Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Canary Murder Case - a round-up of reviews

The Canary Murder Case was officially released on February 16th, 1929. Based on the bestselling and once critically acclaimed detective novel by S.S Van Dine, the Malcolm St. Clair-directed film stars William Powell as detective Philo Vance and Louise Brooks as Margaret O'Dell ('The Canary"); also in the cast are Jean Arthur, James Hall , Eugene Pallette, Gustav von Seyffertitz, and Louis John Bartels.


The film, which opened around the country before its official release date, was generally well received and also widely written about. Today, however, it is considered one of the weakest of Brooks' American films of the 1920s. Shot as a silent, the film was not so successfully adapted as a talkie. At the time, critics were confused by the use of a voice double for Brooks. What follows is a round-up of reviews drawn from the Louise Brooks Society archive.

anonymous. "The Canary Murder Case." Motion Picture, February, 1929.
--- picked as one of the best of the month

Parsons, Louella O. " 'Canary Murder Case' Pulsating Mystery Picture." Los Angeles Examiner, February 8, 1929.
--- "He [the director] was handicapped by no less a person than Louise Brooks, who plays the Canary. You are conscious that the words spoken do not actually emanate from the mouth of Miss Brooks and you feel that as much of her part as possible has been cut. She is unbelievably bad in a role that should have been well suited to her. Only long shots are permitted of her and even these are far from convincing when she speaks."

Taylor, Ken. "Now Put Philo Vance on Cock Robin Mystery." Los Angeles Evening Express, February 8, 1929.
--- "Louise Brooks plays the brief role of the Canary, the musical-comedy star whose personality is such that she is given deafening applause for merely swinging over an audience's head on a trapeze."

Warren, George C. "Talkie Tone Mastered By St. Clair." San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 1929.
--- "Louise Brooks is the hard-boiled 'Canary,' and Louise can be excessively evil when she tries - on the screen. She disappears early from the scene because of the little matter of murdering her, but while she is there she shows quite a considerable advance in finesse, and she uses her voice nicely."

W., D. "Mystery Tale Well Staged As Oakland All-Talkie." Oakland Post-Enquirer, March 2, 1929.
--- "It is generally known by this time that Margaret Livingston doubled for Louise Brooks in the dialogue sequences. Hence the not quite perfect synchronization in close-ups and the variety of back views and dimly photographed profiles of the Canary.

H., P. L. "The New Shows Reviewed." Knoxville Journal, March 5, 1929.
--- "In fact all of them do passably well, except Miss Brooks. Not once is she shown actually speaking. This defect is the most glaring in the picture."

Cannon, Regina. "Canary Murder Case Thriller." New York American, March 11, 1929.
--- "Louise Brooks, an 'It' gal with intelligence aplenty, plays the Canary. She's a bird in a gilded cage, to be sure, but wotta bird and wotta cage!"

Hall, Mordaunt. "Who Strangled the Dancer?" New York Times, March 11, 1929.
--- "The speech in this picture is well reproduced, but judging by the manner in which Louise Brooks is posed it is reasonable to assume that the voice one hears from the screen is not hers. It is not an especially pleasing voice and the lines given to this Margaret Odell, the Canary in the case, are hardly what one would imagine to be the manner of talking of a stage performer who had coaxed jewels from such men as are presented in this film."

Johaneson, Bland. "Thrills in Plenty on Broadway's Screens." Daily Mirror, March 11, 1929.
--- "Louise Brooks' magnificent legs ornament the screen for half the picture before she [is] murdered. But Louise is such a wicked little blackmailer, even the legs don't get your sympathy."

Polly. "At Loew's." Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 12, 1929.
--- "Louise Brooks is a lovely victim and as hard-boiled as she is lovely."

anonymous. "Photoplay Reviews." Cinncinnati Enquirer, March 25, 1929.
--- "The role of the murdered girl is played by Louise Brooks, who is much more satisfying optically than auditorilly."

P., J. E. "The Canary Murder Case." Billboard, March 16, 1929.
--- "Louise Brooks is mediocre as the Canary, but this does not detract from the production, as she appears in but a few scenes."

Coyne, Margaret L. "New Picture Plays." Syracuse Post-Standard, April 1, 1929.
--- "The only flaw is the substitution of another voice for that of Louise Brooks - the Canary - making necessary a number of subterfuges to disguise the fact."

Somers, Lee. "Van Dine Story Metropolitan's Film Offering." Washington Herald, April 15, 1929.
--- "Powell is good but not distinctive as the detective, but Louise Brooks is the hardest-boiled baby the screen has yet produced, in the role of the Canary."

Lusk, Norbert. "The Screen in Review: Who Killed The Canary?" Picture-Play, June, 1929.
-- "Louise Brooks, as the hardboiled Margaret Odell, is first seen smiling down to her lovers as she swings out over the audience from an elaborate stage setting. Later, when she frightens the gentlemen with a phone call, Margaret Livingston does some businesslike dialogue for her."

No comments:

Post a Comment

LinkWithin