BULLDOG DRUMMOND (director: F. Richard Jones; screenwriters: based on the play Bulldog Drummond by Herman C. “Sapper” McNeile /Sidney Howard/Wallace Smith; cinematographers: George S. Barnes, Gregg Toland; editors: Frank Lawrence, Viola Lawrence; music: Hugo Riesenfeld; cast: Ronald Colman (Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond), Joan Bennett (Phyllis), Claude Allister (Algy), Lawrence Grant (Dr. Lakington), Wilson Benge (Danny), Lilyan Tashman (Irma), Montague Love (Peterson), Gertrude Short (Barmaid), Charles Sellon(Travers), Adolph Milar (Marcovitch), Tetsu Momai (Chong), Donald Novis (tenor); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Samuel Goldwyn; MGM; 1929)
“Entertaining but primitive early sleuth pic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Entertaining but primitive early sleuth pic that spawned the popular Bulldog Drummond series. At least 13 different actors have played the affable suave roguish lead character since it was first screened in 1922. The art director for this early talkie was the great William Cameron Menzies, who received an Oscar for his set design. Noted silent comedy director F. Richard Jones(“Yankee Doodle in Berlin”/”Mickey”/”The Extra Girl”) did a swell job handling the action scenes. Writers Sidney Howard and Wallace Smith adapt it from the English play by Herman C. “Sapper” McNeile. Sapper was the pseudonym he used when his Drummond short story first appeared in The Strand Magazine and the character was then expanded in his 1920 novel.
Bulldog Drummond (Ronald Colman) is bored with civilian life in London after serving as a British army officer during WW I. So he audaciously takes out a newspaper ad about seeking out an adventure assignment. The ad is answered by an American girl named Phyllis (Joan Bennett). She wants her uncle Hiram Travers (Charles Sellon) rescued from a fake nursing home, where he’s being held captive by the sadistic lunatic Dr. Lakington (Lawrence Grant) and his enforcer Peterson (Montague Love). They are torturing uncle to sign away his fortune.
After locating Travers in the nursing home, where he’s in a drug-induced coma, Bulldog is aided by his pal Algy (Claude Allister) in kidnapping Travers. They then await for the bad guys to come after Travers in the inn they are using to set a trap. Before it concludes on a happy note, Phyllis and Bulldog have time to declare love for each other.
Lilyan Tashman is the femme-fatale hooked up with the evil Peterson.
Colman in his first talkie makes for a likable smoothie matinee idol hero, who received an Oscar nomination for his performance. While Allister winsomely plays to a hilt his comedy second-banana part stage-like. Though the Drummond meller appears creaky today, it’s still easy to see why it wowed audiences back in the day.
REVIEWED ON 1/8/2016 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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