Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Murder in the Private Car (1934).

After a switchboard operator learns that she is an heiress, she becomes the target of kidnapping on a train. The film, which features Charles Ruggles, Una Merkel, Walter Brennan, Sterling Holloway, and an actor in a gorilla suit, is based on the play "The Rear Car" by Edward E. Rose.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Tom Williams on Chandler's life and work.

In part 1 of a two-part episode of the podcast The Soul of California, author Tom Williams (A Mysterious Something in the Light) discusses influences on Raymond Chandler's life and work with podcast host Richard Dion. Part 2, scheduled for ca. February 20, will discuss Chandler's classic essay "The Simple Art of Murder" and the portrayal of Philip Marlowe.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The Ninth Guest (1934).

Before Christie's And Then There Were None, penthouse partygoers in The Ninth Guest are informed by radio broadcast that they will be murdered one by one. The film is based on a play by Owen Davis and the novel The Invisible Host by Bruce Manning and Gwen Bristow. According to the 15 Feb. 1934 New York Sun, "Manning was on the [New Orleans Times] Picayune and Miss Bristow was on the Item. They both were assigned to cover a hanging in St. Mary's parish. There they were married—in the courthouse basement by a blind justice of the peace." (The Sun has swapped the papers—Bristow wrote for the Picayune and Manning for the Item.) Manning also was a screenwriter and director who worked on some film projects with Vera Caspary and Deanna Durbin, and Bristow is known for her Plantation trilogy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cry of the City (dir. Robert Siodmak, 1948).

Based on Henry Martin Helseth's The Chair for Martin Rome, Cry of the City features wounded killer Richard Conte doggedly pursued by police lieutenant Victor Mature. Shelley Winters and Debra Paget costar; Robert Siodmak (The Spiral Staircase) directs.

Monday, January 25, 2016

New edition, Judith Lee stories.

Valancourt Books has issued a new edition of Richard Marsh's Judith Lee stories (1912–16), edited by Edge Hill University's Minna Vuohelainen. As I mentioned in this blog post, Lee is an early female detective with capabilities in ju-jitsu and lip-reading. Marsh (aka Richard Bernard Hellmann, 1857–1915) is best known for The Beetle (1897), and his mysteries, horror works, and ghost stories have been reprinted by Valancourt.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Fatal Lady (1936).

Scene from Fatal Lady, 1936.
(John Halliday, center)
In Fatal Lady a trail of murder dogs an opera star. Featured are Mary Ellis, Walter Pidgeon, John Halliday, Alan Mowbray,  Edgar Kennedy, and Ward Bond. One of the writers is Horace McCoy (They Shoot Horses, Don't They?; Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye; etc.).

Monday, January 18, 2016

Philby, Greene, and Our Man in Havana.

Ad for Our Man in Havana
(dir. Carol Reed, 1959)
Over at Lapham's Quarterly, Lawrence Osborne discusses the genesis of Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana, including Greene's time in MI6 and his relationship with Kim Philby of the Cambridge spy ring. There's a reference to Greene traveling with "an equally youthful Claud Cockburn"—that's the lefty father of mystery author Sarah Caudwell.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Seven Keys to Baldpate (1917).

Poster for Seven Keys to Baldpate (1917)
with George M. Cohan & Hedda Hopper
Based on a 1913 novel by Earl Derr Biggers (the creator of Charlie Chan), this silent film stars theater legend George M. Cohan (who adapted it for the stage) as a writer struggling to finish a novel in an inn where mysterious things are occurring. Actress (later gossip columnist) Hedda Hopper co-stars. (Other versions include a 1935 film with Gene Raymond, Eric Blore, and Walter Brennan.)

Monday, January 11, 2016

California and woman jurors, 1917.

Reporter Winifred Black.
Library of Congress,
Prints & Photographs Div.
Although Los Angeles had an all-female jury in 1911, San Francisco Examiner reporter Winifred Black celebrated California's decision to impanel women for juries in July 1917. (Link to article)

More on woman jurors:
• "Women on Juries: How the Experiment Failed in Washington," Sacramento Daily Union 5 Sept. 1896: 6 ("The lawyers . . . said that the trouble was the lack of the logical faculty in the female mind.")

• Cynthia Harrison, rev of The U.S. Women Jury Movements and Strategic Adaptation: A More Just Verdict, by Holly J. McCammon.

Winifred Black, The Washington Times 31 Jul 1917: 16

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Red Nightmare (1962).

Robert Conrad in Red Nightmare
This heavy-handed Warner Brothers film produced for the Defense Department to illustrate the dangers of communism features Jack Webb, Jack Kelly, Robert Conrad, Peter Breck, and Andrew Duggan.

Monday, January 04, 2016

New CD: Film Noir at Paramount.

Intrada has recently released Double Indemnity: Film Noir at Paramount, which includes selections from Miklos Rozsa's score for Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity; Hugo Friedhofer's score for Wilder's Ace in the Hole; Franz Waxman's music for Anatole Litvak's Sorry, Wrong Number; Victor Young's music for Byron Haskins's I Walk Alone; Gail Kubik's score for William Wyler's The Desperate Hours; Leith Stevens's music from Michael Curtiz's The Scarlet Hour; and Heinz Roemheld's music from Rudolph Mate's Union Station. (thanks to Film Score Monthly)


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Unholy Four aka The Stranger Came Home (1954).

Stark House Press ed.
of Stranger at Home
Based on Stranger at Home ghosted for actor George Sanders by noted sci-fi writer and Big Sleep screenwriter Leigh Brackett, The Unholy Four features a man with amnesia seeking to discover which of his friends tried to kill him. Paulette Goddard stars.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Christie tapes.

Agatha Christie, 17 Sept 1964.
Photo by Joop van Bilson, Anefo.
Dutch Natl Archives
BBC Radio 4 Extra is beginning to air excerpts from tapes made by Agatha Christie as she prepared her autobiography. The first episode is "The Semi-Pro" in which she discusses the creation of Miss Marple and also states: "I was eminently a writer for entertainment."

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

They Met in the Dark (1943).

James Mason in
They Met in the Dark
Based on The Vanishing Corpse (1941) by the Detection Club's Anthony Gilbert, They Met in the Dark features James Mason, Joyce Howard, and David Farrar in a tale of a disgraced naval officer, murder, and wartime espionage.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Meyer on The Seven Per-Cent Solution.

In this thoughtful 1981 event of the Writers Guild Foundation focused on adaptation, director-writer Nicholas Meyer discusses issues encountered in adapting his novel The Seven Per-Cent Solution to the screen. There also is interesting coverage of the novel versus film of Brian Garfield's Death Wish and Meyer's film Time After Time that pitted H.G. Wells against Jack the Ripper. Says Meyer:
I feel that if you are taking the life of someone famous as being worthy of making a film about, he or she is worth making an accurate film about. It is peculiarly revolting to me to watch biographical films that have felt the irresistible need to improve the lives of their subjects in order to render them sufficiently palatable or entertaining to an audience.
Meyer also states, "I am troubled by the fact that we now place more emphasis and importance on packaging than what is being packaged
. . . . Where does dramatic license end and vandalism begin?"

Of related interest: I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere podcast interview with Meyer

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"A Study in Panic" (1954).

In this episode from Four Star Playhouse, Dick Powell is a self-satisfied newspaper columnist who writes about panic, which triggers a threat to his life. Dorothy Malone co-stars as a copyeditor with a background in psychology.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Christie in Mesopotamia.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology uncovered a photo in its archives of a "Mrs. Mallowan"; archivists realized that she was known better by another name: Agatha Christie. Christie was visiting a UChicago-Penn excavation at Nippur in Mesopotamia with her second husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan, ca. late 1940s/early 1950s.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Fugitives for a Night (1938).

Frank Albertson in
Fugitives for a Night
An actor is suspected of murdering a producer in this film scripted by famous blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (whose 110th birthday falls on December 9).

See the trailer.

Monday, December 07, 2015

70 years of Gallimard's Serie Noire.

French publisher Gallimard has published C'est l'histoire de la Série Noire (1945–2015) to mark the 70th anniversary of its crime fiction series Série Noire. Founded by Marcel Duhamel, Série Noire was instrumental in establishing the literary reputation of hardboiled authors such as Chester Himes (e.g., Coffin Ed Johnson/Grave Digger Jones series) and Charles Williams (e.g., Dead Calm). The Bibliothèque des littératures policière (Bilipo) in Paris is hosting an exhibition in conjunction with the book.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The Wall Street Mystery (1931).

In this short film based on a short story by S. S. Van Dine, Stagecoach's Donald Meek (as the sleuthing Dr. Crabtree) and Superman's John Hamilton (as Inspector Carr) investigate when two stockbrokers are found shot to death. Modern audiences may dislike the stereotyped portrayal of a black elevator operator.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Arthur Conan Doyle and Fulton Oursler.

Ad for Fulton Oursler's Behold This Dreamer (1924)
Note blurb from Conan Doyle
This Forbes article on "Imponderable"—a new exhibition of work by artist Tony Oursler at LUMA Westbau (Zurich)—notes one source: a debate on spiritualism between Oursler's grandfather, Charles Fulton Oursler (Reader's Digest editor, author of The Greatest Story Ever Told, and mystery writer Anthony Abbot, 1893–1952), and fellow writer Arthur Conan Doyle.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Black Friday (1940).

Complications ensue when a criminal's brain is transplanted into a professor. Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi star, and Curt Siodmak (brother of The Spiral Staircase's Robert Siodmak) is one of the screenwriters.

Monday, November 23, 2015

NMU commemorates Anatomy of a Murder.

Via various items posted online, the Northern Michigan University archives are commemorating Anatomy of a Murder by attorney, writer, fisherman, and Michigan Supreme Court justice John D. Voelker (1903–91). Voelker successfully defended Army lieutenant Coleman Peterson, who was accused of killing tavern owner Mike Chenoweth in 1952. Voelker then turned the case into fiction; the book was published by St. Martin's Press in January 1958 under Voelker's pseudonym, Robert Traver. It became a well-regarded film in 1959 with Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, and George C. Scott. In 2013 ABA Journal selected Anatomy of a Murder as one of 25 greatest law novels.

NMU online materials:
• Read transcripts from the Peterson trial
• See photos of principals such as Voelker and Peterson
Listen to interview with juror Max Muelle

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Cat and the Canary (1939).

Paulette Goddard encounters
something unexpected in
The Cat and the Canary
In The Cat and the Canary, Paulette Goddard will inherit a sizable fortune if she does not go mad within a month, and relatives are intent on helping that along. Bob Hope and Gale Sondergaard also star. Based on a play by John Willard, it previously was adapted as a 1927 silent film and subsequently as a 1978 film with Honor Blackman, Edward Fox, and Wendy Hiller.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Ernest A. Young, detective dime novelist.

Ad including books by
Harry Rockwood, pseudonym
of Ernest A. Young
Brandeis Special Collections highlights its newly acquired papers of Massachusetts resident Ernest A. Young (1858–1936), who was known for his detective dime novels under pseudonyms such as Harry Rockwood. His works include Harry Pinkurten, the King of Detectives (1882) and Clarice Dyke, the Female Detective (1883). 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Kid Glove Killer (1942).

In Kid Glove Killer, police lab chief Van Heflin analyzes crime scene evidence from the murder of the city mayor, abetted by a lively Marsha Hunt. Fred Zinnemann (High Noon, From Here to Eternity) directed the film.

Monday, November 09, 2015

The return of pioneering PI Race Williams.

Altus Press has issued Them That Lives by Their Guns: The Collected Hard-Boiled Stories of Race Williams, vol. 1, with an introduction by Clues contributor Brooks Hefner. The creator of Williams, Carroll John Daly, launched the hard-boiled style with such stories as "The False Burton Combs" (1922) and "It's All in the Game" (1923). "Burton Combs" predates Dashiell Hammett's first story for Black Mask by several months.

Perhaps this collection of 16 stories can help refute the jaw-dropping assertion in the BBC Radio 4 program A Coat, a Hat, and a Gun (hosted by Harriett Gilbert, daughter of British mystery author Michael Gilbert) that the hard-boiled "genre was really invented by ... Hemingway with a short story in 1928 called 'The Killers.'" In fact, "The Killers" is a March 1927 Scribner's magazine short story, which appeared several years after Daly's groundbreaking work.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Ten Years of The Bunburyist.

Elizabeth Foxwell in an investigative mode.
It's hard to believe that 10 years ago today, I clicked the "Publish" button, and this blog began. I thought a blog could provide visitors with a way to learn about the contents of Clues: A Journal of Detection; read about neglected mystery works; and find links to interesting aspects involving the history of mystery, detective, and crime fiction—especially vintage audio and video. Although I tend not to receive a lot of comments, people seem to like what they see. Statistics indicate that the blog receives more than 5000 hits a month and has 59 loyal followers.

Sadly I have needed to reduce the number of posts per month because of my publishing and job commitments, as well as the work entailed for my new blog on American women in World War I.

The following are the top 10 posts of The Bunburyist based on views. Do you have other favorites?

The Top 10 Posts on The Bunburyist, 2005–15:

10. "Fri Forgotten Books: Charlotte Armstrong's The Chocolate Cobweb (1948)"

9. "Clues 31.2: Collins, Harvey, Highsmith, Parker, South African and Spanish crime fiction"

8. "Cornerstone: The Horizontal Man, by Helen Eustis"

7. "Fri Forgotten Books: The Mystery of Central Park, by Nellie Bly (1889)." After I posted about this rare book and mentioned it on a women's studies listserve, the Library of Congress digitized its copy and made it available via the Internet Archive.

6. "A Jury of Her Peers" (on the first U.S. female jurors)

5. "Dr. Barbara Mertz, Trailblazer"

4. "The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski and The Big Sleep"

3.  "Cornerstone: Re-Enter Sir John (1932)"

2. "'The Grave Grass Quivers,' by MacKinlay Kantor (1931)"

1. "Dozen Best Detective Stories Ever Written"