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William A. Wellman
A young American girl visits Paris accompanied by her fiancee and her wealthy uncle. There she meets and is romanced by a worldly novelist; what she doesn't know is that he is a blackmailer who is using her to get to her uncle.
A beautiful showgirl, name "the Canary" is a scheming nightclub singer. Blackmailing is her game and with that she ends up dead. But who killed "the Canary". All the suspects knew and were used by her and everyone had a motive to see her dead. The only witness to the crime has also been 'rubbed out'. Only one man, the keen, fascinating, debonair detective Philo Vance, would be able to figure out who is the killer. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Paramount bought the rights to the first 3 S.S. Van Dine mysteries (The Benson Murder Case, The Canary Murder Case and The Greene Murder Case) as a package deal in 1928, filming the second effort first. MGM would outbid the studio for the 4th Philo Vance best-seller, The Bishop Murder Case (1930). See more »
When Paramount decided to re-make their unreleased silent, "The Canary Murder Case" as a talkie, they faced two problems. The first was that the title star, Louise Brooks, had accepted an offer to work in Germany and refused to return. The second was that director Mal St Clair had no knowledge of sound technique. And perhaps it's true too that he supported Miss Brooks' stand. She and Paramount had parted on bad terms because the studio refused to honor her contract. In any event, Frank Tuttle was engaged to direct the talkie.
In order to get around the Brooks problem, the studio wheeled in a double, Margaret Livingston. Not only did Miss Livingston dub the Canary's voice (in an atrocious Brooklyn accent yet!) but also substituted visually in back-to-the-camera long shots.
So what we have is a movie in which all the Brooks close-ups (in fact all the shots which show her face), plus at least one short clip in a hotel corridor and maybe the long shot of the dancing chorus in the theater (and perhaps the location snip of the speeding car), were directed by Mal St Clair, whereas the rest of the action was directed by Frank Tuttle. A major headache for the editor indeed, and he is to be commended for a sterling job of work under extremely difficult circumstances. The pace is odd, the cutting unrhythmical and even jarringly abrupt at times, but at least the narrative still makes sense.
Aside from Miss Livingston, the players do wonders with the not very convincing dialogue supplied by novelist S.S. Van Dine himself. Oddly, Eugene Palette copes best, giving a typically hearty impersonation of Sergeant Heath. On the other hand, Powell seems a little unsure of his character at this stage and is often content merely to rattle off his lines. The rest of the players are competent enough, if a little too theatrical at times, though comedian Ned Sparks seems miscast as a ruthless thug and Jean Arthur's fans are in for a considerable shock not only by the paucity of her part but by the most unattractive way she is presented and photographed.
All the same, the film comes across as more than a mere curiosity. It not only bolsters the Brooks legend, but, if nothing else, it also presents a murder mystery that is not only reasonably intriguing but ingeniously solved.
P.S. The actor who plays Sergeant Heath spells his name "Pallette", but IMDb's automatic spelling correcter refuses to acknowledge this.
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