mystery movie series of 1930s hollywood

mystery movie series of 1930s hollywood
by ron backer

when i started a mystery review site, way back in 1927 (or something like that), i did so because i thought it would be fun to have a record of my thoughts on the mystery fiction i was reading. i wish i'd done it a bit sooner, like before i read the majority of the nero wolfe books, but so be it. at the time mystery cinema wasn't really on my radar but it wasn't all that long before i started to discover some of the great mystery films that came out in the thirties and forties.

which is why i did something i rarely do anymore and that's to request a review copy of a book - mystery movie series of 1930s hollywood. though the name might suggest otherwise it's actually the second volume author ron backer wrote on this topic, after mystery movie series of 1940s hollywood.

and it's great stuff, mind you. i have yet to see the 1940s volume and i hope that i do so one day but this volume is packed to the rafters with more mystery movie series than i had ever imagined could exist. i found the book interesting on two levels. as for as sitting down and reading it, i discovered that i didn't have much use for most of the chapters that covered movies i've never seen. but i found those chapters worthwhile in that they pointed me in the direction of many movies i hadn't previously known about.

backer has done a thorough job with this volume, looking at 22 series and 167 films in all. he essentially does a fairly in-depth review of each of the films, along with plenty of background on the series itself and major figures such as actors, directors, writers and the like. in the case of those films that got their start as novels or stories, he also provides a section on how the film compared to the source material.

which is a pretty impressive piece of work and one that i'd highly recommend to anyone who has an interest in these movies. if you don't have an interest in mystery movies from this era check out a few.

from the table of contents, here are the series that backer covers.

1. philo vance: the upper class detective
2. bulldog drummond: the english adventurer
3. charlie chan: the chinese detective
4. arsene lupin: the gentleman thief
5. hildegarde withers: the teacher detective
6. thatcher colt: the police commissioner
7. inspector trent: the police detective
8. nick and nora charles: the thin man series
9. perry mason: the defense attorney
10. sophie lang: the lady thief
11. sarah keate: the nurse detective
12. torchy blane: the investigative reporter
13. alan o’connor and bobbie reynolds: the federal agents
14. mr. moto: the japanese detective
15. bill crane: the private detective
16. joel and garda sloane: the husband and wife team
17. nancy drew: the teenage detective
18. mr. wong: the other chinese detective
19. barney callahan: the roving reporter
20. brass bancroft: the secret service agent
21. tailspin tommy: the young aviator
22. persons in hiding: the fbi story

consciousness the norm of space determinations

if now, we conceive reality to be a scale extending from one extremity to another (that is, from supreme consciousness to entire unconsciousness, from final knowledge to total ignorance), and the intellectual consciousness as the indicator which traverses the scale denoting at all times the precise degree of our comprehension of reality, and hence the degree of expansion of consciousness, we shall constitute a similitude closely approximating the real status quo of humanity with respect to the sensible and supersensible worlds. the quantity or force which causes the indicator to move along the scale is the quality of awareness. and this varies directly as the scope of adaptability varies. realism is homogeneous throughout its extent; but the scale marked upon it registers from naught to unity. and between these every conceivable degree of awareness may be registered. the indicator moves only as the scope widens, and thus is shown a change in the quality of awareness. for, however paradoxical it may seem, the wider the scope of knowledge the better its quality: the more one knows, the more complete and of higher quality becomes that which he knows.


chloroform: how shall we ensure safety in its administration? - 1855

that the vapour of chloroform, in certain states of con- centration, is absolutely irrespirable before anaesthesia is induced, is a truth of which we may at any time be satis- fied by making the experiment on ourselves. we find, indeed, on attempting to inhale it, that we are immediately restrained in the effort ; that the pungency of the vapour produces that feeling which is described as spasm of the glottis ; and that the expansion of the chest involving the inhalation of the chloroform is, however much we may desire it, absolutely beyond our power. anyone who will take the trouble to run through the observations on chloroform contained in the periodicals of the last six years, will find a large amount of evidence clearly pointing to this conclusion, and capable of producing a conviction which should be the stronger from the incidental manner, as it were, in which the evidence would come before him ; for the facts which justify our conclusion, being too striking to escape observation, have been recorded, not indeed with the intention of proving the point for which we contend, but generally having reference to something else, or merely to give a circumstantial account of what took place on any occasion of danger.


rock and roll baby names

what do we know about caroline? neil diamond says she's sweet and the beach boys say she prefers short hair when she's older. and what about guys named victor? prince and blondie say victor is possibly a saint, but also flees from the law. offering the rock-and-roll definitions of these and dozens more popular names, the wildly popular rock 'n' roll baby name dictionary post on flavorwire drew over fifty thousand hits days after it was launched. now its creator, pop-culture writer margaret eby, rolls out the complete encyclopedia, from alison to ziggy and everyone in between.


the penguin pool murder

the penguin pool murder
based on characters created by stuart palmer

funny how simple the answers are when you know them.
(hildegarde withers)

movies starring stuart palmer's amateur detective hildegarde withers were all the rage during the thirties and this is the one that kicked things off. edna may oliver stars here and in the next two episodes and helen broderick and zasu pitts took over the role for the last three movies of the series. though she is a schoolteacher and a civilian, withers works in tandem with the gruff inspector oscar piper to solve crimes and trade mildly disparaging wisecracks. gleason starred as piper in all six of the withers movies.

these movies were not meant to be taken too seriously and the penguin pool murder is no exception. miss withers just happens to be visiting the aquarium with her students when a gentleman of the lifeless persuasion is found in the penguin pool. we viewers have already seen some of the background leading up to this murder, but there are various twists and turns that keep things hopping until the no-nonsense schoolmarm finally figures it all out. piper, as usual, is a few steps behind, but give him an a for effort anyway.

these are not movies that i really watch for the plotting and this one, which gets off to quite a slow start, was more of the same. when withers and piper get into crime-solving mode and start pecking at each other things perk up considerably. recommended, as are the other three in the series that i've seen thus far, as long as you're not someone who takes your mystery movies too seriously.

the birth of the mac

if you have had any prior experience with personal computers, what you might expect to see is some sort of opaque code, called a "prompt," consisting of phosphorescent green or white letters on a murky background. what you see with macintosh is the finder. on a pleasant, light background (you can later change the background to any of a number of patterns, if you like), little pictures called "icons" appear, representing choices available to you. a word-processing program might be represented by a pen, while the program that lets you draw pictures might have a paintbrush icon. a file would represent stored documents – book reports, letters, legal briefs and so forth. to see a particular file, you'd move the mouse, which would, in turn, move the cursor to the file you wanted. you'd tap a button on the mouse twice, and the contents of the file would appear on the screen: dark on light, just like a piece of paper.


my boyhood among the pigeons

i remember calling my mother to a window early one morning and shouting: "see there! a flock of pigeons! ah, ha! april fool!" this time i did not deceive her with the threadbare trick. the joke was "on me" for once. there was a flight of pigeons that morning, the first one of the season, and behind the foremost flock another and another came streaming. away from the east side of the river at the north of the town, from near crow island, they swept like a cloud. crossing the river to the west they reached the woods near jerome's mill and skirted the clearings or passed in waves over the tree tops, back of john winter's farm, and then wheeled to the south. out of the tongue of woodland, just back of the hermansau church, they poured, thence over the fields, too high to be shot, and then away to the evergreens and stately pines of pine hill; on, on, on across the tittabawassee, to some feeding ground we knew not how far away.


phantom music

most countries have their stories and traditions of mysterious music which, in many cases, has been associated with certain supernatural properties. under one form or another, the belief in phantom music has extensively prevailed throughout europe, and in many parts of england it is still supposed to be heard, occasionally as a presage of death. it has been generally supposed that music is the favourite recreation of the spirits that haunt mountains, rivers, and all kinds of lonely places. the indians would not venture near manitobah island, their superstitious fears being due to the weird sounds produced by the waves as they beat upon the beach at the foot of the cliffs, near its northern extremity. during the night, when a gentle breeze was blowing from the north, the various sounds heard on the island were quite sufficient to strike awe into their minds. these sounds frequently resembled the ringing of distant bells; so close, indeed, was the resemblance that travellers would awake during the night with the impression that they were listening to chimes. when the breeze subsided, and the waves played gently on the[413] beach, a low wailing sound would be heard three hundred yards from the cliffs.