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The Cat and the Canary (1927)

Unrated | | Comedy, Horror, Mystery | 9 September 1927 (USA)
Relatives of an eccentric millionaire gather in his spooky mansion on the 20th anniversary of his death for the reading of his will.

Director:

Paul Leni

Writers:

John Willard (from the stage play by), Robert F. Hill (adaptation) | 3 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Laura La Plante ... Annabelle West
Creighton Hale ... Paul Jones
Forrest Stanley ... Charles Wilder
Tully Marshall ... Roger Crosby
Gertrude Astor ... Cecily
Flora Finch ... Susan
Arthur Edmund Carewe ... Harry (as Arthur Edmund Carew)
Martha Mattox ... Mammy Pleasant
George Siegmann ... The Guard
Lucien Littlefield ... Ira Lazar
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Storyline

Rich old Cyrus West's relatives are waiting for him to die so they can inherit. But he stipulates that his will be read 20 years after his death. On the appointed day his expectant heirs arrive at his brooding mansion. The will is read and it turns out that Annabelle West, the only heir with his name left, inherits, if she is deemed sane. If she isn't, the money and some diamonds go to someone else, whose name is in a sealed envelope. Before he can reveal the identity of her successor to Annabelle, Mr. Crosby, the lawyer, disappears. The first in a series of mysterious events, some of which point to Annabelle in fact being unstable. Written by Ron Kerrigan

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

It's a Universal Long Run Special. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Horror | Mystery

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

9 September 1927 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A macska és a kanári See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(DVD) (2004 restoration) |

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The black cat on the road was stuffed. See more »

Goofs

New York State requires civil attorneys to halt disbursement of a legacy, pending the decision of a probate court, if they discover evidence of tampering with the will pertaining thereto. After Crosby found that the safe had been opened recently, he should have canceled the reading of the Cyrus West will. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: On a lonely pine-clad hill overlooking the Hudson, stood the grotesque mansion of an eccentric millionaire...
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Connections

Referenced in You Bet Your Life: Episode #4.35 (1954) See more »

Soundtracks

Symphonie no. 3 avec orgue
  • 1st movement

Written by Camille Saint-Saëns
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Influential Silent Film Is Still Amusing
6 April 2005 | by gftbiloxiSee all my reviews

The 1922 play THE CAT AND THE CANARY was so popular that it made the fortune of author John Willard, who lived to see it filmed no fewer than three times before his death in 1942. Even today the story remains a classic of its kind, inspiring a host of films that mix comedy, mystery, and horror--not to mention still more that focus on suspicious doings in old, dark houses. When questioned by author Gavin Lambert, director James Whale very specifically indicated that the 1927 film version, along with the 1928 THE LAST WARNING, influenced his own work in such films as FRANKENSTEIN and THE OLD DARK HOUSE.

Both THE CAT AND THE CANARY and THE LAST WARNING were created for Universal by director Paul Leni. But while THE LAST WARNING is not presently available to the home market, THE CAT AND THE CANARY most certainly is, and even some eighty years later is possible to see what all the fuss was about. In term of cinematography, CAT is a remarkably imaginative film, using a series of over-lapping images, close-ups, and dissolves to astonishing effect. In a visual sense it is easily one of the most stylish films of the silent era.

The plot is a classic of its kind. Like the original Willard play, the film's story mixes a host of already-clichéd ideas with several then-new ones. Today, of course, it can be a bit difficult to them apart! But even so it remains a fair amount of fun. An eccentric millionaire has been hounded to death by his greedy relatives--and when he dies he leaves behind a will that imposes a twenty year waiting period between his death and delivery of his estate to his heir. But who will the heir be? The candidates assemble to hear the will at midnight... and no sooner is the heir named than strange doings are afoot.

The characters are archetypes: the nice girl (Laura La Plante), the mild-mannered boy (Creighton Hale), the fashion princess (Gertrude Astor), the battle ax matron (Flora Finch), and so on. Perhaps most memorable is the housekeeper (Martha Mattox), an exceedingly dour woman most ironically named Mammy Pleasant! Add in an exasperated lawyer, a creepy doctor, secret passages, hairy hands with needle-like finger nails, stolen diamonds, and as many dashes of comedy as you can get away with, mix well, and you have the inspiration for a seemingly endless list of classic films.

Although they may seem overly broad by modern standards, the cast plays at the level of what was considered comic-realistic in the late silent era, the production values are first rate, and the plot is quirky enough in a silly sort of way to make the whole thing fun. But it is really the direction and the look of the thing that scores; in its best moments, THE CAT AND THE CANARY is plenty good indeed.

The film is available in several DVD releases. You should avoid the Alpha release; although the picture is passable, the score is so dire that it completely undermines the film. Although it clearly needs further restoration, the Image release is superior and offers your choice of scores, both of which work with the film rather than against it. Recommended for silent fans and those interested in the development of the classic horror film!

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer


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