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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, May 26, 2023

While the Patient Slept (1935)

While poking around looking for movies to cover here at the site I stumbled upon the Sarah Keate series. This movie was based on a book series from Mignon G. Eberhart, who was referred to as the American Agatha Christie. I had never heard of the character or the author before, so I was intrigued. Then I found out that they made six movies based on Eberhart’s writing and of course I tracked them all down. Well four of the five so far. This is the first of them brought to the screen, so it seemed like a good place to start.

Things kick off with the always fun setting of an old mansion at night with a storm raging outside. We meet Grandfather, who isn’t feeling so well. This has brought his family to his side waiting for him to die. Well at least he thinks they are just there for his money and it gives us a lot of suspects for what is to come later. When he collapses after receiving a telegram a nurse is called to take care of him. That of course is our main character, Sarah Keate. She arrives and starts caring for him while the rest of the family beds down for the night. Though it is brief as before morning a shot rings out and one of the family, Adolphe, is found dead on the stairs.

The police are called and the head detective starts to interrogate and yell at the suspects. Lt. Lance, the cop, also is sweet on Keate and has some sort of history with her that the movie doesn’t explain. There are also some other detectives that mostly serve as comic relief as they try to figure out who the killer is and why. Though this doesn’t happen before another body is found, this time the family butler. I suppose the butler didn’t do it. In the end everything is explained and the murderer is exposed.

While the Patient Slept has a lot of good things going for it. The setting of the old mansion is familiar and well executed. From the characters creeping around in the shadows, to the storm rattling the windows it is fun. We also get hands reaching from behind curtains to menace folks, hidden passages, and secret doors. Just about all you would expect from the movie. There is also a big twist that if you are paying attention to the dialogue was shared with us before it is revealed. Oh, and the dialogue is snappy with the sort of rapid fire delivery that is common in a lot of these early “talkie” movies. They were heavily influenced by the presentation of theatrical plays and that can make for a good time.

I was also impressed with the performance of Aline MacMahon as Sarah Keate. Her performance is good as she brings a lighthearted sense of fun to the proceedings If you haven’t figured it out yet this movie does lean into the humor a bit. That seems to be an issue with fans of the books, which I believe must be much more serious. Though much like the Charlie Chan series, which was also based on some novels, the movie adaptation was influenced by the popular murder mystery mixed with romance and comedy trend that was happening in popular entertainment at the time. I will need to check out the books at some point which may change my opinion here but for now I’d say it was fine.

The only negative that I can say about this movie is that we never get the clue to solve it. I’ve said it again and again but part of the fun with a story like this is trying to figure out the mystery along with the characters. Here there is a big cheat where the detective had information that we never get until he exposes the character who was doing all the killing. That was annoying, but that alone isn’t enough to spoil the fun. While the Patient Slept is a good time and well worth checking out. I can’t wait to watch the rest of the movies in this series.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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