The Case of the Black Cat


1h 2m 1936
The Case of the Black Cat

Brief Synopsis

Perry Mason looks into a trio of murders heralded by the shriek of a cat.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Case of the Caretaker's Cat
Genre
Mystery
Release Date
Oct 31, 1936
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
The Vitaphone Corp.; Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Case of the Caretaker's Cat by Erle Stanley Gardner (New York, 1935).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 2m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

Wealthy California invalid Peter Laxter, afraid that Douglas Keene, the fiancé of his granddaughter, Wilma Laxter, is only interested in her money, calls lawyer Perry Mason to his bedside late one night and requests that Wilma be cut from his will. Instead, all of his money is to go to his two grandsons, Frank Oafley and Sam Laxter. Peter also stipulates that his heirs must continue to employ Ashton, the crippled caretaker, and further, must allow his cat to stay with him. Shortly after his will is changed, Peter is found burned to death and a million dollars is discovered to be missing from his bank account. Perry learns that Peter died before the fire and suspects murder. After Ashton is found dead and his cat is found missing, Perry makes a visit to Peter's nurse, Louise DeVoe, and discovers her lying dead next to a broken crutch. Perry learns that Laxter, Oafley and Douglas Keene, Wilma's fiancé, all visited Louise the evening she died. Several hours earlier, Keene brought Ashton's cat to Wilma, after not having found the caretaker at home. Keene is arrested for Louise's murder when blood is found on one of his shirts, and he is also accused of Peter's murder. At Keene's trial, Perry calls a surprise witness--Peter Laxter. Peter explains that because he knew his relatives were trying to kill him, he substituted his body with the body of a vagrant and went into hiding with Ashton's help. He saw Ashton visit Louise just after her marriage to Oafley. Ashton was killed when Oafley strangled him while attempting to retrieve the stolen diamonds hidden in Ashton's crutch. When Ashton failed to come out of the apartment, Peter confronted Louise, killing her in self-defense. Laxter found the body, then framed Keene for the murder. Now that everything is cleared up, Wilma and Keene are free to marry.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Case of the Caretaker's Cat
Genre
Mystery
Release Date
Oct 31, 1936
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
The Vitaphone Corp.; Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Case of the Caretaker's Cat by Erle Stanley Gardner (New York, 1935).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 2m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Articles

The Case of the Black Cat


With its twisted tale, complicated by three murders and a missing cat, fans consider this film the best of Warner Bros.' six Perry Mason films. That's rather surprising considering Erle Stanley Gardner, who wrote the original Mason books, didn't approve of Ricardo Cortez's casting as the lawyer-sleuth and was quite vocal about it. Warner's had to find a new Mason after Warren William, who had starred in the first four features, left the studio. Cortez had started in films as a Latin lover, groomed by Paramount as a threat to Rudolph Valentino, even though Cortez was actually a New Yorker of Austrian descent. At least he had some experience sleuthing, having played Sam Spade in the first film version of The Maltese Falcon (1931). Of special interest is the appearance of Jane Bryan, in her film debut, as a disinherited granddaughter among the suspects. Bryan would become one of Warner Bros.' most accomplished young actresses, working with mentor Bette Davis in films like Marked Woman (1937) and The Old Maid (1939) before retiring from acting to marry executive Justin Dart in 1939. Cortez and leading lady June Travis, who plays Della Street, also left acting within a few years, the former becoming a stock broker and the latter focusing on married life.
The Case Of The Black Cat

The Case of the Black Cat

With its twisted tale, complicated by three murders and a missing cat, fans consider this film the best of Warner Bros.' six Perry Mason films. That's rather surprising considering Erle Stanley Gardner, who wrote the original Mason books, didn't approve of Ricardo Cortez's casting as the lawyer-sleuth and was quite vocal about it. Warner's had to find a new Mason after Warren William, who had starred in the first four features, left the studio. Cortez had started in films as a Latin lover, groomed by Paramount as a threat to Rudolph Valentino, even though Cortez was actually a New Yorker of Austrian descent. At least he had some experience sleuthing, having played Sam Spade in the first film version of The Maltese Falcon (1931). Of special interest is the appearance of Jane Bryan, in her film debut, as a disinherited granddaughter among the suspects. Bryan would become one of Warner Bros.' most accomplished young actresses, working with mentor Bette Davis in films like Marked Woman (1937) and The Old Maid (1939) before retiring from acting to marry executive Justin Dart in 1939. Cortez and leading lady June Travis, who plays Della Street, also left acting within a few years, the former becoming a stock broker and the latter focusing on married life.

Quotes

Trivia

Director Alan Crosland (I) died during filming, and was replaced by William C. McGann.

Notes

The film's working title was The Case of the Caretaker's Cat. Contemporary reviews note that although the film's title refers to a black cat, the cat in the film was actually a white cat with spots. News items in Hollywood Reporter note that William McGann took over as director after the death of Alan Crosland in a car accident. This was the only one of seven Perry Mason films made by Warner Bros. to star Ricardo Cortez. For more information about the series see The Case of the Howling Dog (below) and consult the Series Index.