Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"Death Watch" (1958).

Janice Rule, 1951
In this episode of the Alfred Hitchcock-produced Suspicion directed by Ray Milland, police sergeant Edmond O'Brien learns that a colleague is set to kill a spirited witness (Janice Rule) before she can testify at a high-stakes trial, but he needs to determine which cop intends to do the deed. Horace McMahon and Edward Binns costar. The writers are brothers John and Ward Hawkins (Burke's Law, Climax!, Crime Wave).

Monday, February 20, 2017

The mysteries of Isaac Asimov.

My essay "'I Write Christie': The Mysteries of Isaac Asimov" has been published in Salem Press's Critical Insights: Isaac Asimov edited by M. Keith Booker (U-Arkansas). It assesses Asimov's mystery fiction, as there is little critical work on this area of Asimov's oeuvre (aside from his science fiction mysteries with detective Elijah Baley and robot R. Daneel Olivaw). The essay looks at Asimov's vastly underrated debut mystery novel, The Death Dealers (aka A Whiff of Death, rooted in his graduate school experiences at Columbia); Murder at the ABA (with a protagonist based on sci-fi author Harlan Ellison); Black Widowers mystery short stories (with characters modeled on other sci-fi writers); Union Club short stories (with an Asimov alter ego); the Baley-Daneel series; children's mysteries; and assorted other stories. Asimov was a Golden Age mystery fan, and his puzzle mysteries reflect this tradition.

Check out the table of contents.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Bermuda Mystery (1944).

Ann Rutherford, 1943.
In Bermuda Mystery, army buddies each provide $10,000 for investment, with the plan to divvy up the proceeds in 10 years. When one of them, Ann Rutherford's uncle, dies mysteriously before the due date of the distribution, she hires private detective Preston Foster to investigate. Further deaths ensue. Costars include Jason Robards Sr.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Upcoming exhibition:
Clever Criminals and Daring Detectives.

Illustration from Arthur Conan
Doyle's "The Adventure of the
Empty House," San Francisco
, 5 Mar. 1905
Opening in April at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia will be the exhibition "Clever Criminals and Daring Detectives" that will take a historical look at criminals and detectives in fiction. Materials on display will include the original manuscript of Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Empty House" and reflections on mystery collecting of Ellery Queen.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Podcast on 1970s female detectives on TV.

TV Kate Mulgrew as Mrs. Columbo
Kate Mulgrew as
Mrs. Columbo, 1979.
Fotocollectie Anefo,
Dutch National Archives
The Law & Humanities blog calls attention to this podcast on 1970s female TV detectives from Advanced TV Herstory. The episode covers the Nancy Drew TV series with Pamela Sue Martin, Mrs. Columbo with Kate Mulgrew, and Charlie's Angels.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The Phantom Light (1935).

Gordon Harker. NYPL
In The Phantom Light, the murder of a lighthouse keeper is complicated by the appearance of a mysterious light and a band of wreckers. Starring Gordon Harker (great-uncle of actress Susannah Harker) and Ian Hunter, the film is directed by Michael Powell (before he and Emeric Pressburger formed the Archers), from a play cowritten by Australian-born Evadne Price (who wrote Not So Quiet... Stepdaughters of War under the pseudonym Helen Zenna Smith). Mystery author Joseph Jefferson Farjeon (aka Anthony Swift) provided some dialogue.

Monday, February 06, 2017

The banning of Conan Doyle and Hammett.

Dashiell Hammett.
Yank 30 Nov. 1945
The Department of Special Collections of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas has posted online the catalog (with images) of its 1955 exhibition on banned books, which received ALA's Letter Library Award in 1956.

The exhibition includes, under Russia, works by Arthur Conan Doyle, "because they dealt with occultism and spiritualism."

The U.S. section reveals that Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon (1930) was removed from State Department libraries abroad in June 1953—part of efforts to drop or destroy works characterized by the department as written by communists. (In 1951, Hammett went to prison in Kentucky for contempt of court; he had refused to reveal the names of those who posted bail for four communists.) The NEA Big Read Web page on The Maltese Falcon states that Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R–WI) was responsible for this move, but Hammett's books were restored by a fan: President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Another interesting entry: a biography of Lawrence of Arabia by Richard Aldington, suppressed by friends of T. E. Lawrence because Aldington made controversial assertions such that Lawrence was untruthful about his experiences and did not acknowledge help of literary figures on The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. However, the book was published in French in 1954 and English in 1955, and critics have since questioned its level of objectivity.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Remembering Barbara Hale:
The Clay Pigeon (1949).

Bill Williams and 
Barbara Hale with their son,
William Katt, in 1957
Besides her long run as Della Street in Perry Mason, Barbara Hale—who died at age 94 on January 26—also appeared with her husband, Bill Williams, in The Clay Pigeon (1949). Former sailor Williams is accused of treason and murder, but because he has blackouts, he does not know if these charges are true. Hale plays the widow of a war friend who helps him. The screenwriter is Carl Foreman (High Noon, The Guns of Navarone, etc.).

Monday, January 30, 2017

Exhibition, Poe in Baltimore and elsewhere.

Edgar Allan Poe,
from the New York
, 3 Jan. 1909
The exhibition "The Enigmatic Edgar A. Poe in Baltimore & Beyond" closes at Johns Hopkins University's George Peabody Library on February 5, but you can check out this online version that discusses his cities of residence and the genres in which he wrote, including "Mysteries & Puzzles" that has images of some of his works.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Emil and the Detectives (1931, 1935).

Overlook Press ed. of
Emil and the Detectives
Erich Kaestner's classic 1929 children's novel about a boy pursuing the man who robbed him and enlisting the aid of a band of child detectives had two early film adaptations: a 1931 version scripted by Billy Wilder and a 1935 version.

Monday, January 23, 2017

New Web site for Conan Doyle estate.

Arthur Conan Doyle.
Wellcome Library, London
The Arthur Conan Doyle estate has debuted a new Web site with various texts, correspondence, photos, memorabilia, and films about the creator of Sherlock Holmes and his many roles, including author, physician, advocate, and spiritualist. An interesting account is his less than enthusiastic attitude toward the knighthood offered to him in 1902.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

She Played with Fire (aka Fortune Is a Woman, 1957).

Illustration of
Jack Hawkins, ca. 1958
Reuniting with a former girlfriend (Arlene Dahl) means arson, blackmail, and murder for insurance investigator Jack Hawkins in She Played with Fire, another product of the team of Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, who adapted the novel by Winston Graham (Marnie, Poldark). Gilliat also directs. Costars include Ian Hunter, Bernard Miles, and Christopher Lee.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Hammett, Chandler, and the Writers Guild.

Ad for Mister Dynamite (1935)
In the Writers Guild Foundation's online On the Shoulders of Giants: Early Writers Guild History are the following goodies:
  • Cover of the guild's July 1947 The Screen Writer, which lists Raymond Chandler's "Critical Notes" that critique the contents of the May 1947 issue. One of his observations (in response to an article by Joseph L. Mankiewitz) is "I do not think a writer has to become a producer or director to be an independent artist . . . there is a cleavage between the creative art of writing and the arts of directing and producing..." (31). The July 1947 issue also has "Writing and Realization" by Meyer Levin (author of the Leopold and Loeb-inspired Compulsion) about a film in Palestine that involved him.
The foundation also has posted "The Top 20 Best Written TV Series." No. 15 is Hill Street Blues, no. 9 is The Wire, no. 3 is The Twilight Zone, and no. 1 is The Sopranos.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I See a Dark Stranger (aka The Adventuress, 1946).

Irishwoman Deborah Kerr and British soldier Trevor Howard become embroiled in World War II espionage involving a little black book and D-Day in this screenwriting effort by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat (The Lady Vanishes, Night Train to Munich, The Green Man, etc.); Launder also directs.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Sherlock Holmes in newspapers.

Illustration from "The Adventure of
the Three Students," Denison [IA]
, 13 Sept. 1905
The British Newspaper Archive blog looks at Sherlock Holmes in newspapers, including a peek into the re-creation of 221B Baker Street in London's Sherlock Holmes pub. In one clipping, Arthur Conan Doyle discusses the fallout of "The Final Problem": "I was amazed at the concern expressed by the public. . . . 'You brute,' was the beginning of a letter of remonstrance which one lady sent me."

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Suspended Alibi (1957).

Andrew Keir, left, and Valentine
Dyall in Suspended Alibi
A philandering editor finds himself in trouble when he is accused of murdering a friend at the time he was meeting with his mistress. Patrick Holt, Honor Blackman, and Valentine Dyall co-star.

Monday, January 02, 2017

BBC Radio 4: The life of Wilkie Collins.

Vanity Fair cartoon of Wilkie
Collins by Adriano Cecioni,
Feb. 1872
This week on BBC Radio 4 is Peter Ackroyd's examination of the life of Wilkie Collins, including his relationship with his artist father, his friendship with Charles Dickens, his unusual personal life, and his landmark mystery works The Woman in White and The Moonstone.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Two Thousand Women (1944).

Frank Launder in 1947.
In Two Thousand Women, Flora Robson and Phyllis Calvert are two of the British women interned in World War II France who try to aid downed RAF airmen. The screenwriter-director is Frank Launder (The Lady Vanishes, Night Train to Munich).

Monday, December 26, 2016

Listen to Chester Himes in 1969.

Chester Himes in 1967.
Fotocollectie Anefo,
Dutch National Archives
University of Rochester's online exhibition on writer John A. Williams features a May 1969 audio clip in which fellow author Chester Himes talks about Paris, Richard Wright, and the CIA.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

See Conan Doyle in 1918 and 1922.

At about minute 2:00 in this February 1918 newsreel held at the Imperial War Museum, Arthur Conan Doyle arrives for the opening of the Chevrons Club (a club for noncommissioned officers of the army and navy).

And here he is with his family in 1922.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The art of Dell design.

For those who love Dell paperbacks, two selections from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto:

Philip Ketchum,
from U-Denver's
1925 Kynewisbok

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Glass Alibi (1946).

In The Glass Alibi, a reporter (Douglas Fowley) hooks up with a gangster's girlfriend (Anne Gwynne, grandmother of Star Trek actor Chris Pine) and marries a terminally ill woman (Maris Wrixon) for her money, but complications ensue when she does not die as expected and the gangster (Cy Kendall) escapes from prison. The screenwriter is Mindret Lord (Strange Impersonation).

Monday, December 12, 2016

Dick Tracy's Chester Gould at Northwestern.

Chester Gould, left, with
producer Henry Saperstein of the
Dick Tracy TV series in 1961
The "Notable Northwestern Alumni" exhibition spotlights Chester Gould, the creator of Dick Tracy and member of Northwestern's class of 1923.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Happy centenary, Kirk Douglas.

Kirk Douglas and Jan Sterling in
Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole (1951)
Actor-producer Kirk Douglas turns 100 today, and starting today, the Jewish Film Institute will celebrate by showing Paths of Glory, Lust for Life, Spartacus, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Ace in the Hole, The Bad and the Beautiful, Lonely Are the Brave, and The Vikings.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Strange Impersonation
(dir. Anthony Mann, 1946).

Mindret Lord (born Loeb)
in 1923
A scientist (Brenda Marshall) resorts to extreme measures after her car hits a pedestrian and she is blackmailed, while her assistant (Hillary Brooke) plots to steal her boyfriend (William Gargan). One of the film's screenwriters is Mindret Lord, who also wrote as Garland Lord with his then-wife, Isabel Garland (daughter of author Hamlin Garland); their novels include Murder's Little Helper (1941), She Never Grew Old (1942), and Murder with Love (1943). Lord committed suicide in 1955.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

For GivingTuesday:
Consider mystery collections.

Phoebe Atwood
Taylor. From
Barnard College's
Mortarboard, 1930
Today's Giving Tuesday focuses attention on charitable contributions, as people consider the organizations or causes to support or to make a contribution in someone's name during the holiday season.

Libraries and archives need support to acquire, preserve, catalog, and digitize their collections as well as to present exhibitions or other programs involving their holdings. Consider contributing to your alma mater's library or one of the following collections with significant mystery elements:

Ray and Pat Browne Popular Culture Library, Bowling Green State University

Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico (home of the papers of Tony Hillerman)

Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University (home of manuscripts of many authors such as Harry Kemelman, Jane Langton, Elizabeth Linington, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Hillary Waugh, and Donald Westlake)

Lilly Library, Indiana University Bloomington (home of the papers of author-critic Anthony Boucher and Mystery Writers of America)

Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin (home of Erle Stanley Gardner's "plot wheel")

Rose Library, Emory University (home of one of the largest collections of Victorian yellowbacks)

Special Collections, University of California Irvine (home of the papers of Kenneth Millar, aka Ross Macdonald, and Margaret Millar)

Special Collections, University of South Carolina (home of the papers of James Ellroy, George V. Higgins, and John Jakes. An ongoing and major project of the USC libraries is the preservation and digitization of 2000 Fox Movietone newsreels.)

Wisconsin Center for Film and Television Research (home of the papers of Vera Caspary, Kirk Douglas, and Dalton Trumbo. The center has recently established a portal at the Internet Archive that includes a home movie of theater legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.)

The Library of Congress offers several options for supporting its work (don't forget that it houses the papers of luminaries such as James M. Cain), including the National Book Festival.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Leopold and Loeb exhibition.

Northwestern University's online exhibition "The Murder That Wouldn't Die: Leopold & Loeb in Artifact, Fact, and Fiction" examines the 1924 murder of young Bobby Franks through items such as ransom notes, confessions and psychological evaluations of Leopold and Loeb, court transcripts, trial photos, and fictional versions of the case such as Meyer Levin's Compulsion and Alfred Hitchcock's Rope.

Nathan Leopold (top) and
Richard Loeb in 1924.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Rex Stout/Bertrand Russell on civil liberties.

Top: Bertrand Russell, ca. 1936. NYPL.
Bottom: Mitch Miller, Edward Whitehead, and
Rex Stout compare beards in Feb. 1957.
Ogdensburg [NY] Journal
Mystery author Rex Stout hosted the NBC radio program Speaking of Liberty during World War II. In a July 1941 episode on civil liberties (program no. 14) with philosopher-mathematician Bertrand Russell, Russell states, "Intolerance is dangerously inconsistent with the goal of liberty." Stout replies, "Nothing is more fundamentally antidemocratic or actually more uncivilized."