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Erle Stanley Gardner was a lawyer of enormous energy with many outside interests, including writing fiction which he undertook under several names as well as his own. After 20 years in the legal profession and nearly as long as a pulp writer, he created his Perry Mason alter ego. In these zippy thrillers Perry is much more smooth and upmarket than he was in the fairly hardboiled books Gardner was writing at the time for starters — also, the films quite often spent little or no time in the courtroom, which must have rankled a bit too, though the first Mason book The Case of the Velvet Claws is also unusual in the canon for not having any courtroom scenes.
The Case of the Howling Dog The series begins with what was then the newest tale — indeed, it was so new that it had only been serialised in magazine form and not yet published between hard covers. Warren William, who had just taken over playing Philo Vance from William Powell, makes a great debut as Mason driving this slick entertainment, notable for sprightly direction from Alan Crosland with some very mobile camerawork; the presence of Mary Astor who keeps us guessing as to whether she is the killer or not; and the complete absence of a musical score not uncommon in early talkies.
It remains my favourite of the series though all of the films have something to offer. This would be the last of the series to be afforded A status by the studio …. They had started the series with high hopes and the first three pictures are all 8-reel A-pictures with directors and casts taken from the top-tier of the studio rank and file. But on the evidence of The Case of the Velvet Claws it seems that the returns must have been a proved disappointing as the films got downgraded to B-movies. Running times got cut down by about 15 minutes each to last about an hour or so on the bottom half of the double bill.
Eddie Acuff however takes over from Allen Jenkins as Drake. This film marked a sad end to the career of director Alan Crosland, who began production on the film but after several days of filming was badly injured in a car crash on 10 July , dying six days later William C. McGann completed the film. The Case of the Stuttering Bishop Perry and Della get new faces again for the sixth and final entry in the series, with Donald Woods, who in Curious Bride had played the weasel second husband of Rhoda, as the lawyer and the elegant Ann Dvorak as his faithful secretary.
Joseph Crehan was the new Drake for a case involving a complex inheritance and inevitably murder too. Understandably, this film has not been included in the new DVD set! Sergio — Thanks as ever for your perspective. And honestly, his legal strategies are part of what make that character fascinating.
I think it would rankle in me not to see them as much on film. Thanks Margot.
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Certainly by the time they made the second one they were going out of their way to emulate the success of William Powell in The Thin Man , so the style got nearer to the screwball mystery, though of course this makes perfect sense since the Hammet adaptation always felt much more like a fast-paced Warner movie than the product of opulent MGM — Powell had in fact just jumped ship from one studio to the other so that probably had somethign to do with it … Interesting to note how thr Thin Man films got more and more glossy and closer to the Metro style as they progress.
Sergio, there was talk of some Archive sets getting issued as pressed discs. Is that the case with these movies? Which is a crying shame but they have never really been released legitimately on video as far as I know. I would have thought at least a limited run of such titles would still be profitable enough. This was a case of me hearing about the films being finally released and deciding to cheerlead in advance of arrrival! I hope to have nice things to say eventuallly ….
Hey, the news itself is very welcome. Up to snuff? They are really great fun Patti, especially if you like s mystery thrillers in that fast-paced, wise-cracking Warners Bros style — the tone is radically different from the more famous TV show.
Ricardo Cortez seems utterly wrong for Mason just as he was not so right for Spade. Getting off topic — better stop…. Your analogy to The Thin Man movies is apt. But for Mason it was all wrong. At least the plot remained intact — slightly risque bathtub murder and all. Just preparing a post on Blake Edwards and his various expenditions in the crime and mystery genre actually ….
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Just saw it for the first time a few months ago. Amazingly well done. The opening sequence alone is stunning. The scene in the mannequin studio, too — one of a kind in cinema history.
MATT DALY’S SLIDE
Did he do more crime? Peter Gunn of course! Looking forward to your post. I was particularly fascinated by the DVD set of The Maltese Falcon that had highly contrasting adaptations of the Hammett novel made in , and — all valid, all fascinating.
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