Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… The Cat And The Canary (1939)

Next up from 1939, we have the more Halloween appropriate film The Cat And The Canary starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard.

Lawyer Crosby (George Zucco) comes out to the isolated mansion of the late Cyrus Norman. There, he is to read Cyrus’s will to his potential heirs, including Wally Campbell (Bob Hope), Joyce Norman (Paulette Goddard), Fred Blythe (John Beal), Charlie Wilder (Douglass Montgomery), Aunt Susan (Elizabeth Patterson) and Cicily (Nydia Westman). According to the will, Joyce is to inherit everything, unless she dies or goes insane in a short period of time (at which point everything would go to the second heir, whose name was being kept hidden in a second envelope). Since the mansion is rather isolated in the swamps, with no way for anybody to get away that night, they are all given rooms to spend the night in. Soon, some rather spooky things start happening, particularly around Joyce, including Crosby disappearing while he was trying to warn Joyce. While all the remaining men volunteer to help Joyce, Wally in particular helps her out. The two of them manage to find a valuable necklace that Cyrus had left for Joyce, but it ends up disappearing. Wally does his best to try and find out who is behind everything going on, as he cares for Joyce, but can he stop the other heir before Joyce is driven crazy with fear?

This is the third filmed version of the story, following a silent film from 1927, which shared the same name, and a talkie from 1930 called The Cat Creeps. As best as I can tell, the 1939 film is the movie that established Bob Hope as a major movie star, allowing him to really make use of the screen persona that he would become known for. Admittedly, I wouldn’t *quite* call it fully formed yet, considering the lack of quips around the lawyer named Crosby. Had this movie been made a few years later, I can’t help but think he would certainly have been using the opportunity to make fun of Bing Crosby. But, this was made in 1939, nearly a year before he would first work with Bing onscreen (not to mention the fact that Crosby was the character’s name in the previous versions as well, so it was hardly anything aimed at Bing himself).

Honestly, though, Bob Hope is the main reason that this film is considered a comedy. The rest of the cast otherwise seem to play it straight, as if it was otherwise a dark house type of movie. Gale Sondergaard plays the creepy house caretaker Miss Lu, generally in tune with the “spirits” that are haunting the place, and constantly watching everyone from the sidelines (and creeping you out in the process). In some respects, Bob Hope’s character almost seems to be an audience member that’s been dropped into the movie. Since his character is supposed to be an actor, he seems to have some idea of what’s going to happen (based on many plays and such that he had done), accurately predicting that Joyce would be the heir. Obviously, his so-called “knowledge” doesn’t keep him from being scared, or knowing everything that’s going to happen right from the start, but it does help. However you want to look at it, though, his comedy works, and this is a fun movie to watch any time of the year (but especially around Halloween)! Highly recommended!

This movie is available on DVD from Universal Studios either individually or as part of several different multi-film sets, and is one hour, fourteen minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… The Young In Heart (1938)

Here’s a fun little movie: the 1938 comedy The Young In Heart, starring Janet Gaynor, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Paulette Goddard, Roland Young and Billie Burke.

In this movie, we follow the Carletons, a family of con artists. They are caught as the son, Richard (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) prepares to marry into a rich family, and are forced to leave on a train. On the train, they meet Miss Ellen Fortune, a lonely old lady. When the train crashes, they save her, and she offers them her home as long as they are willing to stay. Hoping that she will include them in her will, they decide to act like the people she believes them to be, so Richard and his father, Col. Carleton (Roland Young) both reluctantly get jobs. Of course, the question becomes, whether it is all an act, or have they really changed, becoming better people?

To be fair, calling this movie a comedy isn’t quite accurate. It does have elements of comedy, yes, but it rarely focuses in on them enough that you’re constantly laughing (not necessarily a bad thing). The movie does have its sadder moments as well, allowing for some balance. The movie really does focus in on this family, and allows us to see that they are not completely bad, and are indeed capable of changing, especially when given a chance.

When this movie was originally announced for release on Blu-ray and DVD, it was one I had never heard of. And, quite frankly, I had little to no interest in it. However, I then came off of seeing actress Paulette Goddard in both Modern Times and The Great Dictator, along with a few of her other movies I had seen over the years, so I decided to try this movie because of her. Much to my surprise, in spite of being third-billed and fairly prominent in the posters I have seen, she actually doesn’t have that much of a part, not really appearing until about halfway through the movie, and even then, she doesn’t really do much outside of her scenes with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Honestly, I hadn’t even realized at first that she was only just becoming a bigger star, as a result of being in Modern Times. Still, I did enjoy her performance in this movie (and everyone else’s, too, including Billie Burke as the ever daffy Marmy). So, I do recommend this movie. Maybe it’s only worth renting for most, but it is one I enjoy just the same, so I would at least suggest trying this movie if you get the chance!

The movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber and is one hour, thirty-one minutes.

My Rating: 7/10

Audience Rating:

https://www.amazon.com/Young-Heart-Blu-ray-Janet-Gaynor/dp/B077687NF9/ref=as_li_ss_tl?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1549032661&sr=1-1&keywords=the+young+in+heart&linkCode=ll1&tag=thoughtsfr066-20&linkId=42d4828a45a0bfcfdbccc03def22aa6a&language=en_US