|Index||3 reviews in total|
Snappy 60 minute Clue Club mystery featuring blackmail and the elimination of the aristocratic Thatcher family. Based upon the 1932 novel of the same name by Mignon Good Eberhart, a nurse heroine is able to put together the pieces of a mystery that confound the local district attorney. Pretty difficult to keep up with myriad of clues and figure out "who done it" ahead of the nurse-detective who seems even "psychic" in her ability to divine the murderer. The movie title says it all -- the murderer is an aristocrat. It would have been nice for the property department to actually supply the cast with a revolver instead of an automatic -- but it really does not matter to the plot. In many Eberhart mysteries, Sarah Keate is the nurse-detective, but in Murder by an Aristocrat, the name used is Sally Keating. Directed by Frank McDonald. Cast includes Marguerite Churchill, John Eldredge, Lyle Talbot, Claire Dodd, Virginia Brissac, William Davidson. Orry-Kelley costume design. About as good as these 1930s-era formula mysteries get. Good viewing on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
No, the shoot down is not in regards to this film. What is here is a
fine, basically trim and neat hour long murder mystery where the
villain is instantly set up in the show's first scene, the black sheep
of a wealthy family attacking their clan and going after the cash with
the delightful gusto of a great melodramatic villain. He's William B.
Davidson, a punch in the gut rogue who has more fun telling his family
how much he hates them even more than he will at accepting what he
hopes will be the grand prize. When one of the family fakes concern for
him by asking if there's anything he can do for him, Davidson basically
tells him to fall down the flight of stairs and break their neck. The
fact that he's recovering from a gunshot to the gut shows that he
hasn't learned a lesson. The writers keep this hateful but funny
schemer around longer than usual, so when the ultimate predictable
murder does occur, the audience is grateful that it took a while for it
to happen and that the pathway to doom was indeed a long but memorable
The real mystery isn't who has already shot him or who will ultimately do him in. That is pretty obvious. What isn't obvious is how it will be solved and the clues that lead the solver to the revelation of the perpetrator. Yes, the solver is not a detective or a cop, and even without the presence of some dumb flatfoot, the way they solve it is most ingenious. Police do show up, but they are pretty much an afterthought to the presence of nurse Marguerite Churchill who realizes that this case is none like any other she has been in on. For one thing, the patient really doesn't act like they are in need of care (even though with a bullet to the belly they obviously do), and everybody in the house seems about as worried as they would be watching a cat chase after a mouse. Lyle Talbot gets top billing as Davidson's doctor and Marguerite Churchill's love interest, but he really has nothing to do.
In solid support of Churchill and Davidson is Virginia Brissac as the fragile but mentally sound family matriarch who knows she's surrounded by a family of greedy hanger-ons including a drug addicted son and assorted greedy in-laws. Then, there's Lottie Williams as the deaf as a post housekeeper demanding that doctor and nurse stay out of the huge mansions' private office and maid Mary Treen who keeps screaming about how the cards indicated that there would be death at Thatcher house and blames it all on the nurse. The Warner Brothers mysteries, between the Perry Masons, Crime Clubs and the various individual programmers, are a mixed bag, and while this is not a classic, there are some interesting twists and turns which make this better than average.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Of the three young actresses I've seen so far in the role of Sarah Keate / Sally Keating, Marguerite Churchill is my favorite (Kay Linaker and Ann Sheridan were the other two). She makes the most inquisitive and intelligent nurse, and she actually solves the case herself (of course this has more to do with the writers, who made the - amateur or professional - detective of the other films a man). This entire film is well-produced and very well-acted. There is just one small problem: the big mystery is quite obvious. Anybody who has seen more than five murder mysteries in his or her life will recognize the significance of the mail plane, and as soon as you've done that, you'll also know which of the suspects has a totally fake alibi. Any surprises in the film are minor - e.g., who moved the dead body from the study into the library. "Murder By An Aristocrat" is still worth seeing, but for a knockout surprise ending, search for "The Great Hospital Mystery" (which had an older Keate) instead. **1/2 out of 4.
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