Ten years have passed since the death of millionaire, Cyrus Norman. Cosby, Cyrus' attorney, has gathered Cyrus' 6 remaining relatives to his New Orleans' mansion for Cyrus' "reading of the will". To the others disappointment, Joyce is the sole heir, but, due to a streak of insanity running in the family, a second will has been made in case Joyce falls victim to it. This puts Joyce in danger. Suddenly, Miss Lu, Cyrus' maid, appears and warns them that the spirits have told her that one of them will die that night. Following this, Hendrick, a prison guard, warns them that, "The Cat", a homicidal maniac has escaped. This sets up Cyrus' relatives with a night filled with murders, mysteries and intrigue.Written by
Paulette Goddard did not actually come on board this project until more than three months after "Paramount" had announced its intention of remaking the 1927 film. Successively preceding Goddard as the film's prospective leading lady had been two of Bob Hope's recent co-stars, Martha Raye and Shirley Ross, respectively. Though the reasoning behind Raye's replacement by Ross was never made public, the rationale for "Paramount"'s final choice is no great mystery. A bigger star than either Ross or Raye, Goddard was snapped up by "Paramount" once she became available, owing to pre-production snafus with Charles Chaplin's "The Great Dictator (1940)." See more »
And every other closed mouth alligator in the movie (there is one shot of an open mouthed gator) displays the same tape. See more »
The silents brought us a number of classic comedians who were skilled at making the audience laugh without uttering a word. With the advent of sound, some of these comedians found the transition hard and most still relied on their old silent routines for their jokes. Bob Hope was the first comedian who's mouth provided the punchline. The Cat and the Canary was his first leading part and yet it's not designed purely for his advantage, this is a great picture, both funny and exciting.
Bob Hope is the star. He's hilarious. He's sympathetic. He's also a coward, which isn't such an asset when you're staying in a house filled with escaped lunatics, suspicious servants, and numerous trapdoors. Hope plays a radio personality who involuntarily becomes the bodyguard to a woman, Joyce, who recently inherited a lot of money. The house is filled with other guests that are upset at having lost out on the inheritance. To make matters worse, if Joyce dies within a month, the money goes to whoever was the substitute inheritor and that person's name lies in an envelope safely hidden in a safe. As guests start dying, the tension increases, as does Hope's one-liner's. "I've got goosepumps. In fact, my goosebumps have got goosebumps."
Today, the plot seems like one from an episode of Scooby-Doo but it's still fun and surprisingly smart. The cast is small but solid and the murderer is never guessed until the end. A few red herrings are thrown in but when the guilty party is revealed, it does make sense, a necessity rarely used in Hollywood today.
As a vehicle for Hope it works a charm. As a movie in itself it should be recognised as a classic.
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