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In the second film of the series (and not a second part of anything), Gay Lawrence, aka The Falcon, is about to depart the city to marry his fiancée, Helen Reed, when a mystery girl, Rita ... See full summary »
Lawyer Perry Mason is summoned to the Laxter mansion in the dead of night to write granddaughter Wilma out of invalid Peter Laxter's will, to keep her from marrying suspected fortune hunter Doug. Peter dies in a mysterious fire and Laxter's two grandsons, Sam Laxter and Frank Oafley, inherit his estate on the condition old caretaker Schuster and his cat Clinker are kept on. When cat-hating Sam threatens Clinker, Perry steps in and learns Laxter's death was suspicious and the family fortune and diamonds are missing. Schuster's found dead in his basement apartment, Laxter's nurse Louise is murdered with Schuster's crutch, and circumstantial evidence brings Doug to trial for Louise's death. Mason's investigation produces a surprise witness who turns the trial around. Written by
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It should come as no surprise that Erle Stanley Gardner, the author of the Perry Mason series, hated the way his hero was portrayed in the movies. Consider this: When he saw Raymond Burr walk in to audition for the part of Hamilton Burger, he told the casting people, "That's Perry Mason." One can just imagine, then, how fond he was of Warren William, Donald Woods and Ricardo Cortez.
It's not so much the actors, of course, as the emphasis of the films -Warren William, whom I like a lot more than one of the posters on this site, always had a little too much fun, and his character was loosely modeled on Nick in "The Thin Man." Woods was very lawyer-like but lacked spark; Cortez had spark but was more on the smooth, streetwise side than the actual Perry of the books, who was a very intense young man, given to big speeches.
In this film, Perry is asked to act as attorney for a caretaker's cat named Clicker who isn't black. That's because the title was decided upon after the film was made. The actual Gardner story is "The Case of the Caretaker's Cat," but black cats were hot in movie titles in the '30s. Peter Laxter's will states that the caretaker has his job for life, but one of the heirs wants the cat gone and is threatening to poison it. Laxter has died in a fire, but Perry soon surmises that he was murdered first and has the body exhumed. He also learns that Laxter cashed out a million dollars worth of stock and that a famous set of diamonds are missing. Two more murders follow. Clicker unknowingly provides an important clue to whodunit. The last few minutes of the film are done in flashback so that we can see how Perry put it all together.
Not bad, but none of these men will ever be Perry Mason after Burr did the role so long on television. It's best to just look at these films as mystery stories and ignore the old, unattractive Paul Drake and the pronunciation of Hamilton Burger as Hamilton Berjer (in the Woods version). And that's the way Erle Stanley Gardner would have wanted it.
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