes of Hathaway and Walsh), you have to accept that he was by this stage of his very long career a ‘studio director’ with all that that entailed: he didn’t have final cut and often wondered from one assignment to the next once he finished work. But it is also clear that when working in harmony with his producer he had a lot of input, as in the case of films like Angels with Dirty Faces, The Sea Wolf and Mildred Pierce he made films as rich as nuanced as those of any of his contemporaries. Doesn’t take much to get me raving about Curtiz, does it ..?

  4. Colin says:

    Never seen this one, or any of the WB Perry Mason films for that matter. Actually, when I think of Warren William I’m reminded of The Lone Wolf movies that ran on Irish TV when I was a kid back around 1980 or 1981.

    The Mason character is a puzzling one for me. As you say, he remains something of a cipher in the books, and I find that problematic. I have a whole bunch of the books (maybe 20 or so titles) that I picked up cheap second hand, but I’ve only read about 4 or 5 of them. And the reason for that is the poor characterization. This movie sounds interesting since it seems like it turns Mason into a real person – even the TV series struggled with that aspect.

    Why does Curtiz remain underrated? I have a hunch it comes down to two things: 1) he was a studio professional churning out an extraordinary number of movies in the busiest years. 2) he worked extensively in genres that don’t seem to attract as much critical acclaim – gangster films, swashbucklers and westerns. Of course, made movies in just about every conceivable genre but versatility is sometimes (often?) regarded with suspicion in critical circles.

    • Hi Colin – yes, I remember those Channel 4 screenings of the Lone Wolf films – wonderful times. You are right that Mason is almost completely lacking in character description in Garner’s work – and personality frankly. The books in the 30s are much more in the hardboiled tradition and much livelier and more exciting. The movies seem to be online and are definitely worth a look (not just the Curtiz title – Howling Dog is also great fun, co-starring Nancy Astor). They did get a lot duller later on, and the TV show, despite the good cast, did get awfully formulaic very fast. Curtiz was a really fine craftsman but I suppose his own personality just didn’t come through enough because he was such a workhorse probably as you say, slipping from one genre to the next with such ease.

      • Colin says:

        Cheers, I think a fair number of the books I have are from later on, although I *think* I have a smattering of the early ones too – I should give those a try I guess.

        Going back to Curtiz, I think he’s seen a bit like Hathaway i.e. a solid studio pro but not a distinctive individualist. Personally, I think he was a better director than Hathaway (who I like a lot BTW) and more stylish. Maybe Raoul Walsh is a better comparison, although Walsh’s critical stock has risen more in recent years.

        • I agree with you completely Colin (not for the first time) about Curtiz. I like Hathaway and Walsh and they were able to get co-opted into the earlier auterist debates of the 60s, not least because they lived so much longer (or rather, died later). But I prefer his work, which was also visually much more stimulating, which is not to belittle the work of these fine directors (or other similar talents like Victor Fleming) – is William Wellman, while a more personal filmmaker, a fair name to compare him to in temrs of approach and accomplishment?

          • Colin says:

            That’s an interesting thought. Maybe. There’s certainly the versatility and mastery of multiple genres there, not to mention a visual flair. The biggest difference I see though is that Wellman tended to stamp his own imprint firmly on the pictures he made. You were never in doubt that you were watching a Wellman film, while Curtiz had a tendency (though not always of course) to conform much more closely to the house style of the studio.

          • You’re probably right (did you get the third TCM pre-code box which focussed exclusively on Wellman? Wonderful stuff). I suppose I was thinking of the fact that Wellmann also took on plenty of assignments at Warners in several genres – but yes, he was given more latitude to make personal projects, especially his miltitary/aviation subjects and perhaps he had more to say on a personal level. He was almost certainly more respected as an artist than Curtiz would have been. Somerset Maugham once concluded that he was in the top level of the second rank of authors. If we have a tree of Hollywood diectors with the likes of Ford, Wilder, Capra, Wyler and Hitchcock at the top, then maybe Curtiz and Walsh (and Fleming) would be in the middle of the second rank, probably just below more personal filmmakers like Lang, Borzage, Cukor and Wellmann if we take an auteurist point of view. On the other hand, for sheer variety, handling of stars (Bogart, Bette Davis, Bacall, Cagney, Flynn, Kirk Douglas, John Garfield, Bing Crosby, Spencer Tracy, Edward G. Robinson, Joan crawford, John Garfield, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant et al) and the smoothness of his style and his abilty to create stylish compisitions in almost any genre, I just have to take my hat off time and again. Can’t imagine being able to just do a Top 10 of his films – there are so many to choose from! A short list would have to include: Casablanca, Angels with Dirty Faces, Mildred Pierce, The Breaking Point, Adventures of Robin Hood,20,000 Years in Sing Sing, Mystery of the Wax Museum, Life with Father, The Kennel Murder Case,The Sea Hawk, Four Daughters, Yankee Doodle Dandy; (damn, that’s twelve already …)

          • Colin says:

            Absolutely, the breadth of his work is amazing. Even his lesser known films have a lot to recommend them, Flamingo Road is incredibly stylish and The Unsuspected is a real gem that almost no-one knows about. I like his later stuff too – We’re No Angels is a wonderful piece of Xmas fluff that always makes me smile and feel good. And I’m really looking forward to getting the upcoming The Hangman, which is first rate and a movie I haven’t seen in a few years now.

          • The Blu-ray release of The Hangman is very welcome. And The Unbsuspected is absolutely superb, especially that extraordinary opening section gliding from one character to the next via the radio broadcast, though one wishes that Curtiz could have got bigger names to make the supposed ‘heroes’ of the story a bit less anodyne – Rains is wonderful but no one gets a look in which is a real shame and may be why it is a bit of a forgotten movie.

          • Colin says:

            True. Much as I like Claude Rains, his name’s just not a big enough draw for most people to keep the movie in the public consciousness.

          • And it is a bit weird as a film – initially it’s supposed to be a whodunnit and yet in the reflection at the beginning you can clearly see who the villain is! I think this was the first of the few films made by Curtiz when he founded his own production company with the help of Warners, apparently to help create a financial nest egg for him – but I think after 2 or 3 films the venture was wound up as Curtiz was pretty bad at handling his own financial affairs and the films themselves didn’t do as well financially as his straight assignments for the studio, like Flamingo Road (which apparently did very well on the back of a pretty steamy advertising campaign).

  5. p881 says:

    I only knew in a vague sense that these films existed. Raymond Burr will always be Perry Mason to me. Not that I remember it all that distinctly.

    • Hi Patti – I know exactly what you mean as the TV show of the 50s and 60s (and the later TV movies too) are indelibly burned into my memory as a general concept and yet it is very hard to think of any one particular episode as a single narrative entity. But then it did seem to be on for ever and ever. Intriguingly, when the novel was adapted for the Burr show, the script was by hardboiled legend Jonathan Latimer, the first of over thirty he wrote the series. That the 1930s movie adaptations are so different from the TV versions is part of the appeal, equally good in their own different ways.

      • One thing I always liked about the RB version was that so many of the characters had a hint (or more) of sleaze in them. Many of the women seemed to smoulder. And with most of the characters, sleaze, smoulder or not, there’s something going on with them beneath the surface. Very 50s. Strangely enough, there’s nothing going on beneath Perry, Paul, and Della. But Hamilton Burger (Please tell me Gardner made a joke of that!). Willilam Talman who played the hapless DA who never won a case against Perry, was busted by the police at a party naked and smoking pot. As a result, he was fired from the show. My mother always called him a hop head (as she did Robert Mitchum). To this day I wonder why Talman had his clothes off. Weed normally doesn’t do that to people.

        • I’ll have to take your word about the nudist potential of pot (or lack thereof), though Talman did apparently get some real support from his colleagues and did go back eventually, which always seemed to support the stories that the cast and crew got along extremely well. Just before his death Talman made a powerful anti-smoking Public Service film for the American Cancer Society, which I watched the other day – it is hard to sit through, knowing that th eman is only a short while away from death, but very brave.

  6. I’m only familiar with the PERRY MASON TV series. I’ll have to seek out these movies. You make them sound enticing!

    • Thanks very much George – I certainly think the ones with Warren William are breezy fun in the screwball mystery tradition. First saw them decades ago on TCM and they do seem to be turning up on YouTube though I can’t believe it’s legal …

  7. Randy Johnson says:

    The Howling Dog is the only one of these early films I’ve seen and I posted on it one Tuesday. I agree the Monte Markham was bad, though I never saw but a handful before I gave it up. I have most of the books, though not read all of them. You know how it goes. Always something new to read, always more than I can read. The reader’s disease. I have it in the worst way.

    • Cheers Randy – I’ll look that one up (here it is). I feel your pain Randy – but then, to misquote Harlan Ellison’s Paladin of the Lost Hour, “Who’d want a shelf full of books you’d already read?” Of course, he meant the opposite … I really went through a phase in my teens were I was buying a new Mason novel every week for I don’t know how long, but I can remember very few of the details. And that just isn’t true for a lot of the other authors I was reading at the time, so …

  8. michael says:

    The Perry Mason TV Movies with Raymond Burr are shown often on Starz’s cable channel Encore Suspense.

    The TV series with Burr were at its best when Perry was in the courtroom and during the last five minutes when you spent time with the characters. As the show got older, the time outside the courtroom and without Perry increased as more time was spent developing the suspects and mystery. I find when watching it (Hallmark cable channel shows it during the day) I ignore it until Perry gets to the courtroom where the fun really began.

    As for Michael Curtiz. One reason for the neglect is in some of his best films (“Adventure of Robin Hood” and “Casablanca”) he was overshadowed by the characters and stars.

    • Hi Michael, thanks for that. I know what you mean with regards to the TV shows, especially as less and less time seemed to be spent with the principal actors. Of course nowadays it seems weird that we don’t have constant soap subplots knitting seasons together with references to the private lives but it would have been nice to be given a little bit more.

      The movies made by Curtiz are definitely studio pictures that privilege story and stars, no question and you never feel, as you might with Hitchcock, that they are subordinate to his ‘vision’. On the other hand, I don’t think William Wyler or John Ford could have made a better movie that Curtiz made of Casablanca, which as has been pointed out several times, given the total chaos in which it was produced, shows above all else how important the instincts of a great director at the top of his game can be – he really earned the Oscar he got for that film.

  9. Yvette says:

    Oh, I am so going to watch this on youtube. I love Warren William! Thanks for bringing this and other Perry Mason movies to my attention. :) I’d vaguely heard of them but I don’t think I’d ever realized that Warren William was in ‘em. Or if I did, it flew straight out of my old lady memory. Ha!
    Ricardo Cortez? Love him too. :)

    Donald Woods is one of those actors who, unfortunately, always looks on the verge of hysteria over something or other.

    • Hi Yvette – You are so right about Woods! He is very good as the weak-willed husband in Curious Bride but is clearly much too weak to convince as Mason. Really hope you enjoy these movies – William is bloody marvelous in them!

  10. Hi Sergio, I tried posting my comment from office for the past two days but I kept getting a reload error though I didn’t have the same problem with Blogger. So I am posting it from home…

    Like Puzzle Doctor, I thought only Raymond Burr had played Perry Mason. That’s mainly because I never bothered to find out if anyone else, like Warren William, had played him before. I should have known that Mason’s character is a lot like Holmes and Poirot/Marple with more than one actor bringing him to life on screen. I saw a few of the Raymond Burr serials on Indian television but I didn’t like his appearance, especially the beard, for I have always pictured Mason, whose character as you say “is barely described in the books,” without one. And now we might have Robert Downey Jr. in the defence attorney’s role — I’m not sure I like that either considering that he didn’t fit the character of Tony Stark/Iron Man. Films aside, I went through a Perry Mason phase in college when I read (nearly) all the books by ESG. Maybe, that’s why I didn’t pay much attention to his films. The novels kept you hooked though, especially the courtroom battles with Hamilton Burger.

    • Hi Prashant, very sorry to hear that you were having problems posting. Usually it’s the other way around for me as WordPress and blogger just don’t seem to speak the same language! Actually, Burr only had the beard in the later reunion TV-Movies from the 80s and 90 and was clean shaven in the heyday of the show in the 50s and 60s. I would love to see what would happen with a big budget adaptation – and the Robert Downey Jr devil-may-care persona seems closer in spirit to that of William than Burr frankly, so could be fun (or not if you don;t like him – I loved his Tony Stark).

      Thanks very much for all the effort of posting – hope it’s not so tough next time!!

  11. John says:

    Well I’m late to the party on this one. What a flurry of comments!

    William is too much of a dandy for me to accept as Mason. Perry Mason with a carnation boutonniere? No way! William played some private eye in a movie I saw a while back and he was pretty good. Was he Sam Spade in an early version of The Maltese Falcon? Satan Met a Lady, I think. It’s the only movie I can recall him in. But Mason in the books is a tough guy not an urbane sophisticate. If I were a casting director back then I’d go for someone like Dana Andrews or if it was a B movie someone like Mark Stevens. We all see characters so differnetly when we’re reading. It’s all very subjective, isn’t it?

    Though everyone knows Raymond Burr as Mason he doesn’t fit the bill for me either. When he was younger Burr played nothing but tough bad guys and he had life in his performances. As Mason he’s so stoic and colorless until he starts in on his courttroom accusations then he bursts into life. Plus he’s completely lacking in sex appeal. When I watched the TV version of …VELVET CLAWS with Patricia Barry as the femme fatale trying to win over Mason with her alluring looks and intensely sexual posturing I couldn’t believe for a mintue Raymond Burr as Mason was attracted to her. I think know that I know Burr was gay it’s really hard for me to suspend my disbelief. Robert Downey Jr will be great as Gardner’s Mason. He’s very close to how I see Perry Mason and as Gardner described him. Let’s hope the new film sticks to the 30s and isn’t updated.

    • And thank you for joining us John here at our Perry Mason salon, you are always welcome … (blimey, that sounded a bit like The Shining!) Warren William was in a bunch of great movies in the early 30s such as Goldiggers of 1933, the Claudette Colbert versions of Imitation of Life and Cleopatra and after replacing William Powell as Philo Vance played sort of Sam Spade in Satan which was 5 years after Ricardo Cortez did an excellent job in Warner Bros’ first stab at adapting that great Hammett novel. It’s a dumb movie but definitely fun if you don’t mind the way the novel is completely bent out of shape and turned into a screwball mystery. In a way I feel the same here – it’s not really the Mason of the books, but to me it does feel a bit closer than the TV series. It would be great if they went the period route with the new movie, I agree – my guess is that it will depend with what happens with Depp’s remake of The Thin Man, which may be nearer to actually getting made.

      Like you, I retrospectively found Burr more interesting as Mason once I knew he was gay and yet it clearly has no impact on screen because the rather bland and colourless approach seems to have been a production decision – one of the DVDs has some intriguing screen tests in which Burr and William Hopper both did detailed screen tests as Mason, Drake and Burger. There’s a clip online here). The actress playing Della in furs is really something else!)

  12. Colin says:

    I went strolling round the second-hand bookstores in Athens today, on a truly glorious spring day, and managed to pick up a very good old Penguin paperback of this title – along with a Pan edition of The Case of the Terrified Typist, Le Carre’s A Small Town in Germany, Rex Stout’s Three Men Out and Dorothy B Hughes’ Ride the Pink Horse, all for the princely sum of 4.50 euro!

    • Wow – I am very envious – here in the UK it is mostly raining and I am 50 miles away from an even halfway decent second-hand bookshop! Well done – love to know what you make of them all. I’ve never read the Hughes, only seen the Montgomery movie adaptation.

  13. Pingback: The Perry Mason movies (1934-37) | Tipping My Fedora

  14. Pingback: THE CASE OF THE LUCKY LEGS (1934) by Erle Stanley Gardner | Tipping My Fedora

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