(director: George B. Seitz; screenwriter: Bernard Schubert/based on an Edward Chodorov play from a Hugh Walpole story; cinematographer: George Folsey; editor: Hugh Wynn; music: Edward Ward; cast: Aline MacMahon (Mary Herries), Basil Rathbone (Henry Abbott), Mary Carlisle (Phyllis), Frank Albertson (Peter Santard), Dudley Digges (Mr. Edwards), Doris Lloyd (Mrs. Lucy Weston), Nola Luxford (Rose, maid), Murray Kinnell (Doctor), Eily Malyon (Mrs. Edwards), Justine Chase (Ada), Donald Meek (Mr. Foster ), Gustave Roubet (Frank Reicher), Barbara Shields (Aggie); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lucien Hubbard; MGM; 1935)
“I didn’t find it entertaining, just unpleasant and absurd.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This nightmare drama was remade much better in the 1951 version that starred Ethel Barrymore. It’s directed by George B. Seitz (“Kit Carson”/”Andy Hardy’s Blonde Trouble”/”A Yank on the Burma Road”) in a way that is implausible, as we’re asked to believe a proper English lady would ask a strange homeless beggar into her home at midnight–especially when it’s quite apparent he’s up to no good. Bernard Schubert writes the screenplay that was based on an Edward Chodorov play from a Hugh Walpole story.
On Christmas Eve, Mary Herries (Aline MacMahon), a generous old maid, war widow, foolishly invites an impoverished sidewalk artist Henry Abbott (Basil Rathbone) into her palatial London townhouse for tea.He turns out to be a ruthless con artist whose interested in stealing her valuable art collection that includes paintings by El Greco and Whistler, as the next morning he returns with his supposed wife Ada (Justine Chase) and child.By wifey feigning an illness, they manage to occupy Mary’s apartment by using her good nature to get her to agree to keep her in the apartment until she recovers. If you believe that, I can probably sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.
Unable to get rid of her intruding guests, Mary tells them she’s closing down the house for a year and traveling to America. She writes a letter to her younger married sister Lucy (Doris Lloyd) telling her this. But the Abbotts refuse to leave, and together with the other squatters–the Edwardses (Dudley Digges &Eily Malyon) and their ill-behaved teenage daughter Aggie (Barbara Shields), and a doctor (Murray Kinnell ), they scheme to sell off Mary’s art collection through a Paris art dealer (Gustave Roubet). Things get violent when the suspicious live-in maid (Nola Luxford) won’t leave and the doctor kills her. They keep Mary at gunpoint as a hostage, and the pathetic Mary seems doomed (it was hard to feel sorry for such a bleeding heart doofus!). Fortunately her niece Phyllis (Mary Carlisle) and soon-to-be American nephew-in-law Peter Santard (Frank Albertson) pay her a visit and are not satisfied with Henry’s explanations why they can’t see Mary–especially later when Peter finds no evidence that Mary got a passport or took a ship to America. Unable to get a search warrant for Mary’s house by a rigid constable, the persistent Peter puts up such a big stink at the police station that finally a higher-up at the station orders a police raid on the house just in the nick of time before they cleaned her out and maybe kill her.
I didn’t find it entertaining, just unpleasant and absurd.
REVIEWED ON 9/11/2010 GRADE: C-