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The Canary Murder Case (film)

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Music director  Karl Hajos
Language  English
6.2/10 IMDb

Genre  Crime, Drama, Mystery
Country  United States
The Canary Murder Case (film) movie poster

Director  Malcolm St. Clair Frank Tuttle (added sound scenes)
Writer  S. S. Van Dine, Herman J. Mankiewicz
Release date  February 28, 1929
Based on  the novel The Canary Murder Case  by S. S. Van Dine
Directors  Malcolm St. Clair, Frank Tuttle
Screenplay  S. S. Van Dine, Florence Ryerson, Herman J. Mankiewicz, Albert S. Le Vino
Cast  William Powell (Philo Vance), Louise Brooks (The Canary), Jean Arthur (Alice LaFosse), James Hall (Jimmy Spottswoode), Charles Willis Lane (Charles Spottswoode), Lawrence Grant (John Cleaver)
Similar movies  Blackhat, The Boy Next Door, Masti, Just Go With It, Inside Man, Wild Things

The canary murder case 1929

The Canary Murder Case is a 1929 American Pre-Code crime-mystery film made by Paramount Pictures, directed by Malcolm St. Clair and Frank Tuttle. The screenplay was written by Willard Huntington Wright (as S.S. Van Dine), Albert S. Le Vino, and Florence Ryerson, based on novel The Canary Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine. It was the second film in the series of Philo Vance films adapted from the novels, starring William Powell as Philo Vance, Jean Arthur, James Hall and Louise Brooks as "the Canary".


The Canary Murder Case (film) movie scenes


The Canary Murder Case (film) movie scenes

Charles Spotswoode's son Jimmy became involved with "the Canary", a conniving star showgirl. Fortunately, Jimmy has regained his senses and reconciled with Alyce LaFosse. However, the Canary is determined to force Jimmy to marry her so she can join the social elite, threatening to reveal that Jimmy was embezzling from his father. She turns down the elder Spotswoode's offer of money to leave Jimmy alone. She also telephones two men she has been blackmailing, Cleaver and Mannix, and demands one final generous gift from each of them by the next day. She also informs "creepy" admirer Dr. Lindquist. Her ex-husband Tony Sheel eavesdrops and wants half, but she refuses to give him anything, even after he hits her. Cleaver, Mannix and Lindquist are all shown lurking about her apartment building late that night.

Spotswoode visits her at her apartment around midnight, but cannot get her to change her mind. After he reaches the lobby of her building, he and another person hear screams from her place. They knock on the door, but she assures them that she is fine.

The next day, she is found strangled to death. The coroner places the time of death around midnight. District Attorney Markham investigates, aided by Philo Vance (a close friend of Charles Spotswoode) and Police Sergeant Heath. After all the prime suspects are questioned, Vance asks Markham to keep them waiting for a few hours. Markham agrees, as Vance has helped solve another case. Vance subtly maneuvers Cleaver, Mannix, Lindquist and the two Spotswoodes into playing poker to pass the time so he can observe their personality traits. Only one shows the daring, imagination and discipline required for the crime; that man bluffs Vance, betting everything with just a pair of deuces. The suspects are then released.

Sheel, who was hiding the closet and witnessed the murder, sends the killer several blackmail letters. For his trouble, he too is strangled. A pen found at the scene has Jimmy's name on it, so Heath arrests him for the murder. Jimmy then confesses to both murders, but Vance knows better.

He telephones Charles Spotswoode with the news and suggests they meet in an hour. Spotswoode speeds to the city from his country estate to confess, but his chauffeur makes a fatal mistake by trying to beat a train to a crossing, and Spotswoode is killed. Now Vance has to show how he murdered the Canary in order to free Jimmy. Fortunately, he is able to figure out that the Canary was dead before Spotswoode left her apartment that night. Spotswoode had made a recording (Vance speculates it was Spotswoode himself pretending to be the woman) to fool a stuttering witness into believing she was alive and well. The record is still in the apartment, so Jimmy is released.


  • William Powell as Philo Vance
  • Louise Brooks as Margaret Odell (the Canary)
  • Jean Arthur as Alyce LaFosse
  • James Hall as Jimmy Spotswoode
  • Charles Lane as Charles Spotswoode
  • Eugene Pallette as Sgt. Ernest Heath
  • Gustav von Seyffertitz as Dr. Ambrose Lindquist
  • Lawrence Grant as Charles Cleaver
  • Ned Sparks as Tony Sheel
  • Louis John Bartels as Louis Mannix
  • E.H. Calvert as Dist. Atty. John F.X. Markham
  • Tim Adair as George Y. Harvey
  • Margaret Livingston as Margaret Odell (voice)
  • Production

    This film was initially made as a silent picture, then reworked as a sound film. Louise Brooks' refusal to cooperate in the sound version had a major impact on her career.

    After filming the silent version, Brooks left for Germany to make two films for director G. W. Pabst. Her option with Paramount Pictures was up, and since the studio would not give her a raise, she saw no reason to remain in Hollywood. Months later, Paramount decided to re-shoot some scenes of Canary with recorded dialogue. The studio cabled Brooks in Berlin, demanding that she return to record her lines. She refused, taking the position that she no longer had an obligation to Paramount. Under the purported threat that she would never work in Hollywood again after such open defiance, she bluntly replied, "Who wants to work in Hollywood?"

    Paramount spent considerable money to hire actress Margaret Livingston (the "Woman from the City" in F.W. Murnau's Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans) to dub the dialogue for Brooks where possible, as well as to re-shoot some scenes, with Livingston seen only in profile or from behind. The golden age of German cinema soon ended with the rise of Nazism, and Brooks found herself back in Hollywood. She was never able to get good roles there again and soon retired. Though her time as a star was over, her battle with studio moguls helped add to her eventual legend.


    The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

  • 2003: AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains:
  • Philo Vance – Nominated Hero
  • References

    The Canary Murder Case (film) Wikipedia
    The Canary Murder Case (film) IMDb The Canary Murder Case (film)