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The Mystery of the 13th Guest

The Mystery of the 13th Guest(1943)

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teaser The Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943)

Dead of a sudden heart attack in October 1930 at the age of only 28, writer Armitage Trail (real name: Maurice Coons) was survived by two novels that were adapted as Hollywood films and later remade: Scarface, brought to the screen in 1932 and 1983, and The 13th Guest, tapped twice by Monogram Pictures as a contender in the Old Dark House subgenre of mystery films. Directed by Albert Ray, The Thirteenth Guest (1932) had starred Ginger Rogers prior to her first team-up with Fred Astaire; the studio kept the film in circulation for years to cash in on Rogers' ascendant celebrity. Monogram's eventual remake, The Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943), remains largely faithful to the source novel and to Monogram's original, replete as it with assorted comings and goings (some fatal) through the shadowy corridors and dimly-lighted rooms of a spooky mansion. Former child actress Helen Parrish assumed the Rogers role of the imperiled heroine, with Dick Purcell playing the hero originated in 1932 by Lyle Talbot. The Mystery of the 13th Guest was prolific director William Beaudine's last film of 1943, a year he had begun with The Ape Man, starring Bela Lugosi, and Ghosts on the Loose, which boasted the once in a lifetime collaboration of Lugosi, the East Side Kids, and Ava Gardner. Screenwriter Arthur Hoerl had earlier shared a writing credit on the cult classic Reefer Madness (1936).

By Richard Harland Smith

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