Seven Keys to Baldpate


1h 20m 1935
Seven Keys to Baldpate

Brief Synopsis

A mystery writer runs into the real thing when he holes up at a deserted inn.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Mystery
Adaptation
Release Date
Dec 13, 1935
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Seven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers (Indianapolis, 1913) and the play of the same name by George M. Cohan (New York, 22 Sep 1913).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 20m
Sound
Mono (RCA Victor System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

As a winter storm rages, Magee, a novelist, arrives in the summer resort of Asquewan Junction and checks in at the Baldpate Inn, where he is left alone by the caretakers and given the "only key" to the hotel. To make good on a bet with a friend that he can write a novel in twenty-four hours, Magee soon finds himself spying on the strange activities of Bland, a gangster. After Bland makes a suspicious telephone call, he deposits an envelope in the inn's safe and confronts the snooping Magee at gunpoint. Magee tricks Bland into locking himself in his room and then bumps into Mary Norton, who claims to be a down-on-her-luck actress. The inn's next unexpected visitors are Professor Bolton, Adlebert Peters, Baldpate's woman-hating hermit, and the exotic Mrs. Hayden, who confides in Magee that Bland's boss, Jim Cargan, a private detective, is trying to extort $200,000 from her husband for the return of her stolen jewels. A confused Magee then sees both Mary and Bolton trying to open the safe, which Mary explains contains Hayden's $200,000. After Mary shows Magee the inn's secret passage, Bland, who had jumped out of Magee's window, Hayden and Cargan arrive and open the safe. With the help of his "trigger man," Max, Cargan double-crosses his cohorts and runs off with the money, but is knocked out by Bolton, who is then knocked out by Magee. After Magee hides the cash in a vase, Bland accidentally stumbles on it and hides it in a woodstove, which is opened by Peters, who then transfers the money to a chair cushion. While Mary attempts to retrieve the cash, Magee is confronted by the gangsters and Hayden, who implicates himself in an insurance scam. In the heated confusion, Mrs. Hayden, who is actually an impostor named Myra, reveals that Max stole Hayden's jewels at Cargan's request. Max shoots and apparently kills Myra. Finally, the police arrive and, once assured that Myra is not dead, hear Magee's accusations. Mary then reveals that she is really Mary Johnson, a New York reporter, and Bolton confesses that he is really Harrison, an insurance detective. Although Magee loses his literary bet, he is rewarded with Mary's hand in marriage.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Mystery
Adaptation
Release Date
Dec 13, 1935
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Seven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers (Indianapolis, 1913) and the play of the same name by George M. Cohan (New York, 22 Sep 1913).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 20m
Sound
Mono (RCA Victor System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Articles

Seven Keys to Baldpate


Charlie Chan creator Earl Derr Biggers' 1913 mystery novel Seven Keys to Baldpate effectively jump-started the Old Dark House subgenre of horror comedies, thanks in no small part to theatrical impresario George M. Cohan, who adapted the novel for Broadway later that year. Critics hated the play but the Astor Theatre remained packed for over three hundred performances. Cohan produced a silent film version of the play in 1917 and Seven Keys to Baldpate remained a reliable go-to for movie producers in the first half of the 20th Century. RKO Radio Pictures obtained the rights in 1929 and remade the film three times in little more than a decade, first as a 1929 early talkie starring Richard Dix and, slightly less than a decade later, as a more accomplished 1935 sound release featuring Gene Raymond as a mystery writer who accepts a $10,000 bet to write his latest book in twenty-four hours while holed up through a bleak midwinter's night at the mountaintop Baldpate Inn. (Cue parade of strangers through the establishment's darkened halls, each possessing what he or she believes to be the only key to Baldpate.) Seven Keys to Baldpate was photographed by Robert De Grasse, who applied his command of shadowplay to such later RKO offerings as the Val Lewton-produced The Leopard Man (1943) and The Body Snatcher (1945). The studio mounted the tale yet again after World War II and in 1983 British director Pete Walker retold the story as House of Long Shadows, featuring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Vincent Price.

By Richard Harland Smith
Seven Keys To Baldpate

Seven Keys to Baldpate

Charlie Chan creator Earl Derr Biggers' 1913 mystery novel Seven Keys to Baldpate effectively jump-started the Old Dark House subgenre of horror comedies, thanks in no small part to theatrical impresario George M. Cohan, who adapted the novel for Broadway later that year. Critics hated the play but the Astor Theatre remained packed for over three hundred performances. Cohan produced a silent film version of the play in 1917 and Seven Keys to Baldpate remained a reliable go-to for movie producers in the first half of the 20th Century. RKO Radio Pictures obtained the rights in 1929 and remade the film three times in little more than a decade, first as a 1929 early talkie starring Richard Dix and, slightly less than a decade later, as a more accomplished 1935 sound release featuring Gene Raymond as a mystery writer who accepts a $10,000 bet to write his latest book in twenty-four hours while holed up through a bleak midwinter's night at the mountaintop Baldpate Inn. (Cue parade of strangers through the establishment's darkened halls, each possessing what he or she believes to be the only key to Baldpate.) Seven Keys to Baldpate was photographed by Robert De Grasse, who applied his command of shadowplay to such later RKO offerings as the Val Lewton-produced The Leopard Man (1943) and The Body Snatcher (1945). The studio mounted the tale yet again after World War II and in 1983 British director Pete Walker retold the story as House of Long Shadows, featuring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Vincent Price. By Richard Harland Smith

Quotes

Trivia

George M. Cohan's play opened in New York on 22 September 1913.

Notes

Motion Picture Herald's "In the Cutting Room" includes Molly Lamont in the cast, but her pariticipation in the final film has not been confirmed. The New York Times reviewer complained that the film's producers "neglected to explain that the mysterious goings-on were prearranged carefully to thwart a writer who had a bet," as was the case in Biggers' novel. This version of Biggers' novel was preceded by three others: a 1917 Artcraft picture, directed by Hugh Ford and starring George M. Cohan (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20; F1.3939); a 1925 Paramount release, directed by Fred Newmeyer and starring Douglas MacLean, and a 1930 RKO release, directed by Reginald Barker and starring Richard Dix (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.4920 and F2.4921). In 1947, Lew Landers directed Phillip Terry in a second RKO version of the novel.