MAD HOLIDAY. MGM, 1936. Edmund Lowe, Elissa Landi, Zasu Pitts, Ted Healy, Edmund Gwenn, Edgar Kennedy, Raymond Hatton. Suggested by the story “Murder in a Chinese Theatre” by Joseph Santley. Director: George B. Seitz.

   I’ve looked, and I can’t find a record of the story just mentioned, nor even a mention anywhere of the author, Joseph Santley. If anybody knows anything more, let me know. [See the UPDATE below.]


   Another curiosity is that the name of the “detective” in this film is Philip Trent, but the character has nothing to do with the detective of the same name in the works of E. C. Bentley. This Philip Trent is a movie actor who plays a detective by the name of Selby James in a series of films based on the books written by Peter Dean. (Still with me?)

   Tired immensely of the role, claiming that the situations he’s been put into over the years to have been unrealistic and utterly unbelievable, Trent declares himself finished with the role and takes off on a sea-going vacation.

   And what does he run into? Murder and a stolen diamond. (How did you know?)

   He also discovers that “Peter Dean” (played by Elissa Landi) is someone he wouldn’t mind being handcuffed to, once he meets her and is accused along with her of doing away with the owner of the diamond.

   As you can guess, any film with Zasu Pitts in it, or any movie featuring Ted Healy (mentor and leading instigator of The Three Stooges) is not bound to be taken very seriously. Nonetheless, there is some body to the plot (besides the body, I mean). And while it’s not exactly a high-class production, this strictly B-version of a detective mystery story still provides a full 70 or 75 minutes of entertainment.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File 33, Sept 1991 (slightly revised).

[UPDATE] 01-23-09.  This review was written well before the Internet was in full swing, and in particular before the online IMDB was readily available. Joseph Santley was the director of 89 films, starting in 1928; in the 1940s he seems to have worked primarily for Republic, putting out small trifles like Rosie the Riveter (1944, with Jane Frazee) and Hitchhike to Happiness (1945, with Dale Evans).


   Santley was either the screenwriter or wrote the story for 15 other films in the 1930s, but where the story that Mad Love was based on was published, if ever, has still never been determined.

   Elissa Landi was only 32 when she made Mad Holiday, but she appeared in only three movies afterward, including After the Thin Man, also in 1936. (The photo you see of her to the left was taken from that film.)

   As for Mad Holiday itself, I have absolutely no recollection of ever seeing it. My only hope is that someday I’ll come across the video tape that I saved it on.