Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, April 7, 2020


Here's a rarity:  an early Lord Peter Wimsey movie based on an original story by Dorothy L. Sayers, with "original story" a code word for movie treatment.  The tale was never published in a short story format and marks the only time Sayers provided a movie treatment.

Lord Peter is portrayed by British actor Peter Hatton, who began his screen career with The Clicking of Cuthbert (1924; based on a P. G. Wodehouse story) and whose career was marked by "top-hatted 'silly ass' type" roles.  The loyal Bunter is played by Aubrey Mather (Just William, No, No, Nanette, Random Harvest) and Inspector Parker is played by Austin Trevor (Anna Karenina, The Red Shoes, Quatermass II).

Top billing for the movie went to John Loder (King Solomon's Mine, Now, Voyager, How Green Was My Valley) as John Ryder, whose wife Mollie (Lillian Oldland billed as Mary Newland)  is being forced to run off with one-time lover and blackmailer Maurice Windermere (Leslie Perrins).  Loder was a handsome, five-times married British film star in the 1930s and one-time pickle factory operator who later career in America consisted of mainly B movie roles as "stuffed shorts."  The Silent Passenger was Lillian Oldland's last film.  She was married at that time to the film's director, Reginald Denholm; as such, she was also Angela Lansbury's mother's first husband's second wife.  (Just something I found interesting.)  The villain of the film, Henry Camberley, was played by Donald Wolfit, a talented and tyrannical stage and film actor whose vanity tarnished his career.  Wolfit had a well-publicized hatred of Sir John Gielgud, reportedly pronouncing Gielgud's name only with a hiss.

John Ryder manages to intercept the man he thought was Windermere, beats him up, and takes a batch of incriminating letters, as well as the boat train tickets to the Continent that Windermere had for himself and Mollie.  What Ryder does not realize is that the real Windermere's body is in Mollie's large trunk that has been put on the train with them.  Paris customs discover the body and Ryder and Mollie are sent back to England under arrest.  Going with them is Lord Peter, who had met the couple on the train and believes Ryder to be innocent.

As noted above, The Silent Passenger was directed by Reginald Denham.  Basil Mason (Gentleman's Agreement, I Married a Spy, The Man with 100 Faces) wrote the screenplay and provided dialogue to Dorothy L/ Sayers' treatment.

I watched this film this morning with my wife, who called it "absolutely charming."  Maybe your reaction will be the same.

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