Enough of Corona for at least a minute or two, OK?
So we got home from our trip to Costco and Target (read about that exciting affair here!), got home, put everything away, and after eating lunch I’m alone in the living room and flipping through channels and on TCM they’re about to start up The Kennel Murder Case, a 1933 film that marked the last time William Powell played the suave detective Philo Vance.
It was the role of Philo Vance, which William Powell first played in 1929’s The Canary Murder Case, that would elevate him to a leading protagonist star status. But the year after the release of The Kennel Murder Case Mr. Powell would play detective Nick Charles opposite the wonderful Myna Loy in The Thin Man and that proved to be it for Philo Vance for him.
Frankly, it was the right choice.
For in watching the film -which, by the way, was very entertaining though the murder mystery is unintentionally hilarious in its twisty-turny resolution- was like watching the far superior The Thin Man but without the one missing -and sorely missed!- extra element… Myna Loy…
Myrna Loy and William Powell had such a lovely on-screen chemistry and this -along with a clever script based on the classic novel by Dashiell Hammett- made The Thin Man an absolute stone cold classic and helped propel the series of films which followed featuring their characters.
But without Ms. Loy…
…well, she’s missed, let’s just put it that way.
Still, The Kennel Murder Case is a diverting movie which not only features a typically suave performance from Powell but also good turns by Mary Astor (though compared to her sterling role she’d play a few years later in The Maltese Falcon her character as written is rather one note), Helen Vinson, and Eugene Pallete (quite funny as the Detective just a step -or two!- behind Vance).
The story involves a literal locked room mystery and seven people who all had good reason for wanting the victim offed.
But, as I said above, the eventual reveal of whodunnit and why are so incredibly complicated and silly that they almost ruin all the delightful stuff that came before. Without giving too much away it involves the victim being essentially a “walking dead man” for a bit so he could move on his own from a downstairs room to an upstairs room, where he passed and…
…sheesh, I’m getting a headache thinking about all that!
Still, the film is breezy and fun and, as a bonus, directed by the incredibly underrated (and/or unknown, which is a shame) Michael Curtiz, who would go on to direct a little unknown film by the name of Casablanca (yes, that Casablanca) among many other pretty terrific works.
So if you’re tuning in to TCM one night and you see The Kennel Murder Case on the docket and you’re a fan of William Powell… and who wouldn’t be?… you could do much worse than spend some time with Philo Vance solving a locked room murder mystery!