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Thursday, January 07, 2016

Perry Mason Back On The Job

Fun Fact: "Hawkshaw" as Slang For a Detective Had Its Birth in an 1863 Play Where a Sleuth Character Went By That Name

The Case Of The Curious Bride (1935) Joins WB "Crime Club"

Would You Stay For
Whole Of This Show?
I hesitate to call this a programmer, even though that's what it is. Something so expertly done should bear more distinctive name, as there's no shorting any programmer out of 30's Warner. Virtually all their precodes were, after all, labeled thus. The term applied to product sat among units of a "balanced program" by venues that knew it needed more than one attraction to wrest coin from Depression-whacked patronage. Double-features would eventually serve that purpose, "two (features) for one" being exit cue for many of shorts once spice of shows (producer Hal Roach would, in fact, stop making them). Note at left the crowded bill wherein The Case Of The Curious Bride comes up last. For this offering at least, live portions were sold as most compelling, each of names known from movies, radio, or vaudeville, and all ranking as "star" attractions. Also note celebration of Keith's fifty-second year as a vaude force, the firm a colossus among bookers since the 1880's. Many claim vaudeville to have died by the 30's, but ads such as here put the lie, or at least the overstatement, to that. Fact is, stage acts played beside pics well into the 50's, at fewer locales admittedly, but backstage lights would stay lit for longer than many have since presumed.

Flynn Gets a Neat Flashback at Bride's Finish, and His Character Is Talked About All Through The Pic, So No Wonder He Made Impression

I got out Warner Archive's DVD of The Case Of The Curious Bride last week after a collector-friend asked an Errol Flynn-related question that needed disc peruse. Yes, Errol's in it, first as a corpse under a sheet, then as combatant and ultimate murder victim in Bride's last reel dénouement. He gets no dialogue, but the profile is unmistakable 'neath that sheet, and starting-out Errol is afforded moody close-ups for a vigorous brawl engaged at the finish. Did director Michael Curtiz lend fledgling Flynn a hand with knowledge this was a star in the making? Low-lit showdown favors the newcomer and gives EF a socko slow death and dramatic reaction to same that I'll bet drew letters to Burbank as in "Who's the new face"? His highlight in The Case Of The Curious Bride likely had much to do with Warner dice rolled for Captain Blood. Call it a screen test shared with the public, not uncommon practice among studios gauging public interest in fresh ware.

And what of The Case Of The Curious Bride otherwise? As said, it's expert in all ways, not least for Curtiz in charge. What a master at composition he was. Opener reel finds Warren William's Perry Mason and team buying live crabs from a street vendor, then followed via intricate track-shot through a crowded restaurant and into rear kitchen area, where Mason takes over as chef amidst much movement and foreground activity. All this could and would be broken up and dully served by lesser talent. From Curtiz, it's exhilarating. I'm more and more of opinion that he was the best of all studio-contract directors. There's a bio coming soon by Alan K. Rode, which I put at top of anticipatory list. Rode did a fine book on Charles McGraw, is recognized expert on film noir, and all-round noted historian. His Curtiz volume should be definitive word on the director. Author website has further info. The Case Of The Curious Bride meanwhile can be had in a Warner Archive Mason set with all others of the series, a variable lot it's true (Curious Bride the only one helmed by Curtiz), but all worthwhile and at least enjoyable for one reason or other.

An update and more images for The Black Watch HERE.


Blogger Reg Hartt said...

My mother would within five minutes of the Raymond Burr Perry Mason TV show declare whodunnit. She was never wrong. As a result I am fascinated by all things Perry Mason. Thanks. Will take a look at this.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Earl Stanley Gardner reportedly hated the six Warners films based on his books... I love 'em! CURIOUS BRIDE is certainly the best directed of the bunch, but I'd argue all of them are worthwhile. Lots of liberties were taken with the characters, but isn't it interesting that this was one mystery movie series that based all its screenplays on actual books? The 30's films were, of course, taken from the earliest novels when Mason's ethics are truly dubious and the features capture some of that. Warren William was a great choice for this slightly sleazy rendition of the character, although I'd say Ricardo Cortez was an even better fit. We had to wait until the last of the series, CASE OF THE STUTTERING BISHOP for a more faithful representation of all the supporting characters (Della Street, Paul Drake and Hamilton Burger) but by this time Mason himself was miscast (Donald Woods.) That DVD set is great, by the way, well worth the investment.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

I love the Warren William films, where Mason is unabashedly a gleeful shyster, and his relationship with Della is pretty frisky (in one she indicates they were grappling on the floor earlier). Earl Stanley Gardner was reportedly very unhappy; guessing it wasn't just the code that made the post-William Masons so blandly respectable.

In an interview on one of the television series DVDs, Barbara Hale says that she leaned on Mason's desk in one scene, and Gardner was emphatic that Della would not do something so disrespectful.

Trivium: In one of the films Mason goes backstage at a burlesque show, and the music is a song from "What, No Men?", the gloriously mad El Brendel short.

2:46 PM  

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