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'Moonlight Murder' (1936)

Chewing and singing the scenery


Moonlight Murder

Director: Edward L. Marin
Cast: Chester Morris, Leo Carillo
Distributor: Warner Archive
Rated: Not rated
Year: 193
USDVD release date: 2012-12-6

This breezy programmer combines a murder mystery with snippets of Verdi's Il Trovatore in performance, allegedly at the Hollywood Bowl but really on the set. The most charismatic player is Leo Carillo as the vain, womanizing tenor who's the target of death threats. Chester Morris is the fill-in-the-blank detective-hero on the police force, and he has a trying relationship with heroine Madge Evans. Her uncle (ubiquitous character player Grant Mitchell) is the doctor who treats all the plot's red herrings, while comic actor Frank McHugh mugs as the singer's personal dresser. J. Carrol Naish chews all kinds of scenery as the raving madman who wants to kill various people and therefore is probably innocent, while another suspect is tall, handsome Duncan Renaldo, who would later be known as the heroic Cisco Kid abetted by none other than Carillo as Pancho.

This is from MGM, where even the B's had a classy gloss, and Edward L. Marin was a reliable B director who kept things moving smoothly. It goes without saying that the plot is wildly unlikely, but the (first) murder and the solution are unusual. The trailer is included on this Warner Archives edition, and it shows two scenes of excitement that aren't in the movie.

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