Happy birthday to film actress Laura La Plante (nee Laura Laplante), born 118 years ago today. A tunning beauty, he made her film debut at age 15 as a Christie Comedy Bathing Beauty. he quickly moved on to being featured as Nora, the beautiful daughter of Jiggs, in three shorts based on George McManus's popular comic strip Bringing Up Father (later Maggie & Jiggs). By 1923 she was named one of that year's WAMPAS Baby Stars. (each year the Western Association of Mlotion Picture Advetissers would pick thirteen young actresses they felt would become major stars; although most failed to live up to the hype, among the more noted WAMPAS Baby Stars were Clara Bow, Janet Gaynor, Fay Wray, Delores del Rio, Mary Astor, Joan Crawford, Loretta Young, Jean Arthur, Joan Blondell, and Ginger Rogers.) During the 1920s, La Plante appeared in more than 60 films, mostly for Universal Pictures and was the sutdio's most popular star. The Cat and the Canary was one of her most popular films.
With the advent of talkies, La Plante made the transition easily but soon found that the talkies brought with it an abundance of new talent which soon overshadowed her. One film, the semi-talkie Show Boat (1929) was filmed as an adaptation of Edna Ferber's novel and not the musical; at the last minute, producers added some musical numbers to the film for "insurance.' La Plante can be seen playing the banjo in the film, but she was surprised to learn that her songs were dubbed by another actress.
La Plante made 90 films between 1921 and 1935. she returned to make another film in 1946. a television episode in 1955, another television episode in 1956 as well as a final film. She died in 1996 from complicatins from Alzheimer's.
In 1954, she made a surprise guest appearance on Groucho Marx's quiz show You Bet Your Life undr her married name of Mrs. Laura Asher; it took Marx just a few minutes to recognize her. LaPlante donated her winnings -- $215 -- to the Motion Picture Relief Fund.
The Cat and the Canary was a comedy-thriller melodrama based on the famous 1922 play by John Willard. Eccentric millionaire Cyrus West is dying. On his deathbed he announced that his will was going to be locked in a safe and would not be read for 20 years. When the twenty years had passed it was discovered that a second will had mysteriously appeared in the safe -- this one not to be opened unless the conditions of the first will were not met. Mammy Pleasant, the caretaker of the West mansion, feels the will was put there by Cyrus West's ghost. Come midnight and the time to read the will, the nephews of Cyrus -- Harry (Arthur Edmond Carewe), Charlie (Forrest Stanley), and Paul (Creighton Hale) -- along with Cyrus's sister Susan (Flora Finch) and her nieces Cicly (Gertrude Astor) and Annabelle (La Plante) gather to learn that Cyrus left everything to his ?most distant relative bearing the last name West," who is Annabelle; if Annabelle is unable to inherit, the second will must be opened.
Well, dang. That puts Annabelle in danger. then word comes that an escaped lunatic who calls himself the Cat is either in the house or on the grounds...
The Cat and the Canary has been filmed five other time, most notably in 1939 with Bob Hope and Pauiline Goddard.
The 1926 version has its own charms. Check it out.
And here's a clip of La Plante on You Bet Your Life