- The first movie Vinnie and I saw after our daughter Siobhan (“Shugie” to our loved ones) was born in New York City, in 1996. This also meant that:
- It was also the first movie I had ever watched on Turner Classic Movies. I think folks were still calling it Turner Classic Movies instead of TCM at the time!
Many people bad-mouth Satan Met a Lady, but I think it’s only because many people don’t seem to realize this version is supposed to be played for laughs!
From the start, I found Satan Met a Lady to be madcap fun, starting with our own Sam Spade manqué Ted Shane (William) , who’s being run out of town almost literally on a rail. William Dieterle (Portrait of Jennie; The Devil and Daniel Webster) worked from Brown Holmes’ screenplay, but this time they made a few changes to make it more rib-tickling. This was also where Arthur Edeson practiced for his future stint as The Maltese Falcon’s Director of Photography, as an assistant on Satan Met a Lady.
Fun Fact: Ricardo Cortez and Warren William each played Perry Mason in the movies (no, not the same movie; see, I told you he was racy!).
|Bette Davis as “The Beautiful Valerie Purvis: |
“Do you mind very much, Mr. Shane, taking off
your hat in the presence of a lady with a gun?”
|Shane gives The
Lovely Valerie Purvis her gun, |
a kiss, and a promise!
|Will Shane and Travers have to pass the hat |
to get the legendary Ram’s Horn?
*Alison Skipworth* — Often paired with W.C. Fields, Ms. Skipworth began her career on Broadway, and continued in such films as The Devil is a Woman and Dangerous (both in 1935). “Skippy,” as her friends and colleagues called her, essentially gets a sex change here, since her character was originally Kaspar Gutman. I like Ms. Skipworth’s take on the character, the jolly yet slyly dangerous Madame Barabbas; even her Biblical name is cool! Shane and Madame Barabbas have something of a friendly-adversary relationship. I got a kick out of the scene where each of them proved the other each was too clever to let the other one slip them a Mickey Finn.
*Porter Hall* — The ill-fated Miles Archer and his restless wife Iva in The Maltese Falcon are now Mr. and Mrs. Ames, played briefly but entertainingly by Hall, best known here at Team Bartilucci HQ as Macaulay in The Thin Man, and Jackson, the “Medford Man” in Double Indemnity. Ames’ hot wife Astrid—soon to be Ames’ widow— is played by lovely big-band singer/actress *Wini Shaw,* popular on stage and screen, including her success on The Ziegfeld Follies and her Broadway triumph in Call Me Madame!
|Don’t let buffoonish “Kenny-Boy” and his silly beanie fool you,|
he’s a killer! Would his Auntie Madame Barrabbas lie to you?
*Marie Wilson* — Of all the wacky characters in Satan Met a Lady, my favorite was Marie Wilson redoing trusty secretary/receptionist Effie Perine as the endearing cutie Miss Murgatroyd, a cheerful blonde uber-ditz. Her cute little squeak of surprise/distress always cracks me up! Both her film versions and TV versions of My Friend Irma were smashing successes, in addition to her voice work on the 1970 animated Hanna-Barbera sports comedy Where’s Huddles?
*Olin Howland* was a character actor from the silent era until Howland’s death in 1959. I myself always enjoyed Howland in his 1930s Perry Mason films, often playing Coroner Wilbur Strong or Dr. Croker. (Don’t you just love these names?) He was also a scene stealer in THEM! as the drunk offering our heroes to “Make me a Sergeant, charge the booze!”, as well as the ill-fated old man in The Blob.
Zesty quips abound, including:
Valerie: “Do you mind very much Mr. Shane, taking off your hat in the presence of a lady with a gun?”
Shane, discovering Ames has been murdered: “It’s the first time he ever did anything in an appropriate place.”
Shane (cheerfully) to Miss Murgatroyd when it seems she’ll be out in the cold with no job: “Have you finished packing all your things?...And all the things that weren’t yours, but that you thought you could use?
Miss Murgatroyd: (flustered): “Yes—um, I mean, I’m all packed.”