Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The part of Philo Vance is now played by...

If you ever watched soap operas, you might note that the networks kept characters young by changing the actors who played them. One day, there would be a scene with a character being played by a different actor, and a whispered voiceover would say, "The part of Jane Doe is now being played by Mary Smith". How this relates to classic movies is that TCM is showing several movies in the Philo Vance mystery series tomorrow morning. The movies are a product of the early 1930s, in that they're a bit creaky, but what might be more interesting is the casting:

TCM is first showing The Bishop Murder Case at 6:30 AM ET, in which Philo Vance is played by Basil Rathbone, who would of course later go on to play sleuth Sherlock Holmes.

It's followed at 8:00 AM ET by The Kennel Murder Case, with Philo now being played by William Powell. In fact, Powell played Philo Vance several times before he started playing Nick Charles in the Thin Man series; he had even played Philo before Rathbone did, much the way that Sean Connery took a break in the James Bond series. The Kennel Murder Case is also interesting in that the female lead is played by Mary Astor, who would later go on to play the femme fatale in the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon.

Later in the morning, at 10:30 AM, we get The Casino Murder Case, and Philo being played by future Oscar-winner Paul Lukas. And in between, we get Warren William, who also played Perry Mason.

In the earlier Philo Vance movies, watch also for the police detective, who is played by one of the great character actors of the 1930s, Eugene Pallette. Among his many roles is as Friar Tuck in The Adventures of Robin Hood.

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