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Saturday, 17 November 2007

The Return of the Whistler (1948) D Ross Lederman

After only two years away, the Whistler is back. Every episode in the series up until now had featured Richard Dix, but he died in 1949 and so presumably was not well enough to appear. His last film credit was The Thirteenth Hour, made in 1937. Taking his place is Richard Duane, who was something of a regular in the film series of the 40s. He had a role in the last Whistler movie, The Secret of the Whistler, as the man who lost his model girlfriend to Dix, but I've also seen him recently in the second of the I Love a Mystery films, The Devil's Mask. Three in a week is pretty good going given that Duane only made 17 films.

Here he plays Ted Nichols who is about to get married to the lovely Alice Dupres, a French lady played by Lénore Aubert who sounds a little like Ingrid Bergman and was actually born in what is now Slovenia. They're out on the road but hit a slew of bad luck. The justice who's to perform the ceremony isn't home, their car breaks down and while Nichols spends the night at the garage where it's being fixed, his bride to be gets an expensive room that shouldn't be rented out courtesy of a dubious hotel night clerk. The mystery comes in when he goes to pick her up in the morning, because she's no longer there.

The other chief character here is Gaylord Traynor, which looks like an anagram but isn't. He's a private detective who helps Nichols try to track down Alice and he's great, like a sharp and focused version of Edward Everett Horton. He's played by Richard Lane, who was mostly known at this point in time as Inspector Farraday, traditionally inept foil to Boston Blackie, and it's good to see him completely on the ball for a change.

The story is good too and actually benefits from a lack of Richard Dix. The only thing preventing Richard Duane from being a better choice for all the other Whistler movies is the required age of the lead character. Here he doesn't have to be so old so Duane fits the role well. Everyone does their part exactly as required and there's even a happy ending. For many reasons it doesn't gel with the rest of the Whistlers but it's a good film nonetheless and probably better than most of the others.

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