When the owner of the New York Globe-Leader dies without making a will, the paper is inherited by his only living relative, an "old maid schoolteacher" from Nebraska. Martha Aldrich, along ... See full summary »
George B. Seitz
Edna May Oliver,
The body of unscrupulous stockbroker Gerald Parker suddenly appears in the penguin tank at the aquarium. Naturally, suspicion falls on his wife and her boyfriend, who were present. Inspector Piper investigates with the unsolicited aid of teacher Hildegard Withers, a witness who's taken an interest in the case; Piper develops a grudging respect for Miss Withers' acumen (and sharp tongue), as they search among the red herrings for the aquarium killer... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
The telephone operator (Rochelle Hudson) calls Hildegarde Withers (Edna May Oliver) "Lydia Pinkham." The reference is to the woman who brewed alcohol-based elixirs touted as a "women's tonic" said to relieve menstrual and menopausal pains. See more »
The boom's shadow appears on a column behind Edna Mae Oliver when Miss Withers is looking through the aquarium at night. See more »
Entertaining mystery boosted by Oliver and Gleason chemistry
In the 1930s, RKO produced a series of mysteries concerning the detective activities of schoolteacher Hildegarde Withers. Viewing the first film, THE PENGUIN POOL MURDER, one can understand why the series immediately took off. The mystery itself is well constructed and engrossing. Director George Archainbaud's presentation of the murder victim's discovery is imaginative. In an aquarium, a boy discovers a penguin acting strangely, as if encountering an intruder. The penguin's behavior is immediately explained when a corpse suddenly plunges into the tank! The scenario, based on a Stuart Palmer novel, features some intriguing red herrings with plausible motives for the murder. By the time the killer is revealed, it is fairly obvious who the culprit is, but the mystery is resolved in a clever and credible manner.
THE PENGUIN POOL MURDER is especially worthwhile due to its spirited lead performances. As Withers, Edna May Oliver is drolly acerbic, tartly disdaining the police's ineffectual work as she proceeds to solve the case. As Police Inspector Oscar Piper, James Gleason blusters amusingly, determined to find the killer without Withers' help. Oliver and Gleason truly sparkle in their relationship. Initially, they're cagey of each other but an underlying mutual affection quickly develops. Piper and Withers continue to argue about the case throughout the picture but in an amiable manner that precludes the possibility of mutual ill will. Even if the mystery becomes too familiar to be suspenseful upon repeated viewings, THE PENGUIN POOL MURDER can still be savored due to Oliver and Gleason's marvelous chemistry.
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