This week’s mystery movie has been the 1928 MGM silent picture “West of Zanzibar,” with Lon Chaney, Lionel Barrymore, Mary Nolan, Warner Baxter, Jacqueline Gadsdon, Roscoe Ward, Kalla Pasha and Curtis Nero. It was directed by Tod Browning.
The film was adapted by Elliot Clawson from the play “Kongo,” by Chester De Vonde and Kilbourn Gordon, which received 135 performances on Broadway.
The play starred Walter Huston in the Lon Chaney role as a man named Flint, “a bearded and towering white man who rules black natives with an iron hand” and is “paralyzed from the waist down and accordingly bound to a wheelchair (or else committed to the even more glamorous expedient of dragging himself across the stage),” according to the New York Times review of the play (March 31, 1926). Huston returned to the role in 1932 for the MGM film “Kongo,” with Lupe Velez Virginia Bruce and Conrad Nagel.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Chaney performed his own stunt in which he tumbled over a railing and fell 18 feet during a fight with Lionel Barrymore that left his character paralyzed at the waist.
Los Angeles Times film critic Whitney Williams said (Oct. 14. 1928):
The action is atmospheric to the extent of becoming, at times, gruesome, and a certain aspect of horror marks the scenes in which the things-of-the-jungle-that-crawl are pictured. Those who favor an element of weirdness, a suggestion of the grotesque, in their entertainment, will thoroughly enjoy “West of Zanzibar.” Even those audiences who prefer straight modern day settings will find a note of the unusual to satisfy their palates.
It is a well concocted narrative and Mr. Chaney gives one of his most able and effective portrayals as he drags himself through scene after scene without using his legs. He descends from his sleeping quarters by means of a knotted rope, and in a curiously expert fashion succeeds time and again in climbing into a wheel chair by merely the use of his strong arms.
“West of Zanzibar” is available from Warner Archive for $15.19.
For Monday, we have a mystery woman.
Update: This is Jacqueline Gadsdon.
For Tuesday, we have a mystery gent who is thirsty.
Update: This is Kalla Pasha.
Brain Trust roll call: Mike Hawks (mystery movie and Monday’s mystery guest).
For Wednesday, we have a mystery woman.
Update: This is Mary Nolan.
Brain Trust roll call: Mike Hawks (Tuesday’s mystery tippler.)
For Thursday, we have a mystery gent.
Update: This is Warner Baxter.
Brain Trust roll call: Mike Hawks (Wednesday’s mystery woman), Megan, Lee Ann and Thom (mystery movie and Monday’s and Wednesday’s mystery guests) and Sheila (mystery movie and Monday’s and Wednesday’s mystery guests).
Brain Trust roll call: David Inman (Thursday’s mystery guest), B.J. Merholz (Thursday’s mystery guest), Benito (Thursday’s mystery guest), Mike Hawks (Thursday’s mystery guest), Jenny M. (Thursday’s mystery guest), Gary Martin (mystery movie, Thursday’s mystery guest), Don Danard (Thursday’s mystery guest), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie and mystery guests) and Bob Hansen (Thursday’s mystery guest).