This week’s mystery movie was the 1932 Universal picture “The Old Dark House,” with Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, Lillian Bond, Ernest Thesiger, Eva Moore, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, John Dudgeon and Brember Wills.
From the novel by J.B. Priestly. Screenplay by Benn W. Levy (additional dialogue R.C. Sherriff).
Directed by James Whale.
Photography by Arthur Edeson, edited by Clarence Kolster and Maurice Pivar.
“The Old Dark House” is available from Amazon on DVD and streaming.
The 1922 version of Priestley’s novel, “Benighted,” is available online.
I picked “The Old Dark House” because TCM was airing the 1963 William Castle version with Tom Poston and I wasn’t sure if I had the remake or James Whale’s original. And as long as I pulled the DVD it seemed reasonable to make it the mystery movie. I figured I needed something more recognizable than last week’s “Sallah.” As I found out, some people nailed it right away and it took others a bit longer.
I won’t get into the history of the film since E. Yarber did a fine job in his comments.
Let’s see which New York Times critic hated it…. By 1932, Bosley Crowther was gracing The Times with his reviews, so let’s see.
Aha. Mordaunt Hall. So “The Old Dark House” has at least a chance of getting a favorable notice.
And indeed it did (Oct. 28, 1932):
Having discovered through the popularity of the films of “Dracula,” “Frankenstein” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” that motion picture patrons like to be horrified just as much as they like to be amused, Carl Laemmle Jr. of Universal Pictures is now offering another shocker in the form of a pictorial conception of J.B. Priestley’s “The Old Dark House,” which now is spreading its spine-chilling effects among Rialto spectators.
There is a wealth of talent in this production, and while one may wonder, after witnessing the exciting doings, why the motorists who seek refuge in the old dark house did not continue on their way immediately after encountering two or three of the occupants, it must be remembered that Mr. Priestley is responsible for their staying and, as the shadow tale adheres quite closely to the book, he is also responsible for the hysteria that prevails during many of the scenes.
For Monday, we have a mystery woman. She does not approve of such goings-on. In fact, she spends the entire mystery movie not approving of such goings-on.
Alas, I had the Kino version rather than the Cohen collection restoration, so I had to fiddle with the images to make them usable. It is a tribute to the popularity of the film that nearly every frame can be found with a reverse-image search.
Update: This is Eva Moore. And I had to look long all through film to find an image that wasn’t online.
For Tuesday, we have a mystery gent. He is bidding adieu to several of our mystery leads, who will appear Friday.
Update: This is Ernest Thesiger.
Brain Trust roll call: Anne Papineau (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery woman), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery woman), Mike Hawks (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery woman), Sheila (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery woman) and D. Benton (mystery movie and Monday’s mystery woman).
For “Aha Wednesday,” we have a mystery guest.
Update: This is Elspeth Dudgeon.
Brain Trust roll call: Jenny M. (mystery movie and both mystery guests), Howard Mandelbaum (Tuesday’s mystery guest), Anne Papineau (Tuesday’s mystery guest and one of his famous lines), Sheila (Tuesday’s mystery guest and his line in the film), Mike Hawks (Tuesday’s mystery guest) and Megan and Thom (Tuesday’s mystery guest).
For “Aha Thursday,” we have a mystery woman, half of a mysterious couple.
Update: This is Lillian Bond.
And here’s a mystery gent, the other half of Thursday’s mysterious couple.
Update: This is Charles Laughton.
Finally, we have this mystery fellow.
Update: This is Brember Wills.
Brain Trust roll call: Howard Mandelbaum (Wednesday’s mystery guest), Sheila (Wednesday’s mystery guest), E. Yarber (mystery movie, all mystery guests and a bit of history about our mystery film), Mike Hawks (Wednesday’s mystery guest), Blackwing Jenny (mystery movie, all mystery guests and mystery director) and Anne Papineau (Wednesday’s mystery guest).
For Friday, we have this mystery guest.
Update: This is Boris Karloff.
And we have this mystery gent.
Update: This is Melvyn Douglas.
And to round off the week, we have this mystery couple.
Update: This is Raymond Massey and Gloria Stuart.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (mystery movie, all mystery guests, mystery director and mystery studio), Megan and Thom (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery couple), Tucson Barbara (mystery movie and all mystery guests), Beach Gal (mystery movie and all mystery guests), Funky PhD (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery couple), Mike Hawks (Thursday’s mystery guests), Anne Papineau (Thursday’s mystery guests), Gary (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery gent, Wednesday’s mystery guest and Thursday’s mysterious fun couple), Sheila (Thursday’s mystery guests), E. Yarber (Thursday’s mystery guests and a bit of history about our mystery movie), L.C. (mystery movie and mystery cast), Sue Slutzky (mystery movie, all mystery guests and predicting Friday’s mystery guests), Sylvia E. (mystery movie, all mystery guests, mystery director and predicting Friday’s mystery guests), Dan Nather (mystery movie, all mystery guests and mystery director), and Benito (the male half of Thursday’s mystery couple).
Eva Moore in “The Old Dark House”
Eva Moore in THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932)
Could be Sarah Allgood if it wasn’t Monday.
Eva Moore in THE OLD DARK HOUSE 1932.
Eva Moore, ‘The Old Dark House’. One of my faves!
Eva Moore in The Old Dark House?
Eva Moore and Ernest Thesiger in The Old Dark House.
Ernest “Have a potato” Thesiger
Ernest Thesiger, thanking everyone for stopping by!
Today’s guest is Ernest Thesiger.
Ms. Elspeth Dudgeon
Elspeth Dudgeon for Wednesday!
Aha Wednesday Indeed. Today we have Elspeth Dudgeon in The Old Dark House, with Eva Moore on Monday and Ernest Thesiger Tuesday. What a film to showcase as people stagger out of lockdown, but I guess we could all use a little morbid humor these days.
The film certainly inspired Charles Addams, who not only initially modeled his sinister butler after Karloff in the cast but later had Karloff introduce one of his cartoon collections and was then retroactively touted as the inspiration for William Castle’s dire remake, which is not only a reversafor the books, but almost led to the original film being withdrawn from circulation and almost lost.
Figures I missed checking in before now this week! So far we have Eva Moore, the incomparable Ernest Thesiger, and Elspeth Dudgeon in James Whale’s “The Old Dark House”.
THE OLD DARK HOUSE. Horror is not one of my things. Eva Moore, Ernest Thesiger, Elspeth Dudgeon, Lillian Bond, Charles Laughton, and Brember Wills, all directed by James Whale in one of Universal’s horror series.
Today’s friends are Lilian Bond and Charles Laughton. The movie is The Old, Dark House.
The Old Dark House
Mon – Eva Moore
Tues – Ernest Thesiger
Wed – Elspeth Dudgeon
Thurs – Lilian Bond, Charles Laughton, Brember Wills
Movie is The old Dark House
Monday – Eva Moore
Tues – Ernest Thesiger
Wed – Elspeth Dudgeon
Thurs – Lillian Bond, Charles Laughton, Brember Wills
Thursday’s mystery couple: Lillian Bond and Charles Laughton in The Old Dark House
Lillian Bond, Charles Laughton and Brember Wills.
Lilian Bond, Charles Laughton and Brember Wills
Interesting…to me…that I rarely watch films of this era. However I am surprised to recognize Ernest |Thesiger, Elspeth Dudgeon, Lillian Bond, and of course Charles Laughton. So the film must be Old DDark House
Lillian Bond, Charles Laughton and Brember Wills for Thursday!
Wow, this game is a lot easier once you already know what the movie is.
In keeping with the veddy British cast of this film, today we have THREE actors who began their careers on the London stage. (And Eva Moore’s daughter Jill Esmond was so entrenched in that world that she married Laurence Olivier).
Lillian Bond was the first to cross the Atlantic for Hollywood and became a WAMPAS Baby Star along with the upcoming Gloria Stuart.
There’s a curious story about Charles Laughton’s participation here. Paramount had signed him to make his American film debut in a Tallulah Bankhead vehicle called Devil and the Deep, when production was halted by an illness (protracted hangover?) that put Miss B. out of commission. The studio agreed to loan Laughton to Universal in the interim, but only under the condition that The Old Dark House would not be released until AFTER Devil in the Deep, so Paramount could still claim to have presented the star’s first US movie. Devil in the Deep was eventually finished, premiering in August 1932. TODH was originally intended to be Universal’s first fall release, but was held back until closer to Halloween. Laughton was later signed for the title role in a production of Goodbye, Mr. Chips that James Whale planned to direct, but the script didn’t work out and the project was canned when Laughton returned to England to play the title role in I, Claudius (another project that didn’t survive).
Brember Wills played Saul Femm as a meek little man whose homicidal insanity eventually hops out like a psychotic Jack-in-the-Box. The original character was much more physically imposing, but Whale opted for a different approach, feeling that a second huge maniac would water down the impact of Karloff’s Morgan.
The Old Dark House (1932) w/Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Lillian Bond, Gloria Stuart, Charles Laughton, Ernest Thesiger, Raymond Massey
“The Old Dark House” 1932
Monday: Eva Moore
Tuesday: Ernest Thesiger
Wednesday: Elsbeth Dudgeon
Thursday: Lilian Bond, Charles Laughton, and Brember Wills
Friday: (The rest of the cast) Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Gloria Stuart, and Raymond Massey
“the old dark house” 1932, directed by James Whale
Eva Moore, Ernst Thesiger, Elspeth Dudgeon, Brember Wills, Lilian Bond, Charles Laughton. Friday should bring Gloria Stuart, Melvin Douglas, Raymond Massey and Boris Karloff.
Looking forward to the Saturday breakdown.
Oh, shoot! Haven’t been here since Monday, and this was finally one I knew!
James Whale’s THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932)
Monday — Eva Moore
Tuesday — Ernest Thesiger
Wednesday — Elspeth (John) Dudgeon
Thursday — Lillian Bond, Charles Laughton, Brember Wells
Charles Laughton is not happy today
Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Raymond Massey, and Gloria Stuart.
Thursday: Lilian Bond; Charles Laughton; Brember Wills
Friday: Boris Karloff; Melvyn Douglas; Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart
Fri – Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Raymond Massey and Gloria Stewart
Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Raymond Massey and Gloria Stuart.
Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart
Old dark horse
After the monster (ha!) success of Frankenstein, Universal was quick to play up the reteaming of Karloff and Whale, even pretending that they were settling bets by announcing that their “Uncanny” new star was versatile enough to play a role so different in appearance that people might not connect the actor to both parts. It’s been speculated that the relative box office failure of The Old Dark House may have been because audiences were disappointed Karloff had relatively little to do. This was possibly because Whale resented the attention Boris got, considering him a found object of sorts whose Frankenstein performance was more a director’s gambit than a show of genuine talent. Still, this is an ensemble piece so there was no way Karloff could have dominated the story any more than the rest of the cast. He had to express his character through physical behavior alone, and his silent film days were a good training ground.
Speaking of the rest of the cast, we suddenly leave our British company to find two Americans and a Canadian have managed to sneak into the manor! Mystery men Melvin Douglas and Raymond Massey were brought into the project relatively late in the game, Douglas replacing Whale stalwart Colin Clive at the last minute. As for Gloria Stuart, she recorded a commentary track for the film years later that casts a pleasant glow over the whole experience. She lived in my neighborhood and more than once I considered knocking on the door of her own Old Dark House to wish her well. Thank goodness I never did, or I may have ended up like Morgan.
On Friday, Boris Karloff, Melvin Douglas, Raymond Massey and Gloria Stuart