AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Canary Murder Case
Director: Malcolm St. Clair (Dir)
Release Date:   16 Feb 1929
Duration (in mins):   80
Duration (in feet):   7,171
Duration (in reels):   7
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Cast: with William Powell (Philo Vance)  
    James Hall (Jimmie Spotswoode)  
    Louise Brooks ("The Canary" [Margaret O'Dell])  
  [and] Jean Arthur (Alice La Fosse)  
    Charles Lane (Charles Spotswoode)  
    Lawrence Grant (Charles Cleaver)  
    Gustav von Seyffertitz (Dr. Ambrose Lindquist)  
    Captain E. H. Calvert (District Attorney Markham)  
    Eugene Pallette (Sergeant Heath)  
    Ned Sparks (Tony Skeel)  
    Louis John Bartels (Louis Mannix)  
    Tim Adair (George Y. Harvey)  
    Oscar Smith (Stuttering boy)  
    Margaret Livingston ([Double for Louise Brooks])  

Summary: Margaret O'Dell, a blackmailing musical comedy star, is found strangled in her apartment, and four men come under suspicion: Lindquist, a half-mad doctor in love with Margaret; Cleaver, a politician whose career she threatened; Mannix, a fat broker with a jealous wife; and Jimmy Spotswoode, a young society boy Margaret was attempting to blackmail into marriage. Jimmy is arrested, and Philo Vance, a whimsical society man and amateur detective who is a close friend of Jimmy's father, is called in on the case. Vance proves the murderer to have been the elder Spotswoode. 

Production Company: Paramount Famous Lasky Corp.  
Production Text: A Malcolm St. Clair Production
Distribution Company: Paramount Famous Lasky Corp.  
Director: Malcolm St. Clair (Dir)
Producer: Adolph Zukor (Pres)
  Louis D. Lighton (Assoc prod)
Writer: S. S. Van Dine (Story and dial)
  Albert S. Le Vino (Adpt)
  Florence Ryerson (Scr)
  Herman J. Mankiewicz (Titles)
Photography: Harry Fischbeck (Photog)
  Cliff Blackstone (Photog)
Film Editor: William Shea (Film ed)
Costumes: Travis Banton (Cost des)
Music: Karl Hajos (Mus)
Production Misc: B. P. Schulberg (General Mgr West Coast Prod.)
Country: United States
Language: English
Series: Philo Vance

Music:
Songs:
Source Text: Based on the novel The "Canary" Murder Case; a Philo Vance Story by S. S. Van Dine (New York, 1927).
Authors: S. S. Van Dine

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Paramount Famous Lasky Corp. 15/2/1929 dd/mm/yyyy LP126

Physical Properties: Sd: Movietone
  Sd, also Si: Also si; 6,554 ft.
  b&w:
  Widescreen/ratio: 1.18:1

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Detective
 
Subjects (Major): Blackmail
  Brokers
  Detectives
  District attorneys
  Murder
  Physicians
  Politicians

Note: The Canary Murder Case was the first film in which novelist S. S. Van Dine's popular detective "Philo Vance" appeared in a film. William Powell revived his role as Vance in four additional films, including The Greene Murder Case , released later in 1929 (see entry below). For information on other films featuring Vance, please consult the entry below for the 1934 Warner Bros. film The Kennel Murder Case , directed by Michael Curtiz and also starring Powell. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   17 Mar 1929.   
New York Times   11 Mar 1929   p. 22.
Variety   13 Mar 1929.   

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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