The Thirteenth Guest (1932)

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The Thirteenth Guest (1932)

Post by Masha »

The Thirteenth Guest (1932)

This is the most perfect and wonderful comedy murder mystery! It embodies all of the best elements of its genre in its age.

The suave detective is Lyle Talbot. This was early in his career because he is unmistakable but not yet quite himself. It is as when you look at a photograph of a good friend but the photograph was taken years before you met them - they are not as 'finished' as you know them. That is the only way that I have to describe him here. I find his charm here great but possibly resistible which it is not in his later movies.

The damsel in distress is a very young Ginger Rogers. She is lovely and is perfectly at ease in her character. I found it quite confusing that she died so early in the movie but that is part of the mystery!

The bumbling cop role is divided between J. Farrell MacDonald and Paul Hurst. J. Farrell MacDonald is the beset and befuddled part and Paul Hurst is the slapstick-stupidity part. Both are so at home in their roles that it is difficult to imagine them playing other types of parts.

A caped villain skulks in a secret room in the house as part of their nefarious plot to deprive someone of their rightful inheritance. Their chosen method of murder is much more insidious than simple shooting or poison and discovering the method is part of the mystery.

The only element common to the genre at the time which is missing from this movie is the presence of a ghost. There is a hideous and surreal disembodied laugh which is an adequate substitute.

The plot of the movie is simple: a man died during a dinner party thirteen years previous. The house was left as it was at that moment. This included the setting of the dinner table.

Ginger Rogers is his daughter. She returns to the house on the evening of her twenty-first birthday with a letter left to her by her father. It contains only a paper with three numbers on it with no explanation of their meaning or purpose.

She then hears movement in the outer room and she goes to investigate. There is a scream and a gunshot. The taxi driver who is waiting for her outside goes to the police.

I can say no more of the plot because they would be spoilers even although this is only a few minutes into the movie!

I love comedy murder mysteries of that era and this is perhaps the epitome. It is a classic in every sense of the word! It is truly a treasure and a joy to watch.

The only possible way to find fault with it is that I would have preferred a little more witty banter between the detective and the police captain. The humor in their dialogue is more of a broad nature rather than truly cutting little quips. But that is a very minor observation which does not truly rise to the level of being a complaint.

It was remade with a much lesser cast but an arguably better director in 1943.
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Re: The Thirteenth Guest (1932)

Post by EP Millstone »

Masha wrote: November 21st, 2022, 8:44 pm The Thirteenth Guest (1932) . . .
. . . It was remade with a much lesser cast but an arguably better director in 1943.
The 1943 remake was directed by William Beaudine (snarkily disparaged as "One-Shot"), who had a long and prolific career in movies. His filmography includes highly regarded classics such as the 1926 Mary Pickford drama Sparrows and the 1934 W.C. Fields comedy The Old Fashioned Way as well as the fondly regarded (by lovers of "Bad Cinema") turkeys Billy the Kid vs. Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter.

"Start every day off with a smile and get it over with." -- W.C. Fields
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