The Cat and the Canary (1939)

72 mins | Comedy, Mystery | 10 November 1939

Director:

Elliott Nugent

Cinematographer:

Charles Lang Jr.

Editor:

Archie Marshek

Production Designers:

Hans Dreier, Robert Usher

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

According to pre-production news items in HR , Shirley Ross, Martha Raye, Ellen Drew and Willard Robertson were slated to appear in this film and Frank Ryan, a cartoonist for The New Yorker and Esquire was to write visual gags for the film. Other news items in HR note that Ted Tetzlaff temporarily took over for photographer Charles Lang. Another news item in HR adds that Paramount closed the set so the identity of the murderer would remain a secret. Among the many films based on the John Willard play are Universal's 1927 silent version starring Laura LaPlant and directed by Paul Leni; the 1930 Universal film The Cat Creeps starring Helen Twelvetrees and Raymond Hackett and directed by Rupert Julian (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.0797 and F2.0798); and a 1978 British version directed by Radley Metzger and starring Honor ... More Less

According to pre-production news items in HR , Shirley Ross, Martha Raye, Ellen Drew and Willard Robertson were slated to appear in this film and Frank Ryan, a cartoonist for The New Yorker and Esquire was to write visual gags for the film. Other news items in HR note that Ted Tetzlaff temporarily took over for photographer Charles Lang. Another news item in HR adds that Paramount closed the set so the identity of the murderer would remain a secret. Among the many films based on the John Willard play are Universal's 1927 silent version starring Laura LaPlant and directed by Paul Leni; the 1930 Universal film The Cat Creeps starring Helen Twelvetrees and Raymond Hackett and directed by Rupert Julian (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.0797 and F2.0798); and a 1978 British version directed by Radley Metzger and starring Honor Blackman. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
31 Oct 39
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jan 39
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 39
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 39
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 39
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 39
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Apr 39
pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 39
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
30 Oct 39
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald
23 Sep 39
pp. 58-59.
Motion Picture Herald
28 Oct 39
p. 46.
New York Times
23 Nov 39
p. 38.
Variety
1 Nov 39
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Contr to dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Fill-in photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Int dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus score
Mus adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Cat and the Canary by John Willard (New York, 7 Feb 1922).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
10 November 1939
Production Date:
began 29 March 1939
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
10 November 1939
Copyright Number:
LP9221
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
72
Length(in feet):
6,642
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
PCA No:
5345
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Ten years after the death of millionaire Cyrus Norman, his attorney, Crosby, and his six remaining relatives, Wally Campbell, Joyce Norman, Fred Blythe, Charlie Wilder, Aunt Susan and Cicily, arrive at his gothic mansion in the eerie bayous near New Orleans to hear the reading of the will. Although Crosby discovers that the will, which was to be read at midnight, has been opened, he begins the reading at the prescribed hour, but is interrupted as Miss Lu, Cyrus' housekeeper, who believes in spirits, predicts that someone will die before the night ends. The others are disappointed to learn that Joyce is the sole heir, but because a streak of insanity runs in the family, Cyrus has left a second will in case anything happens to her, thus placing Joyce's life in danger. More danger looms as Hendricks, a guard at a nearby sanitarium, appears with the news that "The Cat," a homicidal maniac, has escaped. The news puts everyone's nerves on edge, and as Crosby is about to warn Joyce of the danger, a hand appears from behind a panel and he vanishes. Later that night, Joyce and Wally follow Cyrus' clues to find a hidden diamond necklace that is later stolen when a hand appears from behind Joyce's bedroom wall. Because Joyce alone had been present when both Crosby disappeared and the hand appeared, everyone begins to think that she is going insane until they find Crosby's dead body behind a hidden panel. When a death knell is sounded, Wally becomes suspicious of Hendricks and Lu and goes to investigate. As Joyce waits alone in the library, a panel slides open, ... +


Ten years after the death of millionaire Cyrus Norman, his attorney, Crosby, and his six remaining relatives, Wally Campbell, Joyce Norman, Fred Blythe, Charlie Wilder, Aunt Susan and Cicily, arrive at his gothic mansion in the eerie bayous near New Orleans to hear the reading of the will. Although Crosby discovers that the will, which was to be read at midnight, has been opened, he begins the reading at the prescribed hour, but is interrupted as Miss Lu, Cyrus' housekeeper, who believes in spirits, predicts that someone will die before the night ends. The others are disappointed to learn that Joyce is the sole heir, but because a streak of insanity runs in the family, Cyrus has left a second will in case anything happens to her, thus placing Joyce's life in danger. More danger looms as Hendricks, a guard at a nearby sanitarium, appears with the news that "The Cat," a homicidal maniac, has escaped. The news puts everyone's nerves on edge, and as Crosby is about to warn Joyce of the danger, a hand appears from behind a panel and he vanishes. Later that night, Joyce and Wally follow Cyrus' clues to find a hidden diamond necklace that is later stolen when a hand appears from behind Joyce's bedroom wall. Because Joyce alone had been present when both Crosby disappeared and the hand appeared, everyone begins to think that she is going insane until they find Crosby's dead body behind a hidden panel. When a death knell is sounded, Wally becomes suspicious of Hendricks and Lu and goes to investigate. As Joyce waits alone in the library, a panel slides open, revealing a secret passage. Entering the passage, Joyce is trapped and chased by The Cat to a hut outside. Just as The Cat is about to attack, Wally appears and unmasks Charlie as The Cat and Lu shoots the intruder. As daylight arrives, danger dissipates and Joyce awards the house to Lu, then departs with Wally. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.