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Oliver Lane is "The Solitaire Man," a renowned jewel thief who is ready to retire and marry Helen, his partner in crime and his one true love. Their plans are shattered when another member of their gang, Bascom, walks in with a stolen necklace. Helen will not marry Oliver until the necklace is returned. Oliver's attempt to return the jewels later place the whole gang under suspicion for the theft and for the murder of a Scotland Yard inspector. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <DanNGM@aol.com>
Worthwhile if only to see Mary Boland & May Robson
THE SOLITAIRE MAN is a superb example of how MGM was head and shoulders above the other studios during this era - quite obviously a "B" movie, barely running an hour, it nevertheless boasts superior actors (several of them major film names) and an elegant polish that most other studios wouldn't have bothered with for a programmer.
Herbert Marshall stars as the leader of a small "family" of con artists, when a faux son steals a priceless necklace Marshall attempts to return it, knowing the protégé would be the obvious suspect when it is noticed missing. While he is in the home attempting to put the jewels back in the safe, another burglar breaks into the home and was spotted by a patrolling policeman. The second burglar kills the inspector which Marshall witnesses but can't see the murderer. Later as he attempts to flee the country with his accomplishes on a small plane, secrets and double-crosses are revealed during the long flight.
This comic crime-mystery is mainly worthwhile for the sole chance to see two of the 1930's greatest character actresses, Mary Boland and May Robson, together in the same film. These ladies, with Edna May Oliver, were the queen bees of character players of the era along with superstar Marie Dressler. Miss Boland is second-billed but doesn't show up until the film is almost half over, she quickly earns her star billing with a delicious turn as a brassy rich American who finds herself in unusual circumstances. Miss Boland is hilarious as always but here voicing her role in a boorish unsophisticated loud drawl rather than her normal dizzy musical tones. It's a superb characterization and she is matched by that wonderful septuagenarian May Robson as a presumably cultured society woman who is pretty blunt and earthy herself.
Jack Conway, one of MGM's major directors, does a fine job here with this limited material and when the second half-hour is almost completely set inside a small airplane passengers area it's scarcely noticed given the fine direction and acting. The entire cast is quite good and it's intriguing to see Marshall, Miss Robson, and Elizabeth Allen - all British or Australian - not cast as Americans as they usually were in Hollywood films. This little film is fairly predictable in it's denouement but with a fine cast, sharp direction, and some good wisecracks, it's well worth your time.
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