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.
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