Louise Brooks in The Canary Murder Case (1929)

     The Canary Murder Case (1929) was originally shot as a silent film.  However, the Paramount Studio executive thought it would be better as a talking picture.  The studio delayed the release until they could add sound to the film.  The addition of sound was not without its challenges.

     Unfortunately, one of the main stars of the film, Louise Brooks, had gone to work in Germany.  She would soon become an international star for her work in Pandora’s Box (1929).  She left Paramount acrimoniously and refused to return to the United States.

 

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Publicity photo for The Canary Murder Case from the Public Domain

   The original director Malcom St. Clair also was angry with Paramount over their treatment of Louise Brooks.  Paramount reassigned Frank Tuttle, who had already made a few sound films, to finish the film as a talking picture.  Tuttle used Margaret Livingston to dub the lines for the Canary, Margaret O’Dell, played by Louise Brooks.  Livingston spoke in a strongly affected Brooklyn accent.

     The actual plot of the film revolves around the Canary, a nightclub singer, who is blackmailing several male members of New York society.  The men have been indiscrete  while under the spell of the Canary.  The Canary decides to cash in and marry Jimmy Spotwood, the son of a wealthy banker.

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William Powell from the Public Domain

     Charles Spotwood asks Philo Vance, played by William Powell, for assistance.  Vance played warns Mr. Spotwood to make arrangements with the Canary quickly.  He believes she is headed for trouble.  Philo Vance is right as usual.

     The Canary is found murdered.  Besides the society men, her ex-husband had also broken out of jail and was threatening her.  Philo Vance is drawn into the case by his friend District Attorney Markham.

     One of the interesting aspects of the film occurs when Sgt. Heath greets Philo Vance and District Attorney Markham.  Heath congratulates Vance for successfully solving the Greene Murder Case.  While S.S. Van Dine wrote the Greene Murder Case before the Canary Murder Case, Paramount released The Greene Murder Case seven months after The Canary Murder Case.

     Louise Brooks would seem to be perfectly cast as the Canary.  While she was not a blackmailer, Louise Brooks along with Clara Bow were considered the quintessential 1920s flappers.  Fiercely independent, Louise Brooks would make only 24 films before becoming one of the most reclusive former movie stars at only 32 years of age.

     Louise Brooks was born Mary Louise Brooks on November 14, 1906 in Cherryvale, Kansas.  She was a dancer from a very early age, which is how she left Kansas for New York.  She began making films in 1925 at 19 years of age.   She was a good friend of W.C. Fields and played his daughter in It’s the Old Army Game (1926).  However, she will always be remembered for playing Lulu in Pandora’s Box (1929).

     When she returned to the United States, she made a couple westerns with a young John Wayne before retiring completely.  She spent the rest of her life as a reclusive artist living primarily in New York City.  She passed away on August 8, 1985 at 78 years of age.

     This film runs approximately 82 minutes and is a feature film.  For an early talkie, the film moves with considerable continuity.  Let me know what you think of the film.

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