Leo G. Carroll
(1886 - 1972)
I read the most amusing story the other day, especially written to push the buttons of character actor fans. Leo G. Carroll Fan Club by LeVar Ravel is a dollar buy for your Kindle and a nice accompaniment to a pot of tea.
Set in 1966, our unnamed narrator becomes involved with a small and quirky set of characters who worship at the shrine of Leo G. Carroll. Our narrator is not as enamored of the British actor as the club members with whom he becomes involved, so how did he get in so deep? Attending a film festival his encyclopedic knowledge of movie trivia, particular that of the Carroll-Hitchcock connection convinces a fellow filmgoer that here is someone destined to join the club.
The club members are not legion, but their devotion to their idol rivals my own Charlie Chan fandom. They are male, female, old, young, rich, conservative, and hippies. They collect memorabilia, they meet, they drink tea. They form friendships and they fight. Just like any normal family. The outside world is about to intrude in the unexpected form of international crime. Will their devotion to Leo G. Carroll help or hinder them in this life or death situation?
An actor with such a long and distinguished stage and screen career as Leo G. Carroll would find himself no stranger to crime stories. Two of my favourites are of the B movie variety.
Sapper's international man of mystery, Captain Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond (John Howard) and his fiancee Phyllis Clavering (Heather Angel) are preparing the family estate for their anticipated wedded bliss when death and mystery come to their very doorstep and comes in for a visit. We're watching 1939s Bulldog Drummond's Secret Police.
A Professor Downie (Forrester Harvey), one of those absent-minded types comes to tea with a coded book that claims to give the location of a treasure buried right within the walls of the estate. Phyllis sees nothing but trouble and yet another delay in their marriage, but what red-blooded boy can resist the lure of buried treasure? The gang is all there for the fun including Inspector Nielson (H.B. Warner), Algy Longworth (Reginald Denny) and the indispensable Tenny (E.E. Clive). At least Phyllis' Aunt Blanche (Elizabeth Patterson) can be depended upon to be sensible, or can she?
Things turn nasty quite suddenly with the murder of Professor Downie. Is it possible that the new servant sent from the employment agency could be involved? It's good old Leo G. Carroll. Surely he has nothing to hide. What starts out as a rather routine story has a very exciting, action-filled ending.
Leo G. Carroll appeared in two Chan pictures, 1939s City in Darkness and 1940s Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise. Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise is based on Earl Derr Biggers' novel Charlie Chan Carries On. The 1931 film adaption of the novel is one of the lost Chans, however the Spanish language version Eran trece, also from 1931 is available on one of the DVD box sets and currently on YouTube.
Inspector Duff (Montague Shaw) of Scotland Yard has attached himself to a cruise of suspects in a London murder. Nearing the end of the trip, the last leg of which is from Honolulu to San Francisco, the Inspector pays a visit to his old and dear friend Inspector Chan. Duff confides that he feels certain he will have his man soon, but before the final details are revealed he is murdered in Charlie Chan's own office. Owing a debt to his friend, Charlie Chan, as the novel's title tells us, "carries on" with the case.
Sidney Toler, Lionel Atwill, Leo G. Carroll
The holiday-makers are a diverse group of suspects. We meet the boisterous Don Beddoe, the wacky Cora Witherspoon and her young companion Marjorie Weaver. And get to know the wealthy heir Robert Lowery, the secretive Kay Linaker, the forgetful Leo G. Carroll and the officious Lionel Atwill. Will the Inspector and Number 2 son, Jimmy solve the crime in time to prevent more terror? There's fun and games, and murder in the middle of the ocean! Irresistible, if you ask me. Get your ticket now.