Thursday, April 30, 2015

CMBA Blogathon - The Fabulous Films of the 30s: THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933)

This post is part of the CMBA Spring Blogathon celebrating The Fabulous Films of the 30s. Visit the Classic Movie Blog Association for more information and links to participating posts!

Even among the great horrors produced by Universal in the 1930s, The Invisible Man (1933) stands out. It revels in madness and genius in equal measure, presenting viewers with a shocking example of a figure we now know all too well, the insane super villain. It's the movie that made Claude Rains a star, even though we can't see him, and that's all the more reason to be impressed with his stunning performance, which gains in grandeur by being set loose from the conventional experience of being seen. Just as Rains is the picture's unseen star, James Whale is its equally invisible yet utterly palpable director, putting his ineffable stamp on every moment of chaos and comedy. Between the two of them, Rains and Whale make The Invisible Man a cinematic work like no other, a dark delight that takes us over the edge with its tragically mad protagonist.

Rains plays Jack Griffin, who has already tried his fatal experiment with invisibility by the time we first meet him. His formula has worked, but Griffin has no way to reverse the effects, and murderous insanity turns out to be a secondary result of the transformation. Griffin works feverishly to find a cure for his condition even as his madness grows, while his mentor, Dr. Cranley (Henry Travers), and fiancee, Flora (Gloria Stuart), try to help him. Unfortunately for all of them, Griffin's humanity is also vanishing, and many lives must be lost before fate catches up with the doomed madman.

One of the great shared elements of the Universal horrors is their ability to present their monsters as figures of sympathy and pity in spite of the destruction they wreak. We feel bad for them because they once were human beings, and we understand that they have not chosen this fate, even though we also recognize that death is the only possible ending for their stories. Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and both Lon Chaney Sr. and Jr. invest their monsters with enough pathos to complicate our feelings about them. Claude Rains follows this tradition, but he has to evoke those simultaneous responses of revulsion and sympathy without the usual makeup or even the expressions of his own face. His voice, however, is powerful enough all on its own, gripping the audience and holding it mesmerized throughout the picture. Through that exquisite instrument Rains conveys all the panic, despair, and horrific insanity that Griffin experiences. He is monstrous, murderous, an id utterly divorced from the higher powers that once controlled it, and yet he is heartbreaking in his struggle to reclaim his humanity and hold onto his love for Flora.

Whale creates scenes around Rains' invisible protagonist that heighten the horror but also undercut it with the director's usual pitch black sense of humor. The special effects are marvelous, even by today's CGI standards, but they are also jokes that Whale is playing on the audience. It doesn't take a genius to realize that Whale basically gets away with a movie in which a naked madman parades around destroying things and riding bicycles through town. We even get scenes in which Griffin chucks his clothes, highlighting the fact that he's only invisible because he's totally nude. For Whale, the joke has its deeper side, too; Griffin's naked id, unprotected by reason or morality, is set loose, just as Griffin's naked body breaks the bounds of social convention and self-protection. His nakedness hides him, but it also leaves him exposed, especially in the final scenes, when falling snow becomes a threat to him in more ways than one. Griffin has dreamed of greatness, influence, and power, but he is reduced to a naked animal, shivering in the cold, hunted and cast out from humankind. It's a tragic ending, and when we see Rains' face at last, we remember that Griffin was a man before he became a monster.

The supporting cast also makes The Invisible Man a memorable film. Be sure to appreciate the performances of Henry Travers, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, and the inimitable Una O'Connor. Compare Whale's work on The Invisible Man with his direction for Frankenstein (1931) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). See more of Claude Rains' work in the horror genre in The Wolf Man (1941) and Phantom of the Opera (1943). The Invisible Man inspired a number of sequels, including The Invisible Man Returns (1940), in which Vincent Price takes on the title role, and The Invisible Woman (1940), which stars Virginia Bruce as a calmer and more comedic unseen protagonist.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: HOUSEBOAT (1958)

Cary Grant and Sophia Loren make a charming pair in Melville Shavelson's romantic comedy, Houseboat (1958), which earned Oscar nominations for both its screenplay and the song, "Almost in Your Arms." Their chemistry is hardly surprising, given that Grant had fallen hard for Loren during the filming of The Pride and the Passion (1957), but the real life romance was even more complicated than the protagonists' love affair in the film. Grant fans who know the story will find Houseboat worth watching for its stars alone, but the picture doesn't rely solely on the considerable sex appeal of its two leads. In addition to Grant's smoldering interest in his leading lady, Houseboat offers some real laughs, several very solid supporting performances, and a believably bittersweet family story about a father trying to connect with his three grieving children.

Grant plays Tom Winters, a busy government employee whose impending divorce is derailed when his estranged wife dies in an accident. Tom returns home to claim his three children rather than let his wife's family raise them, even though the youngsters regard him with suspicion and hostility. To appease them, he engages the attractive Cinzia (Sophia Loren) as a maid, although she's really a runaway Italian socialite looking for freedom from her overbearing father (Eduardo Ciannelli). The awkward family group ends up inhabiting a dilapidated houseboat, where Tom and Cinzia develop their relationships with the children and each other.

Grant, thirty years Loren's senior, still manages to pull off the virility and charm needed to make him a credible romantic interest, not only to Cinzia but to Tom's lovestruck sister-in-law, Carolyn (Martha Hyer). Perhaps Loren's continental air narrows our sense of the divide; she might be young, but she's no ingenue, and she radiates a knowing sensuality to match her impressive figure. Cinzia knows how to handle men, even the ardent Angelo (Harry Guardino), who pursues her relentlessly until he realizes she's the kind of woman who makes a man think of marriage. The fuse to light the protagonists' flame is a slow-burning one, giving them time to size one another up and consider their options, but once it lights it blazes through the final scenes of the picture.

The supporting performances from the three children help to sell the family side of the story, with each child enjoying a few key scenes in which to shine. Charles Herbert takes the early spotlight as Robert, especially since the opening credits offer us his perspective of the world. Mimi Gibson is the most emotionally mature of the three as the daughter, Elizabeth, even though her fear of thunder sends her seeking refuge in her father's bed. Paul Peterson slowly unfolds the grief and confusion of the oldest child, David, who has taken to stealing things in the wake of his mother's death. Each of the young actors reveals the complicated emotions of children who have lost their mother and don't know what to make of the stranger their father has become. The pathos of their situation is never laid on too thick, and it doesn't weigh the lighter elements of the picture down, but it gives Houseboat more heart than other Cary Grant vehicles like Indiscreet (1958) or Charade (1963).

For more from writer and director Melville Shavelson, you might try The Seven Little Foys (1955), The Five Pennies (1959), or Yours, Mine and Ours (1968); he and Jack Rose also wrote the screenplays for films like It's a Great Feeling (1949), On Moonlight Bay (1951), and the Cary Grant picture, Room for One More (1952). See more of Sophia Loren in Two Women (1960), El Cid (1961), and Marriage Italian Style (1964). Mimi Gibson appears in The Children's Hour (1961) and provides the voice of Lucky in 101 Dalmatians (1961), Charles Herbert has a significant role in The Fly (1958), and Paul Peterson can be found on The Donna Reed Show (1958-1966). Cary Grant didn't play fathers very often, but for more familial images of the star, try Penny Serenade (1941), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), and Room for One More.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: INDISCREET (1958)

Stanley Donen's 1958 romantic comedy, Indiscreet, reunites stars Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, who had famously paired up for Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious in 1946. Unlike the earlier film, or other Grant outings with Hitchcock, the Donen picture more or less eschews action to rely almost entirely on the considerable charm of its leads. Norman Krasna's screenplay shows its theatrical roots as an adaptation of Krasna's play, Kind Sir, with most of the action in a single room and a lot more conversation than anything else, but Grant and Bergman make the proceedings interesting enough to watch, even if the slow fuse of the plot takes entirely too long to reach its destination.

Bergman plays successful stage actress Anna Kalman, who despairs of finding a worthwhile, unmarried man. Her sister, Margaret (Phyllis Calvert), and brother-in-law, Alfred (Cecil Parker), introduce her to the temptingly attractive Philip (Cary Grant), but he quickly confesses that he, too, possesses a wife. Anna enters into a romance with Philip in spite of his inability to get a divorce and soon begins to yearn for more than an illicit affair.

You'll end up scratching your head in bewilderment if you're looking for a moral to Indiscreet, and it's certainly not progressive in terms of its portrayal of Anna, a successful, celebrated star whose girlish neediness stands in strange contrast to her supposed experience and social standing. The reversals of the third act don't clarify any of these issues, although they do at least rouse Anna to action and give the lovers something to do besides make eyes at each other. Bergman is lovely, and Grant is charming, and that's sufficient for the film's modest ambitions. The problem of Anna's celebrity, hinted at when autograph seekers pursue her through every excursion, is never really developed as an aspect of the romantic relationship; Philip's employment in a sensitive NATO undertaking is also suggested but not really delved into as an issue that might complicate an adulterous affair.

As is often the case with this kind of romantic comedy, the supporting characters are more interesting than the leads, with two pairs of spouses acting as foils to the besotted lovers. Phyllis Calvert gives an especially good performance as Anna's protective older sister. Margaret is wiser and much less romantic than Anna, as her marriage to Alfred reveals; their relationship relies more on long-standing camaraderie than sexual chemistry, but they don't seem unhappy together. The more obvious comedy is left mostly to David Kossoff and Megs Jenkins as Carl and Doris, Anna's devoted servants, and they make another couple whose practical, everyday relationship provides a contrast to the perpetual Valentine of Anna and Philip's affair. The older couples sense that Anna's swooning ecstasy can't last, especially with an unobtainable man, but the film still seems to encourage us to think that the classical romance, adultery and all, is the preferred mode.

For a more exciting endeavor from Stanley Donen and Cary Grant, see Charade (1963). Donen is also remembered today for Singin' in the Rain (1952), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and Funny Face (1957). For more of Cary Grant in the 1950s, try To Catch a Thief (1955), An Affair to Remember (1957), and North by Northwest (1959). Ingrid Bergman won Best Actress Oscars for Gaslight (1944) and Anastasia (1956), but she is certainly best known for her role in Casablanca (1942). You'll find Phyllis Calvert in Appointment with Danger (1951), and she and Cecil Parker both appear in The Magic Bow (1946).

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943)

Universal Studios enjoyed so much success with its various monsters that the temptation to make endless sequels and combinations of characters proved too tempting, and movies like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) appeared in large numbers throughout the 1930s and 40s. Of course, the quality of these pictures declines in direct proportion with their quantity, but fans of classic horror enjoy them as much for their flaws as for their virtues. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man plays mostly as a direct sequel to the 1941 film, The Wolf Man, and it features Lon Chaney's Larry Talbot/Wolf Man character far more than it does Frankenstein's monster. While it lacks the narrative coherence of the original film, it does offer a second encounter with some wonderful characters, and the cast brings together an impressive cadre of classic horror's most reliable stars.

The plot resurrects Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) four years after his assumed death. Talbot, distraught at being alive and cursed by lycanthropy again, eventually makes his way to the home of Dr. Frankenstein, in the hope that the infamous doctor can end his eternal life. Unfortunately, the doctor is dead, and Larry finds and revives the monster (Bela Lugosi) instead. The unfortunate village near Frankenstein's castle falls prey to the depredations of both werewolf and monster, prompting panic and a rising mob, while Larry's doctor, Frank Mannering (Patric Knowles), and the attractive Baroness Elsa Frankenstein (Ilona Massey) struggle to bring Larry and the monster to a peaceful end.

The plot fails to resolve itself, probably because Universal wanted to keep its monsters alive for additional sequels, and editing decisions cut much of Lugosi's role out of the final version of the picture. Technically speaking, the only Frankenstein in the film is Elsa, who is actually the granddaughter of the original mad scientist and the daughter of his son, who had taken up the family vocation in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942). Frank Mannering ends up being the doctor who must face the temptation of controlling life and death, and he never gets insane enough to be much fun.

Chaney continues to imbue Larry Talbot with tragic pathos, and his transformation scenes are really quite good, better even than those seen in the original film. Rejoining him on his journey to Frankenstein's castle is Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva, and she makes the movie worth watching all by herself. Dwight Frye has a small role as one of the villagers (you'll miss him if you aren't watching for him), and Lionel Atwill, another regular in the genre, plays the reasonable town mayor. Lugosi, sadly, has little to do; many of the scenes featuring the monster are really stunt doubles, and the monster's limited screen time makes him merely a minor character, despite the title's implication to the contrary.

I can't tell you why Patric Knowles ends up playing two different characters named Frank between The Wolf Man and this film, but it makes for a rather odd sense of deja vu if you watch both movies in rapid succession. Maybe he just makes a perfect foil to Chaney, or perhaps director Roy William Neill wanted to bring back as many of the original film's cast as possible. Even Chaney's beloved German Shepherd, Moose, who played the role of the wolf in the original movie, makes a brief appearance in the sequel. Chaney himself would bring Larry Talbot back for more suffering in House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). You can see more of Maria Ouspenskaya in Love Affair (1939), Waterloo Bridge (1940), and Dance, Girl, Dance (1940). Roy William Neill's directorial credits include many Sherlock Holmes adventures with Basil Rathbone, but he also directed Black Angel (1946).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: TREASURE ISLAND (1950)

Long before Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney set sail for Treasure Island (1950), a production that charted new territory for the studio as its first live action feature. Adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson's influential tale of buccaneers and  buried gold, the Disney version edits its source material to focus primarily on the relationship between Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver, a standard approach for film treatments before and since. What it loses in fidelity to the original, the Disney Treasure Island makes up for with Robert Newton's iconic turn as the infamous one-legged pirate, at once comical and menacing, and easily the most memorable aspect of the film, although Byron Haskin provides brisk direction of the action through a colorful backdrop of coastal towns and exotic island settings.

Bobby Driscoll stars as Jim Hawkins, a young boy thrust into adventure when a dying pirate named Billy Bones (Finlay Currie) hands him a map to buried treasure. Soon, Jim embarks as cabin boy on a voyage to discover the loot, with Squire Trelawney (Walter Fitzgerald) and Dr. Livesey (Denis O'Dea) as his companions and protectors. Jim also develops a friendship with the ship's cook, Long John Silver (Robert Newton), not suspecting that Silver is really a ruthless pirate who has his own plans for taking over the ship and claiming the buried treasure for himself.

The adaptation is not without its problems. Bobby Driscoll, best remembered as the voice of Peter Pan, is an obvious choice for Jim from the studio's perspective, since the child star had already appeared in numerous Disney pictures, but he is much too flatly American for the role, and he has an unfortunate habit of squinting, open-mouthed, at adult characters when they speak. Ben Gunn, played by Geoffrey Wilkinson, is also a weak point with his shrill, over-the-top wild man act, but his part is so truncated that he has few opportunities to offend. The other supporting players generally fare better, especially Denis O'Dea and Walter Fitzgerald, but they also get little screen time to develop their characters, and Finlay Currie is sadly underused as Billy Bones. Not a single female character appears in the picture at all, making this movie quite the boys only affair, although Stevenson's novel provides a good supporting part in Jim's hard-working, determined mother.

On the plus side, the scenery is exciting and authentic looking, even though the movie was shot in England rather than the West Indies, and the action rolls along without any slow spots. Moreover, Robert Newton takes control of every scene in which he appears, making the most of the picture's best role. In film adaptations of Treasure Island, Jim Hawkins is only the nominal protagonist, and Long John Silver is always the star. Newton effectively conveys Silver's mix of geniality and calculation; we never can tell which side he really wants to be on, and when we think we know him he surprises us again. Newton's delivery of his lines informs our idea of what a pirate is supposed to sound like, while his appearance, with his one leg, his talking parrot, and his swarthy, dark looks, has become the model of the stereotypical buccaneer. Newton became so identified with the role that he reprised it for Long John Silver (1954) and the television series, The Adventures of Long John Silver (1956-1957), but neither proved as successful as the original outing, and Newton died in 1956.

For more film adaptations of Treasure Island, try the 1934 version with Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper or Muppet Treasure Island (1996), with Tim Curry as Long John. See Robert Newton in The Beachcomber (1938), This Happy Breed (1944), and Oliver Twist (1948). Bobby Driscoll also stars in Song of the South (1946), So Dear to My Heart (1948), and The Window (1949). Get a better appreciation for Finlay Currie in Great Expectations (1946) and People Will Talk (1951). For something really different from director Byron Haskin, try Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964).

Monday, April 13, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)

To Kill a Mockingbird is iconic as both a literary and a cinematic work, to such an extent that it's hard to say which version enjoys greater acclaim today. The 1962 film adaptation of Harper Lee's enduring story remains widely popular with viewers more than fifty years after its release, and for its star, Gregory Peck, the role of Atticus Finch proved a defining moment. Although Horton Foote's screenplay makes many changes to the original material, the essence of the story remains, and Peck's Oscar-winning performance is enhanced by the skillful direction of Robert Mulligan and the support of a very convincing cast, which includes Brock Peters and a very young Robert Duvall.

The story follows young Scout Finch (Mary Badham) and her brother, Jem (Phillip Alford), through the more eventful moments of their childhoods in the small Alabama town of Maycomb. Scout, Jem, and their friend, Dill (John Megna), spend their free time wondering about their mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley (Robert Duvall), but their lives are changed when their father, Atticus (Gregory Peck), is assigned to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman. Their friends and neighbors reveal the ugliness of racial prejudice as Atticus is criticized for doing his best to defend Tom Robinson (Brock Peters) in court, even though his guilt is far from certain.

Although Scout's first person narration makes her the obvious protagonist of Harper Lee's novel, the film shifts the focus to Atticus, and in some scenes Scout is not even present. The change puts the heavier acting burden on Peck but also lets him develop the character more fully. More than anything else, the film version of the story becomes a paean to the upright patriarch and champion of decency, which might help to explain why a movie about racism, rape, an egregious miscarriage of justice, an attempted lynching, and attempted murder leaves most viewers feeling uplifted instead of depressed. Atticus does not even enjoy the success of Henry Fonda's juror in 12 Angry Men (1957), but he inspires both his children and the audience to feel that the good fight is worthwhile, even when one is bound to lose it. Peck embodies these qualities perfectly, and it's fascinating to compare his idealized Atticus with the more complicated Southern lawyer family man he plays in the same year's Cape Fear. The movie also creates more conflict between Atticus and Bob Ewell (James Anderson), the man who accuses Tom Robinson of raping his daughter, partly to play up the contrast between these two fathers. Every ounce of integrity in Atticus has its equal opposite measure in Ewell's despicable, hateful character, and James Anderson, who worked mostly in television and Westerns, gives the single most memorable performance of his career.

Despite playing second fiddle to Peck, the children in the film are excellent representations of the novel's trio of youngsters, with Mary Badham especially winning as the tomboyish Scout. Her performance earned her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress, a category that highlights Scout's diminished importance in the film. Both Badham and Phillip Alford were Alabama natives making their first screen appearances; their Southern accents are natural, not coached, which helps the picture tremendously, and they behave like real, rough and tumble children rather than Hollywood imitations. John Megna, a New Yorker, was the professional of the group, but he catches the hyperbolic, eager nature of Dill, who makes up wild tales to impress his friends and cover for his lack of a father. The children's scenes with African-American characters advance the story's underlying message about racial equality and the changing attitudes of a new generation. We see them at home with Calpurnia (Estelle Evans), the only maternal figure Scout has ever known, and at the trial with the kindly Reverend Sykes (Bill Walker), with whom they sit in the balcony designated for the court's black spectators. Jem's brief scene with Tom Robinson's son, in which they wave tentatively at one another, eloquently expresses the way in which white and black children in the South were so close, and yet so far, from each other at every moment of their lives.

To Kill a Mockingbird won three Oscars and earned eight additional nominations, a very good performance in a year that included Lawrence of Arabia and The Miracle Worker as significant competitors. Robert Mulligan also directed Gregory Peck in The Stalking Moon (1968). For more of Peck, see Gentleman's Agreement (1947), Roman Holiday (1953), and Cape Fear (1962). Although neither Brock Peters nor Robert Duvall appears much in the film, each contributes to it powerfully; see Peters in Carmen Jones (1954), Porgy and Bess (1959), and then Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) to see how his career evolved over time, and don't miss Robert Duvall's performances in The Godfather (1972), Apocalypse Now (1979), and Tender Mercies (1983).

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Classic Films in Focus: THE BLACK CAT (1941)

Like many of the old dark house pictures of its era, The Black Cat (1941) relies upon an offbeat mixture of comedy and horror, zipping from gasps to giggles like a cheerily macabre carnival ride. For some horror purists, the goofier elements of these films repel, but it's easy to imagine a throng of matinee youngsters reveling in the quick turns and reversals that The Black Cat provides. You never know if a secret door will open to horrors or hilarity, and therein lies the appeal of the whole genre. Though it's not to be confused with the earlier and generally better regarded 1934 film of the same name, the 1941 outing does offer a delightful cast of character actors, including Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Gale Sondergaard, Broderick Crawford, and a young Alan Ladd.

Broderick Crawford stumbles through the proceedings as Gil, an eager opportunist looking to arrange the sale of the Winslow estate and earn the affection of lovely Elaine (Anne Gwynne), one of the prospective heirs. After Gil turns up with loopy furniture dealer Mr. Penny (Hugh Herbert), the residents of the house experience a series of shocks, starting with the suspicious death of estate owner Henrietta Winslow (Cecilia Loftus). As the heirs squabble over Henrietta's will, more strange events unfold, with secret passages and an ominous black cat helping a killer eliminate anyone who gets in the way.

The plot strongly resembles those of The Cat and the Canary (1927) and The Old Dark House (1932), although it has very little to do with the Edgar Allan Poe story from which it and the 1934 picture draw their titles. Its chills rely mostly on a mysterious killer who sneaks through the house using a maze of secret passages, but Gale Sondergaard is by far the scariest of the regular residents as the creepy housekeeper, Abigail. The camera angles highlight the weird angles of her face and her leering eyes to great effect, and she certainly knows how to milk the role for every bit of the audience's attention. Cecilia Loftus also benefits from creative camera work when she first appears onscreen; her eyes freakishly exaggerated by the thick spectacles she wears, she looks more like a creature from another world than a frail old lady with a harmless love for cats. Sadly, the film's most famous actors don't enjoy as much opportunity to demonstrate their talents. Basil Rathbone's Montague Hartley is a cad, but not an especially frightening one, and he doesn't really have enough to do, while Bela Lugosi's hairy groundskeeper is mostly deployed to rattle Gil and create confusion. Alan Ladd plays the sort of role one expects Elisha Cook, Jr. to fill, a minor part but fraught with anxiety and accusation. One year later he would appear in This Gun for Hire (1942) and become a true cinema star.

The comedy elements are hit or miss, with Broderick Crawford generally likable as Gil but Hugh Herbert laying it on much too thick with his trademark schtick. If you like his antics you'll love him here, but his character thwarts the action right up to the last moment, and he's too dense to understand the climactic life-or-death situation. Gil, however, manages to straddle the two genres, even though his efforts to unmask the killer repeatedly land him in ludicrous mishaps. It's an unusual role for Broderick Crawford, who would go on to win an Oscar for Best Actor in All the King's Men (1949). Here he gets to be comedian, amateur detective, and romantic lead all at once, sneezing helplessly at the omnipresent cats but persisting in uncovering the truth even when everyone else derides his claims. Crawford's Gil functions as the reliable, all-American everyman at the center of the unpredictable action; even if the assembled cast is awash in red herrings - which it certainly is - we know we can depend on Gil to be the good guy all the way through, and if he sometimes gets goofy that only serves to make him more familiar and reassuring. Lee Tracy serves a similar if more streetwise function in Doctor X (1932), and Bob Hope covers the same territory in The Cat and the Canary (1939) and The Ghost Breakers (1940).

Director Albert Rogell made over one hundred movies but never became well known; his other pictures include Li'l Abner (1940) and In Old Oklahoma (1943). For more of Broderick Crawford, see Larceny, Inc. (1942),  Black Angel (1946), and Born Yesterday (1950). Gale Sondergaard won Best Supporting Actress for Anthony Adverse (1936), but be sure to catch her in The Mark of Zorro (1940) and The Letter (1940), as well. If you go for Hugh Herbert's comedy style, can find him in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), Hollywood Hotel (1937), and There's One Born Every Minute (1942).