Philo Vance

 

Philo Vance:

Philo Vance was a fictional American amateur detective who appeared in twelve novels written by S. S. Van Dine (the pen name of Willard Huntington Wright) in the 1920s and 1930s. For a few years, Vance was immensely popular in books, movies, and on the radio. He was portrayed as a stylish, even foppish dandy, a New Yorkbon vivant possessing a highly intellectual bent. The novels were chronicled by his friend Van Dine (who appears as a kind of Dr. Watson figure in the books as well as the author).

Films about Vance were made from the late 1920s to the late 1940s, with some more faithful to the literary character than others. Among the several actors who played Vance on the screen were William Powell, Warren William, and Basil Rathbone, all of whom had great success playing other detectives in movies.

The Philo Vance novels were particularly well suited for the movies, where the more unpleasantly affected aspects of the main character could be toned down and the complex plots given more prominence. One of these films, The Kennel Murder Case, has been called a masterpiece by renowned film historian William K. Everson.  


1.  Philo Vance in The Kennel Murder Case (1933) – William Powell:

Archer Coe has been found dead in his locked bedroom. The cops consider it suicide, but Philo Vance believes otherwise. When the Coroner shows up, he finds that Archer had been hit with a blunt object, stabbed and shot - making suicide unlikely.

 2.  Philo Vance Returns (1947) - Playboy Larry Blendon (Damian O'Flynn) introduces his grandmother Stella Blendon (Clara Blandick) to his fiancée, radio singer Virginia Berneaux (Ramsay Ames). Despite Larry's record of broken romances and divorces, Virginia decides she will marry him. Virginia is slain that night and Blandon telephones his friend Philo Vance (William Wright) to help find the killer. Even as they talk, the killer strikes again and Philo hears Larry fall dead. Philo begins his investigation with Alexis Karnoff (leon Belasco'), Virginia's manager, and the two go to Larry's home, where Stella tells them that the motive for the killing might be Larry's will that names the six women in his life as heirs and if any die before the will is probated, the others will divide the shares. They also learn that Katherine Corbett(Phyllis Planchard), the first of Larry's wives, has been murdered. Suspicion now falls on Lorena Sims (Vivian Austin), a former wife who has been a patient at a sanitarium suffering from a ..    [ADDED]

3.  Philo Vance's Gamble (1947) - Private Detective Philo Vance (Alan Curtis) gets involved with a succession of murders and a mystery concerning the disappearance of an emerald that has been smuggled into the United States. The first victim is the smuggler, Jeffrey Connor (Dan Seymour), who intended to double-cross his partners, one of which didn't appreciate Connor's intentions.   [ADDED]

4.  PhiloVance's Secret Mission (1947) – Publisher Martin Jamison sends for Philo Vance (Alan Curtis) as he wants to hire him as a technical advisor on the crime stories he publishes. Paul Morgan, Morgan's partner, regards the plan as foolish. Jamison tells his secretary Mona Bannister to bring Vance to his home that night and he will reveal the solution to the seven-year mystery of the killing of Sam Philips, former partner in the firm. Philips ex-wife, now a receptionist for the company, is alarmed when she overhears. As Vance and Mona drive up, two shots are heard and Jamison's body is later found in the trunk of Vance's car.

This was the last of fourteen Philo Vance feature films produced by various studios dating back to 1929.   [ADDED]




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