The Garden Murder Case


1h 2m 1936
The Garden Murder Case

Brief Synopsis

Society sleuth Philo Vance suspects dirty doings behind a mysterious series of suicides.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Mystery
Release Date
Feb 21, 1936
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Garden Murder Case: A Philo Vance Story by S. S. Van Dine (New York, 1935).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 2m
Film Length
6 reels

Synopsis

At a steeplechase race for amateur "gentlemen" riders, millionaire Lowe Hammle is having a party in his box. Floyd Garden, a friend of Hammle, who has been having an affair with Madge Fenwicke-Ralston, a houseguest and wife of the much older Major Fenwicke-Ralston, is scheduled to ride Hammle's horse. Because Floyd seems depressed, Madge asks him not to ride, but he only answers that he will ride and he will break his neck. On the last jump of the race, Floyd falls to his death. Though suicide is suspected, Philo Vance, a detective who is in Hammle's box, decides to investigate Floyd's death. That night, at a party at Hammle's, Hammle's neice, Zalia Graem, who is his ward but hates him, says that she thinks Hammle is responsible for Floyd's death. At the same time, Hammle's mother's nurse, English-born Gladys Beeton, with whom Hammle has been conducting an affair, threatens him with a breach-of-promise suit. Hammle's mother, meanwhile, is plotting with him to breakup Zalia's relationship with Woode Swift, a young man with whom she is in love. To accomplish the breakup, Hammle offers Swift a lucrative job in a Latin American country, but when Zalia finds out, she is angry at Woode for accepting the job and at her uncle for offering it. Later that night, a shot is heard, and Hammle's body is found dead in the library. Suicide is again suspected, but Vance is certain that it is murder because there are no powder burns on Hammle's clothes and he was apparently shot with an antique dueling pistol. The police agree, and Vance theorizes that the murderer was a woman who was unfamiliar with guns. When all of the women suspects are questioned, each say that they heard the major's voice coming from the library just before the shot, but the major was with Woode in the billiard room all night. Because Zalia hated Hammle and is the principal beneficiary of his estate, the police suspect her, but Vance believes that she is innocent. The next day, Madge telephones Vance and says that she knows who killed Hammle. Because Vance is concerned that someone is listening in on the line, he asks her to meet him at the district attorney's office. Before Madge leaves the house, the major has a few words with her, after which she blankly tells the maid that she is going to be killed. Zalia then follows Madge, and sees her plunge from the top of a double-decker bus. When the police are summoned, they accuse Zalia of Madge's murder, and she admits to listening in on the phone call to Vance. Though the police want to arrest her, Vance convinces them to let him be responsible for her. He then learns from her that Hammle had once been a ventriloquist. When he also learns that just prior to his death Hammle had called the immigration department to have Mrs. Beeton departed, he summizes that Hammle had immitated the major's voice to do so. Vance concludes that, because of the disguised voice, it was the major, not Hammle who was the intended victim. On the way to the police station, Vance and Zalia stop in a museum and, inspired by a discussion of the hypnotic power over pythons, Vance suddenly deduces that the major hypnotized Garden because of Madge's affair; Madge had then attempted to kill the major, but had mistakenly killed Hammle; and, the major then hypnotized Madge to jump to her death. Vance returns to the house and pretends to allow the major to hypnotize him, after which the major lures Vance to a ledge. Vance then "awakens," and the police, who had been summoned by Zalia, shoot the major, who plunges to his death.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Mystery
Release Date
Feb 21, 1936
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Garden Murder Case: A Philo Vance Story by S. S. Van Dine (New York, 1935).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 2m
Film Length
6 reels

Articles

The Garden Murder Case


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
The Garden Murder Case

The Garden Murder Case

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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Trivia

Notes

According to various news items in Hollywood Reporter, Brian Aherne and Rosalind Russell were originally considered for the leads, and the race track sequence of the film was shot at Santa Anita. Hollywood Reporter production charts include Rosalind Ivan, Robert McWade, Olaf Hytten and Leonard Carey in the cast, however, their appearances in the completed film have not been confirmed. A news item in Hollywood Reporter noted that Ivan, a London stage actress, was to have made her debut in the film. For information on other films in which the detective Philo Vance appeared, see the entry below for The Kennel Murder Case and consult the Series Index.