Thursday, September 15, 2005

Lady Sleuths of the Silver Screen - Sarah Keate

Lady sleuths in movies date back to the silent era of Hollywood.
D.W. Griffith, himself, made a silent--and definitely unauthorized!--version of Mary Roberts Rinehart's Broadway play, The Bat.
Ms. Rinehart wasn't the only American writer whose works made the transition to the silver screen.
Mignon Eberhart has not only been called Rinehart's successor but America's Agatha Christie.
At least four of her books have been made into movies, usually with her amateur sleuth, nurse Sarah Keate. Her first book, The Patient in Room 18, was published in 1929 and ironically the seventh movie made from Eberhart's novels!
While the Patient Slept (1930) was her second novel but the first Sarah Keate mystery to be made into a movie in 1935.
Our nurse/sleuth was described by Eberhart as 40ish, a spinster and red haired with a weak spot in her heart for Detective Lance O'Leary. I don't remember ever reading his age but he's definitely younger!
In While the Patient Slept, Nurse Sarah Keate is hired to take care of old Mr. Federie, who is out like a light during the movie. The plot of greedy relatives who each have reasons to see him pretty much follows the novel.
Nurse Keate is stuck with not only sneaky relatives but disappearing evidence and . . . dare I say it so close to Halloween?! . . . a possible ghost or two!
Fortunately, Aline MacMahon was cast as Sarah Keate because she's an excellent actress who fits the role. The rest of the cast are excellent character actors who help bring a suspensefull novel to the screen, except . . . .
There is no way to put this but . . . while Guy Kibbee is a great foil as Lance O'Leary for MacMahon's Keate, he's way over the hill as the police detective.
Over all, Maven not only rates this mystery as a "mustsee" but as a "musthave." It's not only an old-dark-house type of movie but one that is perfect for those of us who love 'em with cold rainy weather!
So keep an eye out at Turner Classic Movies for the next time they show this classic from the Golden Era of Hollywood!

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