Seven Keys to Baldpate (1929)

Article #1695 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-4-2005
Posting Date: 4-3-2006
Directed by Reginald Barker
Featuring Richard Dix, Miriam Seegar, Arthur Hoyt

A writer takes a bet that he can write a novel in 24 hours in a solitary, deserted, and supposedly haunted inn on top of a mountain in the middle of the winter. He is given the only key to the building and begins work, only to find that he doesn’t have the only key….

A guy trying to write a novel in an empty inn in the middle of winter? It almost sounds like an early version of THE SHINING. Still, the movies are utterly different. For one thing, this one is only marginal; it’s not really haunted, and though a couple of the people are mistaken for ghosts at one point, there are none to be found. It’s something of a variation on the Old Dark House genre, though that doesn’t really capture it; in spirit, it’s a lot closer to SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN, though nowhere near as wild as that one. It’s based on a novel by Earl Derr Biggers (the creator of Charlie Chan) which had been adapted into a play by George M. Cohan. It must have been incredibly popular; there were at least two earlier silent versions and four later talkie versions. It’s fun, but trying to figure out the central story about corruption and bankroll of money is enough to make your head swim. Still, figuring it out isn’t really necessary, and you’ll find out why near the end. Since the movie is an early talkie, it does suffer a little from the problems that plagued movies from that era, but much less so than others; in fact, it feels like it actually might have been made a few years later, and you don’t have to struggle with it. Marginal, but enjoyable.


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