Warren William Weekends

Fiona and I have been having Friday evening watch parties with friends… for some reason we’ve settled on Warren William as the centre of the cinematic universe. We started with the Lone Wolf series, to which we may return like a lone wolf to its vomit, but we moved on to GOLD-DIGGERS OF 1933 where he gets to play a fatuous character instead of just playing a regular character in a fatuous manner (I LOVE WW’s fatuousness) and thence on to his Perry Mason films, which are of a slightly higher standard than the Lone Wolves — less generic, more eccentric. Since Mason doesn’t have a regular comedy sidekick or any regular co-stars, he gets to more comedy himself and this is no bad thing. Though of course Eric Blore would always be welcome.

Speaking of casting irregularities, we wound up watching THE CASE OF THE BLACK CAT which does NOT have WW in it. Riccardo Cortez who, like WW, had unsuccessfully played lead in a version of THE MALTESE FALCON, unsuccessfully plays lead here. He’d soon start directing films for Fox, not one of which is available even as an illegal download. That’s how good he was.

But the first film in our double-feature, THE CASE OF THE CURIOUS BRIDE features a really ebullient turn by WW with professional sidekick Allen Jenkins backing him up, and strong support from character wizards like Olin Howland, Warren Hymer and Maya Methot. Michael Curtiz directs with a rocket up his arse and somebody’s just handed editor Terry Morse a shiny new optical printer so every scene ends with a zoom-in and blur effect FOR NO REASON. Morse later got the job of shoving another Perry Mason, Raymond Burr, into GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. Stick with me, kids, it’s not much fun but it’s educational.

GOLD-DIGGERS OF 1933 stars Michael Lanyard; Lady Fingers; Hattie ‘Mom’ Frink; Peggy Sawyer; Philip Marlowe; Scattergood Baines; Caterpillar; Kitty Foyle; Screwball; Sir Alfred MacGlennon Keith; Chico; Sgt. Dickens; Max Jacobs; Montague L. ‘Monty’ Brewster; Sermon; Helen St. James; and the voice of Winnie the Pooh.

THE CASE OF THE CURIOUS BRIDE stars Philo Vance; Doris Kane (Leo); Perry Mason; Vivian Rich; Jonathan G. ‘Goldie’ Locke; Steve Wilson; Lt. of Detectives Dundy; Inez Cardoza; Angelface; Mr. Davis – Schoolteacher (twice); Judge Thatcher; Uranium Prospector (uncredited); Peter Blood; Zedorah Chapman; Aramis.

THE CASE OF THE BLACK CAT stars Sam Spade; Tommy Thomas; Marie Donati; ‘Snoop’ Davis; Player Eating Bonnie’s Chicken (uncredited); Wild Bill Hickok; Colonel Skeffington; Sheriff Prettywillie; Mr. Waterbury; and Wax Figure (uncredited). Let’s face it, this wasn’t a stellar cast.

5 Responses to “Warren William Weekends”

  1. Tony Williams Says:

    Have you read THE MAGNIFICENT HEEL by Dan Van Neste? I’m inclined to agree with you over Cortez as Spade but Dan makes a very good case for him and points out that Hammett actually approved the casting. Dan’s book provides copious material on Cortez and he has his own FB site worth visiting.

    Here is my review – http://filmint.nu/?p=20707

    Sad ness about http://www.rarefilmm.com being closed, hopefully for the moment.

  2. Arguably both Cortez and William look more like Satan than Bogie did, and that’s how Hammett describes Spade. But appearances aren’t everything. Everyone in the first Falcon looks the part, ie they’re typecast, and all of them play it heavily on-the-nose, making it feel like a B-picture remake of the Huston.

  3. Tony Williams Says:

    My feelings exactly. I had to wait until I arrived in the USA to see it as it was not available in the UK then

  4. dbenson Says:

    WW is an actual villain in the precode “Employees Entrance”, bedding a hungry Loretta Young and repeating when she’s married and drunk. That was my first encounter with him; it was a shock to see him rollicking through “Satan Met a Lady”.

    I love his Perry Mason films. Note that the first film puts him at the head of a huge organization with its own expert headshrinker. After that he’s more of a one-man practice with secretary and stooge, but successful enough to live high. Storytelling choice, or somebody thought the first film reflected badly on Big Reputable law firms, and therefore implied justice was for the rich.

    As for the two post-WW films, that one of them ends with Perry taking Della to a waffle house says it all.

  5. We just ran Employee’s, as a double bill with the similarly suggestively titled Under 18, where he’s a lecherous playboy.

    The politics at Warners are weird: WW is an evil capitalist in EE, but he’s also working to beat the depression and avoid lay-offs, and he gets a happy ending. Driving people to suicide along the way isn’t even party of a learning curve for him, as it is in The Mind Reader.

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