THE THIRTEENTH CHAIR (1937)
Article 2359 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-10-2007
Posting Date: 1-27-2008
Directed by George B. Seitz
Featuring Dame May Whitty, Madge Evans, Lewis Stone
A medium and a detective compete to see who can solve the murder of a blackmailer.
This is the third version of the Bayard Veiller play. The first version was a silent movie from 1919 that is most probably lost. The second one is rather interesting, as it was directed by Tod Browning and featured Bela Lugosi; it was also an early talkie with a static presentation that almost renders it unwatchable. This one has solid performances, good direction, and is certainly the more watchable, with Dame May Whitty taking the top honors as the medium. The movie also features an early movie performance by Henry Daniell; this must have been before he was typecast as a heavy, as he is removed from the list of suspects early on (rather decisively so, I might add). The horror elements are the seance sequences and a scene involving a dead man. It’s probably one of the classier movies of its ilk (the murder/seance movie, a form that ran hand in hand with the old dark house mysteries of the time); its main problem is that the story is pretty old hat, even for its time. One small piece of trivia; Holmes Herbert appeared in both this and the 1929 versions of the story in the same role.