The Cat and the Canary (1939) – reviewed by George

In this remake the beginning is very similar, except that what I took to be upstate New York in the silent film, is now the swamps of Louisiana not too far from New Orleans. The attorney Mr. Crosby (George Zucco) is being rowed through the moss-covered swamp vegetation, nervously looking at alligators. The faithful servant (but not as faithful as Mammy Pleasant, who stayed in the mansion for 20 years), Miss Lu (Gale Sondergaard) has been living in this mansion for only 10 years. The writer-adapters seem to have wanted the possible heirs actually to have known the old man, whose name is now Cyrus Norman. And when Crosby opens the safe there is no moth, but both envelopes have already been opened.
All the heirs are cousins, and they are Miss Cicily (Nydia Westman) who has traveled with her aunt Miss Sue Tilbury (Elizabeth Patterson), Fred Blythe (John Beal), Charlie Wilder (Douglass Montgomery), Wally Campbell (Bob Hope), and Joyce Norman (Paulette Goddard). So here it seems, the old aunt is not a possible heir.
From the introduction of the heirs, with some having different names, the movie proceeds familiarly. Crosby disappears and turns up dead, secret passages and hidden relics play a role, a man with a net stops by (how big is this island in the swamp?), and so on.
However, the major differences are that this film is somewhat scarier, and with Hope and Goddard it is much funnier. So what is my recommendation? If you plan to check one out, I’d say watch both – in any order. They have different virtues and both are entertaining.
Based on the Stage Play by John Willard, Screen Play by Walter DeLeon and Lynn Starling, and Directed by Elliott Nugent.

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