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The Garden Murder Case

The Garden Murder Case(1936)

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teaser The Garden Murder Case (1936)

S. S. Van Dine's literary detective Philo Vance proved popular with mystery lovers before and during the Great Depression despite the fact that critics held the character in low regard and even Raymond Chandler branded Vance as "asinine." Paramount brought the effete criminal profiler to life for the first time in the form of William Powell in The Canary Murder Case (1929) while Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer countered with The Bishop Murder Case (1930), starring a pre-Sherlock Holmes Basil Rathbone. Paramount bowed out after four Vance whodunits (five, if you count the studio's 1930 Spanish language remake of The Benson Murder Case), bequeathing the sardonic sleuth (and William Powell) to Warner Brothers. When Powell quit the series after The Kennel Murder Case (1933), he was replaced by Warren William for The Dragon Murder Case (1934). MGM revived their option with The Casino Murder Case (1935), starring Paul Lukas, which they chased with The Garden Murder Case (1936), with Edmund Lowe smoking out a racetrack killer. Lowe had already played pulp private eye Nick Carter in a run of silent whodunits and had opposed megalomaniac Bela Lugosi as Chandu the Magician (1932) but was well past his leading man heyday and ten years older than Philo Vance's stated age. This would be MGM's last go at the series, leaving Philo Vance to Warner Brothers (for two more films) and ultimately Producer's Releasing Corporation, who produced three bottom-of-the-barrel follow-ups after World War II.

By Richard Harland Smith

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