Despite its formulaic episodes, I happen to love the Raymond Burr Perry Mason TV show. Based on the very popular (and also formulaic!) novels by Erie Stanley Gardner, who could pump out a book a week it seemed, there was something grandly entertaining about seeing Raymond Burr’s Perry interact with a usually fascinating all star cast and solve a murder his client seemed to absolutely do and there was simply no way around it.
However, there were a series of Perry Mason films made well before Raymond Burr took to the television role and The Case of the Curious Bride is one of them.
Here’s the movie’s trailer:
One day while going over the latest movies offered on TCM, I spotted this film. Now, I haven’t seen a single non-Raymond Burr Perry Mason feature but this one really got my curiosity and for one reason and one reason only: It had a very early appearance of one Errol Flynn.
Don’t recognize the name? Welp, he was a very big action star, featured in such films as The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, and Captain Blood. He was primarily known as a very handsome swashbuckler, and his personal ilfe… ho boy, that must have been something (he would die at the very young age of 50 in 1959, his hard living, hard drinking, and sexual adventures/misadventures having sapped the life out of him by that point).
But I was fascinated by the idea of seeing a very young, pre-fame Errol Flynn in a Perry Mason movie. Yeah, I was damned curious to see this!
If you’re interested in seeing this film solely for Errol Flynn, be prepared to see him for a grand total of maybe two minutes (or less) of screen time. In fact, he doesn’t say a single line and shows up in a flashback toward the end of the film where its revealed how exactly he died.
Yep, he’s the film’s murder victim.
Having said that, The Case of the Curious Bride nonetheless proved to be a fun, if ultimately frivolous, mystery film. Warren William plays a decidedly theatrical Perry Mason, a man with food on his mind (!) who gets involved in a case involving an old female friend of his (played by Margaret Lindsay) who is now married but who had previously been married and -she thought- widowed. Only it turns out her previous husband is alive and blackmailing her (the role seemed to fit Errol Flynn to a tee, given his reputation outside the studio!).
Anyway, Perry, Della Street (a delightful Claire Dodd, who inhabits the role almost as well as Barbara Hale would in the Raymond Burr TV show), and personal P. I. “Sudsy” Drake (Allen Jenkins, putting on the ham in a big way… I much prefer William Hooper’s more serious Paul Drake from the TV show) get themselves chin deep in the case and figure out, by the end, whodunnit while their client comes very close to the electric chair.
Another element beyond the cameo by Errol Flynn that makes the movie notable is that it was directed by one Michael Curtiz, a workhorse of a director who, a few years later, directed this one little and almost forgotten film called Casablanca. He also directed several of the best known Errol Flynn films, including the aforementioned The Adventures of Robin Hood.
Yes, The Case of the Curious Bride isn’t a film destined to be remembered or admired but it is a fun little mystery with the added bonus of having two fascinating minutes featuring a pre-famous Errol Flynn directed by what would be one of his bigger collaborators in Michael Curtiz.
For those who find that alone fascinating, the movie is an easy recommendation.