The Great Gambini (1937)

Article 1938 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-5-2006
Posting Date: 12-2-2006
Directed by Charles Vidor
Featuring Akim Tamiroff, Marian Marsh, John Trent

When a wealthy man is found murdered in his apartment, the police gather together suspects in the case, including his fiance, his fiance’s father and stepmother, a jealous rival, the butler, and a mind reader known as Gambini.

This was, for my money, one of the more entertaining mysteries from the thirties. The story itself is fairly ordinary, but the story is told with an unusual degree of clarity; it’s one of those mysteries where I can actually tell the suspects apart from each other. It’s also helped by the presence of a great collection of character actors to flesh out the proceedings, including Genevieve Tobin (doing her best impression of Billie Burke), William Demarest and Edward Brophy (as the police). The movie is really stolen by Akim Tamiroff in the title role; his antics as the smarter-than-the-police psychic adds an enormous amount of fun to the proceedings. The fantastic content is, of course, the mind-reading act, which, as is usually the case in mysteries of this sort, has its fantastic qualities short-circuited by later revelations, but the revelations are good ones here. Furthermore, the movie even has a bit of William Castle-style gimmickry, as the movie halts at the fifty-minute mark to allow the viewer to guess the identity of the murderer during the minute the clock ticks away. This one was lots of fun.



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