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An eccentric millionaire, unable to locate his only granddaughter, decides to divide his estate among a group of people less close to him: his niece and nephew, his attorney, his doctor, and his housekeeper. But complications and murder arise when two different women turn up, claiming to be the granddaughter. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wallace Ford up to his dimpled chin in magic and murder!
Greed is the key in Christy Cabanne's ONE FRIGHTENED NIGHT, which begins with the heirs of elderly Jasper Whyte (THE WIZARD OF OZ's Charley Grapewin) assembling to learn the division of his $5,000,000 estate. Among the expectant are Jasper's wastrel nephew Tom (Regis Toomey), flighty daughter Laura (Hedda Hopper, in DRACULA'S DAUGHTER the following year), ambitious son-in-law Arthur (Arthur Hohl), family doctor Denham (Lucien Littlefield) and scornful housekeeper Elvira (Rafaela Ottiano, later of Tod Browning's THE DEVIL-DOLL). The crotchety Jasper surprises his relations by promising them all $1,000,000, barring the return of wayward granddaughter Doris Waverly before midnight-- but come the witching hour, Jasper finds he must choose between two young women claiming to be the grown up Doris, one demure and polite (Evalyn Knapp) and the other (Mary Carlisle, later in DEAD MEN WALK) sharp-tongued and accompanied by pesky variety magician The Great Luvalle (Wallace Ford, billed as Wally). When one of the Dorises turns up dead by poison, local sheriff Jenks (Fred Kelsey) and deputy Abner (Adrian Morris, brother of Chester), have their hands full trying to keep the survivors from either killing one another or falling victim to a masked fiend dealing death through the business end of an Amazon blow gun.
Former D. W. Griffith protégé Cabanne kicks off this Mascot Pictures quickie with a credit sequence promising a fun sixty minutes plus: as lightning flashes and rain pelts a miniature mockup of an old dark house, the shutters burst open to reveal titles written on window shades drawn down by a bare, pallid arm. After the introduction of the cast via a series of cute vignettes, the camera (cinematography is credited to both Ernest Miller, who later shot Sam Fuller's THE STEEL HELMET, and William Nobles) pushes in through the drawing room windows, upsetting the drapes and telegraphing the dark and stormy atmosphere that will prove `a swell night for a murder.' The script by Wellyn Totman (from a story by mystery writer Stuart Palmer) thwarts expectations by allowing the crusty Jasper Whyte to survive beyond the anticipated expiration date of a cinematic septuagenarian with his fingers curled around a multi-million dollar fortune. Although Wallace Ford steals the show (`Stick around this morgue long enough and they'll be saying goodbye to you with flowers!'), Mary Carlisle proves his equal in doling out the jibes (`I've played tougher houses than this!')-- it's a pity that Totman's script requires her to manifest more romantic interest in Regis Toomey than Ford (who would appear for Cabanne again as the magic-obsessed Babe Hansen of THE MUMMY'S HAND).
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