THE SMILING GHOST. Warner Brothers, 1941. Wayne Morris, Brenda Marshall, Alexis Smith, Willie Best, Alan Hale, David Bruce. Written by Kenneth Gamet and Stuart Palmer. Directed by Lewis Seiler.

   A recent review here of Secret of the Blue Room (1933) got me wondering: Universal used this story again in 1938 (The Missing Guest) and 1944 (Murder in the Blue Room). So how did it turn up at Warners in 1941?

   In all fairness, Ghost takes a wholly different comic approach to the story and introduces characters not found in any blue room — some of them rather well-realized — but when we get to the series of murdered fiancés and the eventual solution, we are on very familiar ground indeed.

   Wayne Morris starts the film as an impecunious engineer looking for any sort of job, who hires on to be engaged to Alexis Smith for a month, unaware that each of her previous fiancés has met a horrible fate. By the time he’s wised up by reporter Brenda Marshall he has narrowly escaped murder at the hands of the eponymous ghoul .

   Okay, never mind the improbability of this guy getting a scientific degree and having two intelligent women fall in love with him. They do it for the sake of the plot, so let’s just get on with the skulking shadows, eyes peering through secret passages, brushes with death and all the rest of it.

   The proceedings are enlivened considerably by subsidiary characters like Charles Halton as an eccentric uncle who collects shrunken heads, and especially by Alan Hale as a detective posing none-too-convincingly as a butler. Lewis Seiler directs without distinction but he keeps things moving, and the rest of the cast are the usual Warners reliables, with everyone pitching in to keep things going efficiently and forgettably.

   But I still can’t figure out how writers Gamet and Palmer passed this off as their own…..


Editorial Comment:   Walter Albert has also reviewed this film for this blog, nearly six years ago. Check it out here.