Calling Philo Vance


1h 2m 1940
Calling Philo Vance

Brief Synopsis

Society sleuth Philo Vance tangles with foreign agents when he investigates the murder of an aircraft manufacturer.

Film Details

Also Known As
Philo Vance Comes Back, Philo Vance Returns
Genre
Mystery
Spy
Release Date
Feb 3, 1940
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 27 Jan 1940
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on The Kennel Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine (New York, 1933).

Technical Specs

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

Synopsis

The United States government unofficially asks detective Philo Vance to investigate Archer Coe, an airplane manufacturer suspected of espionage. In Vienna, Vance steals the plans for the Coe bomber and escapes from Austria, but loses the plans on the way. On his return to the United States, Vance admits that he has no solid proof of Coe's double-dealing, but says that he intends to pursue the case. Together with Philip Wrede, one of Coe's employees, Vance calls on Coe, only to discover that he is dead from an apparent gunshot wound. Although the room in which he was killed was locked from the inside, making the death appear to be a suicide, Vance suspects that Coe was actually murdered. Coe's niece, Hilda Lake, admits that he had always accused her of stealing his plans, and adds that everyone who knew him had reason to kill him, including his brother, Brisbane Coe. Wrede is in love with Hilda, but she has become engaged to Tom MacDonald. When Dr. Doremus examines Coe's body, he finds that Coe died from a knife wound rather than a gunshot wound. A short time later, Vance finds Brisbane's body in the closet and suggests that Brisbane killed Coe. The neighbor's dog wanders into the house suffering from a head wound. Vance questions the neighbor, Doris Delafield, and learns that she planned to leave the country with Eduardo Grassi, an Italian airplane designer, making them suspects. Ling Toy, one of the servants, is discovered to be an agent for the Japanese government. Then Tom is stabbed. Vance solves the mystery by explaining that the killer came through the kitchen door to the library, started an argument and struck Coe on the head. He then hit the dog who attacked him in defense of Coe. Once the dog was taken care of, the killer stabbed Coe with a dagger. Coe regained consciousness and went to the bedroom, not knowing that he had been stabbed. Later, Brisbane came home and shot Coe, making it look like suicide, and locked the door from the outside, using a trick. The killer saw Brisbane, and thinking it was Coe, killed him as well. Vance lets the injured dog loose and he attacks Wrede, revealing him to be the killer, who was trying to steal the airplane plans for a foreign government.

Film Details

Also Known As
Philo Vance Comes Back, Philo Vance Returns
Genre
Mystery
Spy
Release Date
Feb 3, 1940
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 27 Jan 1940
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on The Kennel Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine (New York, 1933).

Technical Specs

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

Articles

Calling Philo Vance


After making his belated film debut at age 48, British stage actor James Stephenson was offered a Warner Brothers contract and prominent roles as an urbane rotter undone by small town sleuth Bonita Granville in Nancy Drew, Detective (1938) and as an itinerate novelist (patterned a little baldly after Leslie Howard in The Petrified Forest, 1936) who tangles with Humphrey Bogart's King of the Underworld (1939). The actor had his best year in 1940, costarring with Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk and with Bette Davis in The Letter -the latter netting him an Academy Award nomination. That same year, Stephenson was the star of Calling Philo Vance, Warners' bid to reboot their franchise of whodunits based on the novels of S. S. Van Dine. A remake of The Kennel Murder Case (1933) retooled for a world on the cusp of war, Calling Philo Vance finds the character pressed into service by the United States government to look into the dealings of an airplane manufacturer suspected of being in league with foreign powers and, when the man is found murdered, to sniff out his killer. The charismatic Stephenson might have breathed new life into the series but with his sudden death by heart attack in 1941 Warners never again made another Philo Vance film. (The series migrated after World War II to the Poverty Row outfit Producers Releasing Corporation.) Look fast for future TV stars George Reeves (The Adventures of Superman) and William Hopper (Perry Mason) in minor roles.

By Richard Harland Smith
Calling Philo Vance

Calling Philo Vance

After making his belated film debut at age 48, British stage actor James Stephenson was offered a Warner Brothers contract and prominent roles as an urbane rotter undone by small town sleuth Bonita Granville in Nancy Drew, Detective (1938) and as an itinerate novelist (patterned a little baldly after Leslie Howard in The Petrified Forest, 1936) who tangles with Humphrey Bogart's King of the Underworld (1939). The actor had his best year in 1940, costarring with Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk and with Bette Davis in The Letter -the latter netting him an Academy Award nomination. That same year, Stephenson was the star of Calling Philo Vance, Warners' bid to reboot their franchise of whodunits based on the novels of S. S. Van Dine. A remake of The Kennel Murder Case (1933) retooled for a world on the cusp of war, Calling Philo Vance finds the character pressed into service by the United States government to look into the dealings of an airplane manufacturer suspected of being in league with foreign powers and, when the man is found murdered, to sniff out his killer. The charismatic Stephenson might have breathed new life into the series but with his sudden death by heart attack in 1941 Warners never again made another Philo Vance film. (The series migrated after World War II to the Poverty Row outfit Producers Releasing Corporation.) Look fast for future TV stars George Reeves (The Adventures of Superman) and William Hopper (Perry Mason) in minor roles. By Richard Harland Smith

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Notes

The working titles of this film were Philo Vance Comes Back and Philo Vance Returns. Warner Bros. made an earlier film based on S. S. Van Dine's novel, The Kennel Murder Case, in 1933. For further information on other films featuring the "Philo Vance" character, consult the Series Index and for The Kennel Murder Case.