life, there’s Hope—Bob Hope! Okay, so I borrowed that from an ad line from
another one of Hope’s comedies, but the point is, Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard
were a delightful team in their first film together, Paramount’s The Cat
and The Canary (TC&TC).
Produced by Arthur Hornblow of
Witness for the Prosecution
based on John Willard’s original 1922 stage play, the popular thriller was
eventually adapted for both stage and screen in 1927 and 1930. Director Elliott
Nugent (My Favorite Brunette, Up in Arms)
joined forces with Hope and Goddard for this 1939 version of the story,
adding more witty, playful comedy and romance to Willard’s thriller. This
version worked so well that Hope and Goddard made two more films together:
The Ghost Breakers
(1940), and Nothing But the Truth
(1941). For the
record, there was also a 1979 version. I never saw it, but the stars sound
promising: Yanks Carol Lynley and Michael Callan, and Brits Honor Blackman,
Wendy Hiller, Edward Fox, Olivia Hussey, Daniel Massey, Peter McEnery, and
Wilfrid Hyde-White. But I digress….
Here's looking at you, kids!
actually owned the rights to Willard’s play, but sold them to Paramount. Fun
Fact: the film, along with the 1940 film
The Ghost Breakers
(which I’ll discuss next time),
was an inspiration to
Focusing on the funny, The New York Times’
film critic Frank S. Nugent
describes Bob Hope not as the thing with feathers a la
Dickenson, but as having “a chin like a forehead and a gag line for every
occasion… (This version of the story) is more hair-brained than hair-raising,
which is as it should be.”
I agree: with this cast, fun and suspense make a
swell team, including the delightful Nydia Westman (the 1933 version of
Little Women; The Remarkable Andrew; The Ghost and Mr. Chicken)
Cousin Cicily, a charmingly daft flibbertigibbet among the late Cyrus Norman’s
The supporting cast weren’t small potatoes, either, with
George Zucco (The Mummy; After the Thin Man; The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
(Anna and the King of Siam; The Letter;
and Best Supporting Actress
Oscar-winner for Anthony Adverse
). I especially enjoyed Sondergaard as
Miss Lu; she’s kinda like a sophisticated Bayou Mrs. Danvers played for
straight-faced laughs, blending mystery, menace, and mirth. Both Zucco and
Sondergaard playfully spoof the more ominous roles they were known for, while
still being spooky enough to keep viewers on their toes, blending suspense and
comedy into a sparkling cocktail. As Lawyer Crosby (no relation to Hope’s future
screen co-star Bing Crosby), George Zucco’s foreboding presence adds the right
touch of menace.
|Meet the lady known as Lu!|
career had begun with
The Big Broadcast of 1938,
and Goddard started her career as a child model, debuting in The Ziegfeld
Follies at the tender age of 13! Goddard’s fame as the Follies’ girl on the
crescent moon put her on the map. She was married to a a millionaire at the age
of 16—and divorced not long after that. After dissolving her marriage in 1931,
Goddard went to Hollywood, where her natural talent and beauty sent her stardom
soaring, bewitching Hollywood’s elite. She earned a Best Supporting Actress
Oscar nomination in the 1943 war drama So Proudly We Hail!
some pretty remarkable fellas as husbands, too: Charlie Chaplin; Team
Bartilucci fave Burgess Meredith; and author Erich Maria Remarque of All
Quiet on the Western Front
fame. Goddard also did her bit for higher
education, leaving over $20 million to New York University when she died in
1990. What a gal!
|Hello, I’m Mrs. Trumbull! Mrs. Ricardo|
recommended me. Anyone need a
babysitter for spectral spooks?
The plot involves a gaggle of distant cousins who’ve come together after 10
years for the reading of Cyrus Norman’s will. In the great comedy-thriller
tradition, the prettiest and most generally winsome gal, Joyce Norman (Goddard)
finds herself the designated Lady in Distress, while the affable, quip-slinging
actor Wally Campbell (Hope) has noticed how little Joyce has grown up quite
nicely. Attraction is in the air, and no wonder, with the delightful chemistry
between Hope and Goddard! I especially liked the way Wally manages to be brave
for Joyce in spite of his nervousness.
Joyce and Wally ain’t afraid
of no ghosts!
That comes later, in The
to Joyce and Wally, the prospective victims, er, heirs include Fred Blythe (John
Beal of Double Wedding; My Six Convicts; The Firm);
(Douglass Montgomery, another 1933 Little Women
cast member); and Aunt
Susan (Elizabeth Patterson, whose long career included Intruder in the Dust;
Lady on a Train;
TV’s I Love Lucy
as babysitter Mrs. Trumball). Wally tries to put the others at ease with quips:
“I hear old Uncle Cyrus’s ghost is holding bank night.” What’s more, thanks to
Wally’s theatrical background, he can’t help predicting each new spooky suspense
cliché, keeping the others’ heads turning suspiciously, prompting Wally to
suggest to Joyce, “I’ll recommend a nice quiet bomb-proof cellar to you for the
next 30 days.” Sorry, guys, everybody’s gotta stay overnight whether they want
to or not. As Wally wryly explains, “The members of Local Number 2
of the Bayou Canoe Paddlers and Putt-Putt Pushers Union fold putt after
midnight.” Well, that’s OK; Wally and Joyce and company can always while away
the time looking for a diamond necklace worth a fortune while trying to avoid
being bumped off.
|Oops, Joyce grabbed the wrong book.|
She was looking for Bazooka Joe’s
bio, The Psychology of Fleer!
On top of the
creepy goings-on at ol’ Blue Bayou, the local authorities announce that there’s
a fugitive psychopath on the loose from Fairview, the local asylum. “That’s all
we needed,” Wally says. “Well, anyway, he’ll feel right at home.” The killer is
known as “The Cat,” but this “Cat” sure isn’t the suave Cary Grant/To Catch A Thief kind of cat burglar!
Soon Wally and Joyce are up to their ears in
danger and romance, with more secret panels than The Game Show Network as Miss
Lu stirs the pot with ominous warnings and whatnot! Can Wally and Joyce live
happily ever after, “live”
being the operative word? One thing’s for
sure: with Hope and Goddard, it’ll sure be fun finding out!
|Hey, Joyce, give a guy a hand! |
Wikipedia, Universal owned the rights to Willard’s play and sold them to
Indeed, it inspired Walt Disney to create the original beloved Haunted Mansion
If you like The
Cat and The Canary, check out other reviews of this fun film by other swell
1.) Yvette Banek from her stupendous blog IN SO MANY WORDS from March 2012!
2.) John Greco’s Twenty-Four Frames
review from May 2011!
Also, don't miss an uncredited Charles Lane (Ball of Fire; I Wake Up Screaming, etc.) in the final scene! I admit it, I'm a sucker for a happy ending, especially a funny one!
Great post, Dorian! This is such a fun movie and Hope and Goddard are just perfect together. She doesn't always get the respect she deserves, but Paulette was a delightful star and boy - that smile is worth a million.ReplyDelete
Thanks, FlickChick! I agree wholeheartedly with your enthusiasm for THE CAT AND THE CANARY in general, and Paulette Goddard in particular! As the late, great Robert Palmer sang, Goddard is simply irresistable. Do you or anyone else reading this know if Goddard had an autobiography? Seems like she'd be a perfect subject for one!Delete
Love this, Dorian! Do you believe I've never seen it?! I can't! Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard are so good together, and I think The Ghostbreakers is one of the top 5 best comedies ever. I'm really excited that you are going to write about it. Cat and Canary sounds like a ball. As usual, your picture captions are hilarious (uh...Psychology of Fleer?...groan! LOL!) And you need to submit this phrase to diction teachers for use as a tongue twister: "Cousin Cicily, a charmingly daft flibbertigibbet". It's bound to beat Moses Supposes His Toeses Are Roses! Great job!ReplyDelete
Becky, as always, you're a gal after my own heart, this time due to our shared enthusiasm for Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard as a team in THE CAT AND THE CANARY (and in 2 weeks, THE GHOST BREAKERS; stay tuned! :-))! It's only recently that I was able to drop everything and give this swell comedy-thriller my undivided attention, but I totally agree with your CAT... kudos. It definitely rates Top 5 status!Delete
I'm glad you got a kick out of my goofy "Psychology of Fleer?" quip, too; it was too groan-worthy (in a good way, I'd like to think)) to keep to myself! :-) Glad you enjoyed Cousin Cicily, too; you had me laughing and smiling with your comparison to SINGIN' IN THE RAIN's "Moses Supposes"! So glad to be back slinging playful witticism with you and the gang again after being so darn busy recently! Hugs!
Marvelous choice, Dorian. Bob and Paulette are a delightful team in CAT AND THE CANARY, which is very funny--but not as good as THE GHOST BREAKERS! Looking forward to your review of that comedy classic.ReplyDelete
Rick, thanks for your praise! I knew you just had to be a fan of Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, too. I love both of those movies, but to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT, TC&TC is just the preliminaries; THE GHOST BREAKERS is the main bout! :-) Look for it at TotED on Saturday, November 17th!Delete
The first time I saw Paulette Goddard was in 'Modern Times' and I really liked her in that. Teaming up with someone like Bob Hope would seem to be a natural combination.ReplyDelete
Rich, I'm glad to see you commenting here, as I've been meaning to see if you and yours were OK in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy! Life has been hectic here at Team Bartilucci HQ for both happy reasons (our daughter's 16th birthday parties) and anxious reasons (Hurricane Sandy, of course).Delete
I agree that Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard were truly a natural combination! I must sheepishly admit that I haven't yet seen MODERN TIMES, though I very much want to, sooner rather than later! :-)
I got through the hurricane okay. Thanks for thinking of me.Delete
A dandy movie and article. I hope whoever thought about putting the funny into "The Cat and the Canary" and teaming Hope and Goddard got a well-deserved raise.ReplyDelete
Caftan Woman, thanks for your positive feedback! I'm with you: teaming up Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard was a brilliant idea! Now I'm not only looking forward to THE GHOST BREAKERS in a couple of weeks, but I'd also like to check out NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH!Delete
One of my many favorite Hope films though admittedly I like THE GHOST BREAKERS a bit more. Goddard makes for a good partner and she’s gorgeous! There have been at least four versions of the film made of which I have seen three. The 1979 version you mention is just okay and probably the worst of the three. The original is a silent version from 1927 or 20 starring Laura LaPlante (what a great name!) There is also an early 1930’s film called THE CAT CREEPS which uses the original stage play as its basis. Anyway, Hope’s version is the only one I can repeatedly watch. Glad you’re back and looking forward to your take on THE GHOST BREAKERS!ReplyDelete
Thanks, John, I'm glad to be back; I've missed you guys! Were silent movies a great source of suspense movies, or what? Especially those great names, like Laura LaPlante! :-)Delete
I'll admit that although I'd heard of THE GHOST BREAKERS before I saw THE CAT AND THE CANARY (courtesy of Paul Castiglia's book SCARED SILLY), it was only recently that I was able to take the time to give them my undivided attention, so it made sense to start with TC&TC. In fact, I recently got to watch THE GHOST BREAKERS on Svengoolie's Saturday night show for the fun of it. Now that I have uncut versions of both TC&TC and THE GHOST BREAKERS, I'm looking forward to giving them my undivided attention back-to-back! :-)
Love, love, love, love, LOVE this movie, Dorian! Not as much as I love THE GHOSTBREAKERS, but almost. Better yet, I own both DVDs so I can watch them whenever I get into a Hope mood which is often. Ha!ReplyDelete
Thanks for featuring this on your blog, kiddo. I loved reading your take and learning all the little behind the scenes minutia. I wonder if Bob Hope would be surprised to learn how much we still love his films.
Yvette, thanks for your kind words about my review of THE CAT AND THE CANARY (TC&TC)! I love the wonderful reviews you and John wrote in your own blogs, and I thank both of you for letting me play in your garden!Delete
I've always been a sucker for comedy-mysteries with a dash of playful romance, with Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard being a wonderful team. I agree that between TC&TC and THE GHOST BREAKERS, the latter is my favorite! But I also find TC&TC to be a delicious appetizer before GHOST BREAKERS' main course! :-)
I'd like to think Bob Hope is looking down from Heaven seeing movie fans like us enjoying Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, and the other wonderful people they worked with. I enjoy thinking of Hope and Goddard being happy that we modern movie mavens are not only enjoying these classic comedies themselves, but discovering these movies for to enjoy for themselves, too! Now that's what I call immortality! :-)
This looks like so much fun! I'm another one who hasn't seen it - and I can't believe it - but after reading your terrific review, it's definitely going on my must-watch list.ReplyDelete
Ruth, with your own playful sense of humor, I'm confident you'll enjoy THE CAT & THE CANARY as much as I did - and as fun as it is, it's also a nifty appetizer to the smorgasbord that is THE GHOST BREAKERS, coming Saturday, November 17th! :-) Many thanks for your kind words on my review, my friend!Delete
I always enjoyed the two political jabs in the Bob Hope scare comedies.ReplyDelete
From "The Cat and the Canary":
Nydia Westman: Do you believe people can come back from the dead?
Bob Hope: You mean like Republicans.
From "The Ghost Breakers":
Richard Carlson: A zombie has no will of his own. You see them sometimes walking around blindly with dead eyes, following orders, not knowing what they do, not caring.
Bob Hope: You mean like Democrats.
I enjoy both movies, though maybe give the edge to "The Ghost Breakers" with that beautiful haunted castle in the bayou. It's one of my favorite spook sets of all time, with a genuinely terrifying zombie.
Always liked Paulette Goddard, who could hold her end of a conversation with the great intellectuals and giants of the era. And a more than convincing screamer when being chased up the stairs by a zombie.
Kevin, thanks for joining the TC&TC conversation here! Although I've always considered myself apolitical (though that's never stopped me from voting), those two Bob Hope gags from TC&TC and THE GHOST BREAKERS always crack me up! I guess some jokes are just universal, like the studio :-)). Glad to hear you're a Paulette Goddard fan, too, and I love your comment:Delete
"Always liked Paulette Goddard, who could hold her end of a conversation with the great intellectuals and giants of the era. And a more than convincing screamer when being chased up the stairs by a zombie."
Nicely put, Kevin! Like I said, what a gal! :-) Feel free to drop by TotED and chat anytime!
Please add me to the list of classic movie fans, that have not seen the film, THE CAT AND THE CANARY. I bet Hope, is wonderful with his talent for one-liners, in this mystery/comedy.ReplyDelete
Once again this is such a fun post that it makes me want to sit right down and watch these wonderful actors. I think it's just what I need in fact! I'm so glad you mention actors and actresses like Burgess Meredith and Gale Sondergaard! They are 2 of my favs... You put a post together like a really good NY Deli sandwich. Delicious and packed with good things to digest. I just thought I'd stop by and see what my pal was up to on this sunny Friday. I'll be watching Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, (what a beauty!) See ya soon Dor-joey MGReplyDelete
Joey, beaucoup for your kind and enthusiastic post about THE CAT AND THE CANARY! I'm delighted that you enjoyed it. I love your turns of phrase, especially this one: "You put a post together like a really good NY Deli sandwich. Delicious and packed with good things to digest!" Thanks for getting my Friday off to a sunny start, literally and figuratively! Have a swell weekend, my friend!Delete