Friday, March 25, 2011

The Cat and the Canary (1939)

“There are spirits all around you.”
“Well, could you put some in a glass with a little ice? I need it badly”

The Cat and the Canary is a good silly, fun ghost story. This is the first pairing of Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. The next year they would make The Ghost Breakers which pretty much is the same premise of The Cat and the Canary just set in a different location.
            A millionaire named Cyrus Normand has left just one of his relatives his fortune. Joyce Normand (Goddard), a niece of his, is left his fortune and his house in the bayous of Louisiana. Unfortunately Cyrus has left a clause in his will stating that Joyce will keep her inheritance if she does not go crazy which the family is prone to and if she does not die within a month of receiving her inheritance. He made a second will in case anything should happen to Joyce.
            Cyrus’ mistress, Miss Lu, senses spirits around the house and tells the guest that one of them will die. With the will stating if Mary dies or goes insane the stakes against her raised and it seems everyone in the house has a motive to either kill her or drive her insane. To make things worse a guard who is believed to have come from the nearby asylum starts walking around the house because, according to him a patient who is a killer has escaped and could be anywhere.
            The lawyer Crosby was sitting in the library with Joyce when all the sudden a hand reaches out from behind a secret passage in the bookcase and takes Crosby away. Joyce looks back not knowing what has happened to the lawyer. Everyone now thinks Joyce is going crazy. Later in the night Crosby’s body falls out of a secret passage in Joyce’s room proving that she was not crazy.
            Wally Campbell (Hope) makes it a point to protect Joyce. Wally is a bit of a coward with false confidence but that is what endears him to Joyce. He is the only one who believes Joyce when strange things start happening to her.

            The ending is really good. There are some hints here and there of who it could be but I found myself so focused on Paulette Goddard and Bob Hope that I really did not notice the hints too much. You won’t see who the killer is until the end.
Cat #2

            Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard were so good together. Hope was hilarious the more Wally got scared the more his one liners zinged by. Wally even admits it himself by saying that he kids himself into being brave. One of my favorite lines is one of the old lady relatives asks Wally if big empty houses scare him and he replies “No not me, I used to be in Vaudeville.” I adore Paulette Goddard and I loved her even more after watching her as Joyce. She did not do anything extraordinary, to me she was just good. So far in the films I have seen her in she did not overact. I also really like how Goddard played her characters with a good sense of humor and a bit of an attitude. She was not overshadowed by Hope if anything she was keeping up quite nicely with him.
            Looking at The Cat and the Canary today it looks like a Scooby-Doo story but if you can look at it when it was released in 1939 it is really good. The plot is something that was not done before. It is so much fun to watch. I had a very good laugh along with some suspense.