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A titled amateur detective & his mystery-writing bride spend
BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON when a murdered corpse is discovered
in their new Devonshire home.
Beginning with its first release in 1938 and for several years thereafter, MGM maintained a sister studio in England. In this way she could take advantage of the wealth of British acting talent available, and also get around the UK restriction on the import of foreign films. American stars were often sent over to take the top roles, an increasingly dicey maneuver as the Atlantic became dangerous with Nazi U-boats. BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON (called HAUNTED HONEYMOON in the USA) was one of those films.
BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON, while not unpleasant to look at, is not without its flaws. The mystery isn't all that enthralling, but the main difficulty seems to lie in Robert Montgomery's portrayal of Lord Peter Wimsey. It just doesn't click. This very fine actor made a career from playing suave, sophisticated characters, which Lord Peter should be, but you can never for a moment forget that this is only Robert Montgomery playing a role; nor for an instant do you believe that this is Lord Peter come to life. And the American accent surely doesn't help, either.
The lovely Constance Cummings, as Lady Harriet, suffers much the same fate.
A fine gaggle of British actors, including Robert Newton, Leslie Banks & Googie Withers, appear in supporting roles. But the real joy in watching this film is reveling in the rare opportunity to see the marvelous old actor Sir Seymour Hicks, who portrays Bunter the butler. Sir Seymour (1871-1949) had been one of the great actor-managers & dramatists of the turn of the century. With his plumy voice & broad, impish face, he easily steals scene after scene with his stagy intonations & mannerisms.
It would take the passage of several decades & the arrival of a completely new medium - television - before Dorothy L. Sayer's hero received superlative interpretations from actors Ian Carmichael & Edward Petherbridge.
A bit hit on the Asian-Pacific circuit of pay-TV during 2000-2001, "Haunted
Honeymoon" (to give the film its broadcast title) has won many new fans for
both its celebrated players and its once extremely popular
So far as the players are concerned, just look at that cast! True, the script is pretty lightweight, but all the actors are professional enough to give each of their characterizations that special glow and charisma, that realistically distinctive individuality that keeps an audience both sympathetic and enthralled.
As for Miss Sayers, she was once second only to Agatha Christie in popularity with British and Australian mystery readers. "Busman's Honeymoon" is not really one of her best works. It was originally conceived as a stage play. (It opened in London at the Comedy Theatre on December 16, 1936, and ran a highly successful 413 performances). The novel was based on the play, not vice versa as is usually the case. Miss Sayers described her play as "a detective comedy", whereas the book is "a novel of manners rather than a crossword puzzle." Both descriptions fit the film. If you're looking for a brain-cracking mystery or edge-of-the seat thrills, you're going to be disappointed. But if you expect to spend a delightfully casual 99 minutes in superb company, you'll go away singing.
Constance and Robert have a great deal of fun with this film although he is not my perfect idea of Lord Wimsey although he has a certain ironic charm. Hot on the heels of the great Night Must Fall, he lets his hair down here to ham it up a bit, but the locals are a match for anyone and everyone. This shows the British idea of eccentricity at its bizarre best.
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.
Watchable but missable adaptation of Dorothy Sayer's novel about just married amateur detectives, Lord Peter Wimsey and crime novelist Harriet Vane (now of course Lady Wimsey) Attempts to add whimsical comic touches fall short of the mark and the detective mystery doesn't really grip either. Shown in the UK as Busman's Honeymoon, but in the US and also these days on TCM as Haunted Honeymoon - a pointless and misleading change.
This was one of the MGMfilms made at Denham studios prior to the construction of their studios at Boreham Wood.Probably made in the UK to take advantage of the me quota requirements introduced by the 1938 act.This gave double quota for more expensive films.Michael Balcon was briefly in charge till he clashed with Louis B Mayer and left for Ealing.The problem with this film is that it is far too long.It spends the first 20 minutes without starting to advance the plot.The result being that by this time you have lost all interest in the film and therefore by the time the film really starts you could not care less.Looking at the credits 3 writers get credit but it probably had the input of many more.So. it becomes something of a dog's dinner.Any thriller made at Merton Park is better than this
MGM specialized in upper-class motifs. Here it's newly-weds Lord and
Lady Wimsey moving into a baronial mansion in rural England only to
find that the previous owner has taken up final residence in the
cellar. So, Wimsey being an amateur sleuth and she being a crime
writer, the Lord and Lady's honeymoon must be postponed, despite their
pledges to leave detecting to the police.
The film's generally too long such that the tepid script gets stretched beyond plot capacity. As others point out, the mystery doesn't get going til the last 20-minutes. The production does manage some local color, especially the lady who dabbles in exotic jams. That reluctant tasting scene is really well done, showing the Lord and Lady's comedic potential. Too bad there's so little follow-up. Also, there's the handyman who cannonades his gun up a chimney flue, perhaps the movie's high point as the soot comes raining down on the shooter.
But a key problem is the talented Montgomery who, for whatever reason, lacks flair here for a William Powell type role. As Wimsey, he stirs up neither much interest, nor amusement. Maybe, if the script had given him a quirky habit, that might have helped. But, I guess his role is an adaptation of a literary figure, so he may have felt constrained. Nonetheless, between his uninspired turn and a limp narrative, there's not much left to recommend. All in all, the movie's a really minor entry in the Gentleman Sleuth Sweepstakes. Too bad.
I don't understand how TCM gave this film four stars. It's okay but
it's no four stars.
Haunted Honeymoon is based on Busman's Honeymoon, a Lord Peter Wimsey novel. Here, Peter (Robert Montgomery) has finally married Harriet (Constance Cummings), and as a wedding gift, Peter has bought Harriet's childhood home, Tall Boys, in Biddlecombe for her. Though they have both sworn off having anything to do with murders - him solving them, her writing about them -- they're faced with the murder of the former owner of the house, with plenty of suspects.
Though I love both actors, and there was an excellent supporting cast, this film didn't hold my interest. It was on the talky side, which is fine with scintillating dialogue, but this didn't really have it. The end result was somewhat boring.
Someone on this site mentioned that throughout the film you were reminded always that you were watching Robert Montgomery and not the character of Lord Peter Wimsey. Montgomery was a very good actor; he was suave, he had charm, and a good sense of comedy, but most of the time I'm not sure how much effort he put into some of his films. The end result is, most of the time I know I'm watching Robert Montgomery.
I have to disagree about Constance Cummings, a beautiful actress who captured Harriet's wit and intelligence very well, and actually, the two made a fine couple. My mom saw her in a play, Wings, later in her career.
All in all, disappointing.
The story, I mean. This picture takes forever to get underway, as it
isn't until 20 minutes in that a crime is committed. Then ensues a lot
of dialogue and alternate plot development, and then 30 minutes later,
the body is discovered. That leaves less than 25 minutes to track down
I did not read the book so I cannot comment on the pale comparison between the book and the film, or the unsuitability of Robert Montgomery as Lord Peter Wimsey. I can say that I am never disappointed by Montgomery's presence in a movie, and here he was dapper and sophisticated as always - although perhaps slightly out of place with an American accent.
I enjoyed the banter between Montgomery and Constance Cummings, the staid and stuffy presence of Seymour Hicks and the threatening appearance of Roy Emerton. The solution to the murder seemed slapped together and almost an afterthought, and the whole mood of the picture seemed as though it couldn't decide if it was a romantic comedy or a murder mystery. I have to say, though, that the whole picture had a very agreeable cachet about it that worked for me.
I thought the overall effect was delightful, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, warts and all. If you are a Robt. Montgomery fan or an aficionado of peculiar murder stories, this picture is for you. And there is plenty of 'down' time to go to the fridge. It aired on TCM the other morning.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For me, "Haunted Honeymoon" was a perfect follow-up (although it was made almost half a century earlier!) to the Edward Petherbridge - Harriet Walter / Lord Peter Wimsey - Harriet Vane films; in the first one of those three films he meets her, in the second he courts her, in the third he finally wins her heart....and in this one they get married! They go to the country in search of a peaceful honeymoon, but encounter murder instead. And it is done by an ingenious murder trap - one that will be revealed only in the last 3 minutes of this fast-paced film (it may, in fact, be so fast-paced that some aspects of the mystery can be sketchy and confusing on the first viewing). Robert Montgomery may not be aristocratic (or British) enough for the role of Lord Peter Wimsey, but otherwise he is fine, and there is something pleasingly offbeat and idiosyncratic about his chemistry with the gorgeous Constance Cummings. On the whole, if you are a fan of the genre, this movie should be a part of your collection. Funny ending, too. **1/2 out of 4.
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