This week’s mystery movie was the 1929 MGM picture “The Last of Mrs. Cheyney,” which was released in sound (8,651 feet) and silent (6,484 feet) versions.
With Norma Shearer, Basil Rathbone, Herbert Bunston, George Barraud, Hedda Hopper, Moon Carroll, Madeline Seymour, Cyril Chadwick, George K. Arthur, Finch Smiles and Maude Turner Gordon. From the play by Frederick Lonsdale, continuity by Hans Kraly and Claudine West, recording by Douglas Shearer, art direction by Cedric Gibbons, photography by William Daniels, gowns by Adrian, editing by Conrad A. Nervig. Directed by Sidney Franklin.
“The Last of Mrs. Cheyney” is available from Warner Archive or on sale from TCM. Also available in streaming video from Amazon.
Previewing “The Last of Mrs. Cheyney” for this week, I found it pretty much a creaky old antique. Some of the staging and cutting is bizarre and the actors are forced to declaim their lines for the benefit of the new microphones. The studio was clearly grappling with the advent of sound (it was the studio’s first film to use an optical soundtrack rather than discs). It’s interesting to see Rathbone as a leading man, rather than his later roles of Sherlock Holmes, one of his Warner Bros. villains, or the scheming opportunist of “Kind Lady.” Bunston’s performance now seems terribly antiquated and Barraud’s disappearance from films after 1937 (he lived to 1970) is unfortunate. He later wrote a number of screenplays, including “Stolen Life,” “Death Was a Passenger” and “Portrait of a Matador.”
Writing in the New York Times (Aug. 12, 1929), Mordaunt Hall said:
A creditable talking pictorial version of Frederick Lonsdale’s play, “The Last of Mrs. Cheyney,” is the chief attraction at the Capitol. In it Norma Shearer plays the role of the captivating Mrs. Cheyney, which was so nicely acted on the stage by Ina Claire. Miss Shearer’s work is remarkably good. She talks charmingly and, of course, she is extremely good-looking. This speaking likeness of Mrs. Cheyney makes that resourceful woman of the world a thoroughly engaging person, clever and sometimes Wildean in her stinging comments to her society companions.
It is a well-arranged picture, but nevertheless one in which it is not difficult to detect where Mr. Lonsdale left off and where the scenario writers tried their hand at dialogue. Most of it was reproduced far too loudly yesterday afternoon, but from time to time it was evident that the projection operator was trying to obtain lower tones that were not muffled. The voices would be all the better if they were more natural, for in the Capitol promenade yesterday afternoon it hardly sounded like a comedy.
…There are a number of interesting dramatic passages that are pictured with considerable cunning. The dialogue goes on for some time, and Sidney Franklin, the director, keeps his players busy, which is a relief after seeing talking screen images standing in the same spot until they have had their way. And in this regard Miss Shearer and Mr. Rathbone seem to know their lines thoroughly and, in most of the scenes, those uncomfortable pauses have been avoided.
For Monday, we have a mystery gent. Would you believe it? He does not approve of such goings-on.
Update: This is Herbert Bunston.
For Tuesday, we have a mystery woman. You can imagine her opinion of such goings-on.
Update: This is Maude Turner Gordon.
Brain Trust roll call: Patrick (Monday’s mystery gent).
For Wednesday, we have this debonair mystery gent and a mystery woman.
Update: This is George Barraud.
Update: Here’s another shot of cigarette woman with George Barraud.
I’m fairly certain this is Moon Carroll. The dialogue doesn’t always use the characters’ names as they appear on imdb. George refers to her as “lady.”
Here’s a shot of cigarette woman with two mystery companions. Oh those hats!
For Thursday, Monday’s mystery chap has a not-terribly-mysterious companion, which narrows it down – if only a bit. All will become clear Friday.
Update: This is Hedda Hopper and Herbert Bunston.
For Friday, our entirely unmysterious leads.
Update: Basil Rathbone and Norma Shearer.
Note: I didn’t expect anyone to try to identify Wednesday’s cigarette woman since her face is hidden. This did not deter several people and I applaud their dedication to the mystery movie!
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (mystery movie and all mystery guests), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie, all mystery guests except the mystery woman with the cigarette on Wednesday), David Inman (Thursday’s mystery woman), Anne Papineau (Thursday’s mystery woman), Sylvia E. (mystery movie, all mystery guests except the mystery woman with the cigarette) Mike Hawks (Thursday’s mystery woman) and L.C. (mystery movie and mystery cast).
Herbert Bunston on Monday.
Is today’s guest Dennis Hoey?
An interesting guess. But alas, I’m afraid not.
Lumsden Hare on Monday.
Just a wild-eyed guess.
Just a guess: Lyle Talbot? Wednesday?
Alas,Lyle had not embarked on his prolific career when our mystery movie was made.
Akim hadn’t started his film career when our mystery movie was made.
Lon Chaney Jr. for today, but not sure what movie.
Interesting guess. But alas, I’m afraid not.
THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY (1929). Hedda Hopper with Herbert Bunston today and Maude Turner Gordon yesterday.
Moon Carroll yesterday.
THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY (1929)
Monday: Herbert Bunston
Tuesday: Maude Turner Gordon
Wednesday: George Barraud & Norma Shearer
Thursday: Hedda Hopper & Herbert Bunston
Louise Closser Hale on Tuesday and Hedda Hopper today, making this “Rebound.”
Los Angeles Times alumna Hedda Hopper on Thursday. Wish I knew more, alas.
I have no idea how I bumped into this movie – but I started out looking at Philo Vance movies, then ended up at Basil Rathbone movies and voila – there it was.
The Last of Mrs. Cheney 1929
Working on the cast
I think Monday’s mystery gent is Herbert Bunston
Tuesday’s Lady is Maude Turner Gordon
Wednesday’s duo – The gent (butler) is George Barraud – still not sure of the lady, though I’ve found other images of her taken from a different angle
Thursday – Mr. Bunston again, and I think Hedda Hopper, but I’m not sure
That leaves Norma Shearer and Basil Rathbone for Friday
Looking forward to the Saturday breakdown on this “not too complex” comedy picture.
Does Basil Ruysdael enter into the plot?
The Last of Mrs Cheyney (1929) w/Norma Shearer, Basil Rathbone, George Barraud, Hedda Hopper,…
Basil Rathbone and Norma Shearer today.
Basil Rathbone, Norma Shearer plus throw in Herbert Bunston and George Barroud for LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY.
Oh, “The Last of Mrs. Cheyney”
Friday – Basil Rathbone and Norma Shearer
Wednesday’s cigarette lady, it would seem, must be either Moon Carroll or Madeline Seymour. I’m gonna go with Ms. Carroll as after seeing a photo taken of her, but from a different angle, that would seem to be a fair match and that photo shows more of her face. If her character’s name is ‘Joan’ then it’s definitely Ms. Carroll.
Fun. Looking forward to Saturday.
Basil Rathbone, Norma Shearer.
Just saw the 1937 version w three charming leads Joan Crawford, Wm Powell and Robt Montgomery. Still available for streaming via Watch TCM. Now curious about this one
I have to admit I’ve never heard of Herbert Bunston.
Nor had I. That’s why he was a Monday!
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