Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Cat and the Canary

"The Cat and the Canary" (1939) was one of Bob Hope's best movies.
It showed him at his comic best while still being a darned good old-dark-house movie.
[Miss Maven must confess that she knew "whodunit" very early in the movie. She still rates it as a gottahave!]
Almost as good a movie is the silent version made in 1927.
The earlier version is definitely darker but that can be a drawback for some people, making it very hard to see.
Others might feel that it just makes the movie spookier.
Some of the shots are also an acting style we might now call stilted.
Not to mention interrupting the movie for the "titles" with either dialogue or descriptions.
That's the way they did it then and can take some getting used to.
(Gertrude Astor, as Cousin Cecily, who also appears in "Sherlock Holmes
and The Scarlet Claw" that was made the same year
as Bob Hope's "The Cat and The Canary." )
There is one delightful scene where Cousin Cecily (Gertrude Astor) and Aunt Susan (Flora Finch) are retiring for bed with Paul Jones (Creighton Hale) hiding underneath it.
One of the best shots in Hollywood history is from this version: The hall of the old house with the curtains billowing inwards.
You can just imagine someone sneaking around in the shadows, waiting for the next victim!
Martha Mattox skulks around as Mammy Pleasant to suit the heart of any old movie lover!
[Note: Martha Mattox is Caucasian so please do not send any Politically Correct emails to Miss Maven. Deal with it.]
The opening credits are great, too, with all the cobwebs and dust being wiped away. Miss Maven wishes that that idea had been used more often over the years.
(In front, left to right, are Douglass Montgomery, Paulette Goddard,
Bob Hope, Nydia Westman. In back are John Beal and Gale Sondergaard.)
Bob Hope's version had a very able cast to help him carry the 1939 movie off.
Paulette Goddard was his leading lady and managed one of the best scenes in her career in this film.
Her character of Joyce Norman tells everyone about a mysterious necklace snatched from her throat by a misshapened and hairy hand.
Goddard plays it well, giving it the proper hysteria when she realizes no one believes her but Hope.
This movie can be viewed as a "lighter" version of the earlier one in the sense of "not as serious."
Miss Maven prefers to think of it as near perfect as such things can get with the older film being downright oppressive on occasion.
[Miss Maven won't even think about the 1979 version.]
Miss Maven recommends both as mustsees but leans toward Bob Hope's as the gottahave version if you can only get one.
[SPOILER]
This have to be one of the ugliest and/or dumbest bad guys, monsters or whatever you want to call him that you'll ever see!

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