Cast & Crew
Spencer Gordon Bennett
Dr. Steven Walcott suffers a near-miss attempt on his life while his friend William Cornish, a famous investigator, is visiting him. Steven invited William over after finding a piece of a human earbone in the fireplace of his hotel room, Apt. A. Upon investigation, William determines that Steven was shot at from the apartment directly across the street. They search that apartment and find powder marks on the windowsill, but must hide when a lady enters. She rushes out after finding a note, and with the help of special eyeglasses, William reads her lips and gets the address she gives to a taxi driver. Steven and William confront the hotel manager, Gordon, and his cohorts. They are evasive regarding the shooting, but agree to change Steven's room. Again with the help of the special glasses, William discovers that just after their meeting, Gordon called Adolph Klein, co-owner of the hotel and owner of a mortuary. Steven and William find the mysterious lady, Enid Van Buren, and her fiancé Erich. They tell a remarkable story: Enid and her brother Ralph arrived at the hotel and stayed in Apt. A. Ralph was ill, and was treated by the hotel physician, Dr. Bronson. Enid left town for a few days. On her return, she discovered that Ralph had disappeared, but the hotel claimed they had no record of her ever staying there. When she became upset, they had her admitted to a psychiatric ward, where she stayed for a month. The police and doctors refused to believe her story, but Erich maintained his faith in her. Steven and William agree to believe in her as well and to meet her at the apartment near the hotel. Enid is kidnapped, however, and locked in a room at the mortuary, which is filled with coffins. Someone terrorizes her by crying out in a ghostly voice as if he were Ralph. Steven and William bring the police to the mortuary and rescue Enid. Finally, Dr. Bronson admits that Ralph died of bubonic plague, and that his body was burned in the fireplace to prevent contamination. Gordon blames the Depression for the hotel's lack of business, but says they were expecting good business from the medical convention, for which Steven was in town. Worried about losing business and terrifying the community with news of the plague, the hotel and health department tried to cover up Ralph's demise. Although William protests that their methods were particularly harsh on Enid, everyone agrees to maintain silence about the plague, since it has been contained, so as not to alarm the city. Enid and Erich welcome William's offer of a rest at his upstate farm.
Spencer Gordon Bennett
Onscreen cast credits list William Boyd's character as "Thorwaldt Cornish," although he is called William throughout the film. Although released generally in November 1932, the picture did not open in New York until March 1933. According to Variety, a real-life story similar to the film's plot was the subject of an Alexander Woollcott column in the New Yorker. Variety also notes that the "idea started in 1893 when it was bruited about that a woman visitor to the Columbian fair had died in her Chicago hotel of the bubonic plague and that the hotel had covered up the death to avoid alarming the thousands of visitors. They even changed the aspect of the room to deceive her companion." A modern source notes that this film was based on the Anthony Thorne novel So Long At the Fair, however, that novel was first published in 1947. A 1950 film of the same title released by Gainsborough, directed by Terence Fisher and starring Jean Simmons and Dirk Bogarde, is based on the novel, and the plot is similar to the plot of Midnight Warning.