This week’s mystery movie was the 1933 film “The Death Kiss,” with David Manners, Adrienne Ames, Bela Lugosi, John Wray, Vince Barnett, Alexander Carr, Edward Van Sloan, Harold Minjir, Barbara Bedford, Al Hill, Harold Waldrige, Wade Boteler and Lee Moran.
Book by Madelon St. Denis, screenplay by Gordon Kahn and Barry Barringer, photographed by Norbert Brodine, supervising editor Martin G. Cohn, edited by Rose Loewinger, settings by Ralph DeLacy, sound by Hans Weeren.
Directed by Edwin L. Marin.
A KBS Production, produced at the California Tiffany Studios.
“The Death Kiss” is available on DVD from TCM.
I rummaged around in the big database of films that aired on TCM in the last 25 years, looking for a highly rated movie that hadn’t been shown recently. The result was “The Death Kiss” (last aired in 2013), which was ideal because it has a large cast with a few well-known stars and a plentiful array of more obscure folks.
The concept is simple: At a movie studio, a staged shooting becomes real. Who is the killer? The bright, young leading man (a writer) is way ahead of the dim, plodding cops in solving the case as the investigation goes from one department to another, the front office down to the makeup department and the prop room.
I’m sure the New York Times hated it. But which critic?
The review (Jan. 28, 1933) by A.D.S. is noncommittal:
The spacious silences of the old Roxy on Seventh Avenue were torn into streaming ribbons of laughter and sound yesterday by the largest crowds that have visited the 6,000-seat theater in months. The incentive was the sharp reduction in admission prices and the object was amusement. To handle the entertainment-hunters in the militaristic tradition of the Roxy, the ushers dug down into their tactical manuals and brought out strategical manoeuvres, deployments, countermarches and untabulated miles of rope — the like of which had not been required in a long time. On the stage, where a speedy variety vaudeville program replaced the ballets and pageants of other days, the effect on the performers was electric. Rhythms quickened, feet kicked higher and faster, songs were sung with a new dash and jokes crackled with a new fervor. The hum and bustle of an excited and overflowing audience is a special kind of thrill.
Mystery and murder bristled on the screen, where “The Death Kiss” took its toll of innocent lives. The picture deals with homicide on a motion-picture set where a murder melodrama is in production.
Update: This is Alexander Carr.
For Tuesday, we have two mystery gents.
Update: This is Wilson Benge and the soon to be dead Edmund Burns.
Brain Trust roll call: Mike Hawks (mystery movie and Monday’s mystery guest).
One of the unusual aspects of our mystery film is that although it’s in black and white, several sequence use some color.
For “Aha Wednesday,” we have this mysterious fellow.
Update: This is Harold Minjir, playing the overtly effeminate character of Howell, the studio chief’s secretary. Anyone exploring the portrayal of gays as comedy relief in early films should take a look.
And we have this mysterious fellow.
Update: This is Edward Van Sloan.
And we have these two mysterious fellows.
Update: This is John Wray and Wade Boteler.
Brain Trust roll call: Mike Hawks (Tuesday’s mystery guests) and Sheila (mystery movie and all mystery guests).
For “Aha Thursday,” we have this mystery woman.
Update: For mysterious reasons, “The Death Kiss” has two characters named Agnes. I strongly recommend that scenarists not do this. She is Agnes No. 1 (Kay Johnson), in the nonspeaking role of Agnes Steiner, married to Joseph Steiner, Bela Lugosi’s character. I gave credit for Agnes No. 2 (see below), even though she looks nothing like Agnes No. 1.
This is Agnes No. 1, who has apparently been trysting with now-dead leading man.
And here is Agnes No. 2, (Mona Maris) with Lugosi, Carr and Benge. She is very glad that her onetime husband is dead.
We also have these mystery gents.
Update: Lots of votes for Allen Jenkins in this image. But it’s Spec O’Donnell and a character named Bill. As with Agnes No.1 and Agnes No. 2, there are two characters named Bill. This one is Charles Dorety. Writers: Don’t give two characters the same name.
And even more mystery gents.
Update: This is Vince Barrett, studio cop who provides comic relief, Alan Roscoe and Boteler.
Brain Trust roll call: Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie and all mystery guests), Mike Hawks (Wednesday’s mystery guests) and Sheila (Wednesday’s mystery guests).
This week’s mystery movie is set at at movie studio. I don’t recall seeing this type of slate before. The information is written as you might expect…
… but the clapper is on the side, so the slate is turned over to add the mark for the sound.
On a fashion note, our mysterious leading man wears a belted-back suit coat (part of a three-piece, single-breasted suit), though it’s a bit hard to see here.
Here’s a somewhat better shot of our mysterious studio police officer, who provides comic relief.
Update: Another image of Barnett.
For Friday, here’s our mysterious leading lady.
Update: This is Adrienne Ames.
Here’s our mysterious leading man and a mystery companion, reading the trades, of course.
Update: This is Davis Manners, left. Howard Mandelbaum identifies the man on the right as Jack Byron.
Finally, a couple of mysterious movie studio executives, figuring out what to do about the unpleasantness on Sound Stage 3.
Update: This is James Donlan and Bela Lugosi.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (mystery movie and all mystery guests), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery guests), Mike Hawks (Thursday’s mystery guests), Sheila (Thursday’s mystery guests), Benito (Thursday’s mysterious studio police officer), Anne Papineau (mystery movie and mystery cast) and Thom and Megan (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mysterious doorman, Wednesday’s mysterious movie director, mystery detective lieutenant, mysterious detective sergeant and Thursday’s mysterious studio police officer).
Note to Sylvia E.: Yes, it certainly does. All should be clear now.