Lord Peter Wimsey is an amateur detective. He is to be married to Harriet Vane, who writes crime novels, at a big Society wedding. Harriet has little charms made so that they both promise ... See full summary »
Lord Peter Wimsey is an amateur detective. He is to be married to Harriet Vane, who writes crime novels, at a big Society wedding. Harriet has little charms made so that they both promise not to get involved with any more crimes as they are 'retired'. As a wedding present, Peter purchases the old Jacobean home, where Harriet grew up, called Tall-boys. After the marriage, they go to their new house to get the keys from the previous owner named Noakes. Noakes, who now has money, has no intention of paying wages or any debts that he owes. Upon arriving at the house, Lord and Lady Wimsey find no one at home and finally borrow a key to get in. They have supper and retire for their honeymoon. The next day, people are brought in to clean the house, the chimneys and the grounds and they find the body of Noakes in the cellar. Lord and Lady Wimsey try to stay out of this murder as they promised, but that may not be so easy after all. Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com>
Richard Thorpe was the original director starting 4 August 1939, traveling to various locations in England. World War II started in early September, and the film was shelved until March 1940 with Arthur B. Woods as director. See more »
During his exchange with Bunter in front of the fireplace, Puffett's left hand goes from resting on his hip to prodding the chimney instantaneously, with the stick he prods with appearing out of thin air. See more »
As the other comments make clear, this is not a bad film. One of MGM's British-made films, it has several good moments, and lots of good performances. Its problem is that it makes the ultimately wrong decision to play down the mystery elements in favour of the romantic comedy. It could have been a marvellous comedy thriller, but instead looks more like a pale imitation of the great romantic screwballs of the thirties, or the fag end of the cycle. Montgomery and Cummings' opening scene reminds one of William Powell and Myrna Loy opening Christmas presents in The Thin Man, or indeed Montgomery's own opening scene with Carole Lombard in Mr and Mrs Smith. The two beautiful, funny, talented people sail brilliantly and wittily through life, with their perfect marriage (explicitly announced to be so), not taking themselves too seriously, not afraid to take a pratfall now and then ... you know the drill. And, of course, we as viewers are supposed to assume that Robert Montgomery and Constance Cummings, by extension, are also such wonderful beings.
So the picture is actually an hour old before we get going with the murder. We have had the clues front-loaded, interspersed with the comedy and romance, whereas in the book Wimsey pieces together the clues from his interrogations. The solution of the mystery ends up as a total afterthought, Montgomery casually piecing together the fiendish plot, and the film sloppily omits to give us any actual proof that that was how the crime was done.
And, to coin a phrase, why oh why oh why did anyone think that suave New Yorker Montgomery could be Lord Peter Wimsey, whose archetypal English "silly ass" manner concealed a brilliant brain? Ian Carmichael was much nearer the mark in the 70s TV series. Montgomery is a very pleasing screen presence, but an English nobleman he is not.
As usual it is the character actors that steal the scenes. Leslie Banks, in my humble, could do very little wrong, and doesn't here. Joan Kemp-Welch is excellent in what could be the very tedious role of Aggie Twitterton. Robert Newton gives an early eye-rolling performance complete with dodgy West country accent. Frank Pettingell is on good form, especially in the chimney sweeping scene, where he divests himself of a seemingly infinite number of sweaters. Googie Withers is great as the sexy barmaid. Roy Emerton is always good value. But the real star of the show, as other comments have also pointed out, is the old actor-manager Seymour Hicks, showing the youngsters how it is done.
So, much to please, much too long, more thrills needed.
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