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The Smiling Ghost

The Smiling Ghost(1941)

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The Smiling Ghost (1941)

Warner Brothers' answer to Paramount's successful horror comedy The Cat and the Canary (1939) adheres to the established genre pattern: a good natured goofball (Wayne Morris, subbing for Bob Hope) and his African American pal (Willie Best, who had partnered with Hope in The Ghost Breakers [1940]) take up residence in a spooky mansion where "black widow" Alexis Smith wants to know why her last three husbands have met with horrible fates. Based on an original story by Stuart Palmer (author of the Hildegarde Withers mystery novels, which garnered their own film series at RKO), The Smiling Ghost is derivative but charming stuff, rich in sliding panels, clutching hands, and characters who are not all they claim to be. Hollywood's original Kid Galahad (1937) - Elvis Presley would play the role in 1962 - beefy Wayne Morris left movies behind him to enlist in World War II after making The Smiling Ghost, which was released just three months prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Though deemed too big for flight school, Morris pulled enough strings to get him into the cockpit of a Navy Hellcat and was credited with shooting down several Japanese flyers in combat and aiding in the sinking of several Japanese battleships. The decorated war hero died prematurely in 1959 at age 45 but not before being cast against type as a cowardly army lieutenant in Stanley Kubrick's blistering anti-war I drama Paths of Glory (1957).By Richard Harland Smith

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