The Canary Murder Case

1929, Movie, NR, 80 mins

Review

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The "Canary" in the title is slang for nightclub singer, and the singer is one of the most beautiful women ever to act upon the screen, Louise Brooks. Though sultry and irresistible, Brooks is a vicious and scheming blackmailer who has been padding her bank account with sums from three wealthy playboys; they would rather pay than have their wives drag them into divorce court. When youthful Hall proposes, Brooks notifies her three victims that she expects a large severance pay from each as wedding gifts. Then she is murdered and Hall is arrested for the killing. Enter Powell as the indomitable Philo Vance, a smooth, aristocratic sleuth who adroitly ferrets out the real killer after staging a poker game and drawing out the guilty one. Powell's performance is topflight, as is Brooks' and that of the good girl, Arthur. Oddly enough, Brooks chose, through obstinacy, to end her stellar career with this film. Originally filmed as a silent, this movie was reworked for sound. Paramount executives saw the handwriting (and the wiring) on the wall, realizing that talkies were here to stay. They recalled the entire cast for dubbing, including Brooks, who had gone to Europe to act for G.W. Pabst. When asked to dub her voice, Brooks angrily refused, telling Paramount mogul Adolph Zukor that the talkies were not only a novelty but also decidedly "vulgar." Zukor told her that either she did a voice-over for the film or her lucrative contract with his studio was cancelled. Brooks walked and the contract was torn. Margaret Livingston was brought in to talk for lovely Louise. Brooks did appear in a few films after that, mostly low-budget westerns, but THE CANARY MURDER CASE killed her career. leave a comment

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The Canary Murder Case
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