The Lady in Scarlet (1935)
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For the most part this is a by the book murder mystery with several interesting twists in it. The plot basically is that a wealthy antique dealer is suspicious that his wife is having an affair. People are watching the house and the husband appears to be involved in crooked dealings. The wife while out with her lover notices an old friend and semi famous detective at the bar. The lover leaves and the wife talks to the detective whom she talks into taking her home. Once there they find the husband dead and a very twisty, and not entirely fair, murder investigation is set in motion.
Denny is as always a joy to behold and his interplay with his girl Friday is funny, if not rather cruel. Frankly if it wasn't clear they loved each other it would be abusive.
A friend watched most of this with me and sat there in disbelief at the creakiness of it and of the bad acting. But this is an independent programmer that was made fast and cheap so that fact it is of any quality is usually a plus. Its not as bad as she made it out to be, and I don't think she hated it, she just enjoyed the camp value of it all.
I liked it, but I didn't love it. Its a movie that sort of is unexceptional in anyway, and so just sort of is. Its a pleasant time killer and nothing more. In answer to Lucy's question, yes at some point I will watch this again, if only to see what I missed plot wise since the clues appear to all be there even if not clearly....
Having said that, the movie works fairly well. The detective is smarter than the police inspector, but the inspector is not a clown - he's just one acceptable step behind. The wife/sidekick is given some stilted lines - they just didn't get the Nora Charles role right here. There are multiple suspects, and attractive women. For fans of the genre, it's definitely worth watching, though you may cringe at some of the husband's 'playfulness,' as I did. There's a fine line between playful and cruel, evidently.
Albert Sayre, an antique dealer has a "trophy" wife, Julia (Dorothy Revier) who he insists on belittling at every opportunity. He suspects her of having an affair with Dr. Boyer (the unappealing Jameson Thomas) and is having her followed. Oliver Keats (debonair Reginald Denny) is a jaded detective, who is called in by Julia to investigate some shady characters she has noticed hanging around the house. Strangely enough she loves her husband and is worried about him - but when they arrive at the house they find he has been murdered.
Alice (beautiful Claudia Dell) bursts in - she is convinced Julia is guilty - those in the audience familiar with Revier and her roles, probably thought she was too!!! Alice is married to Arthur Pennyward, Sayre's assistant and Sayre was her father. Sayre wasn't all he seemed - he also had a sideline in faking antiques and villainous looking Dyker (Jack Adair) is charged with his murder. Alice still isn't convinced that Julia is innocent and insists the will be read immediately. She is astounded when she realises that she is a joint inheritor with Julia. (She had had a fight with her father that day about her marriage and she thought she was disinherited.) That means she is also under suspicion.
Everyone acts guilty, there are plenty of red herrings - when Julia and Boyer are having supper they phone Sayre but get no response - he is already dead!!! but it looks suspicious for them and it isn't explained. Patricia Farr - "courtesy of Fox Films" - plays Keat's sassy secretary who is kept busy dishing out quips and wisecracks.
Enjoyed the interplay between Denny and his secretary, Patricia Farr. As several contributors have noted, it bears a strong resemblance to that of Nick and Nora Charles, only not as witty. Special mention should be made of Jack Adair, who plays a crooked art dealer. I have awarded him the Hand-Painted Mustache Cup for the Worst Performance By A Supporting Actor In A Poverty Row Movie. It has to be seen to be believed - breathtakingly bad by any measure, and ruins every scene he is in.
Good story, and in only 65 minutes. It will keep you guessing right up to the end. It makes you think a bigger studio could have done wonders with material such as this. And hired some better actors.
For all intents and purposes, this could have been virtually any movie detective's show of the era - think Charlie Chan, Mister Wong, Bulldog Drummond, or the favorite on this board, Nick Charles. The story plants a number of red herrings surrounding the murder of antique dealer Albert Sayre (John T. Murray), the most obvious being his wife Julia (Dorothy Revier), and business associate Dyker (Jack Adair). The mystery is solved using your typical 'gather all the suspects in one room' approach, as the detective hero successfully conveys the solution of the case by eliminating the suspects one by one.
The bigger mystery once the film is over is how they came up with the title. The term 'Lady in Scarlet' was mentioned early on in reference to a play Albert and Julia Sayre were discussing, she having favored one called 'The Frolic of '32'. However none of the principal female characters had any connection to the title by virtue of their attire. Be that as it may, it made me think of a similarly named Sherlock Holmes flick from a decade later called "The Woman in Green". In either case, who could tell when the picture's in black and white.
It's Farr's character who gets the bulk of the great dialog here, saying such great hard-boiled lines as "He can't work overtime. It interferes with his drinking". When she finds her employer/lover on the phone, she makes her own suspicions known by saying, "I know you didn't go into that booth to fix your girdle!". The wife/lover, daughter/fiancée characters are not sterotypically one-dimensional, giving reasonable motives for each of them as to why they might want to see Murray killed off. Not bad for a bottom of the barrel second feature where the camera moved in obviously very close onto the set to hide how cramped and small it really was.