My favorite scenes in the three Nick Carter films are the ones Donald Meek are in.
The three MGM films were made in 1939 and 1940 and starred Walter Pidgeon as the great detective. (The other two titles are Sky Murder and Phantom Raiders. Pidgeon is fine of course,just a pity the plots are decidedly average.
But,oh, Donald Meek is a joy. This is a different Meek, confident and brave. His name is BARTHOLOMEW,a bee keeper who fancies himself as a detective. He wants to team up with Carter.

Donald Meek

Donald Meek

Bartholomew talks of himself in the third person. He says to Nick,  “BARTHOLOMEW reports.” When Nick tells him to scram, he replies, “If I let you out of my sight,something may happen and I will arrive too late.”
Nick says, “What about your bees?”
Bartholomew’s reply is ,” Carter first, then my bees – the choicest ones are here.” (He has half a dozen bees in his pocket!)
He carries a card which says,
“Remember when you want honey,call on BARTHOLOMEW,the bee man. And when danger threatens,send for Bartholomew,the super detective.”

When his alarm goes off, BARTHOLOMEW says, “No need to be alarmed. Eating time for my bees.” He goes over to a bowl of flowers, plucks two and stuffs them in his pocket!

Lots of well known faces in the three films – Frank Faylen,Milburn Stone,Henry Hull Tom Neal, Tom Conway,John Carroll.
I was impressed by Joseph Schildkraut in the third of the series, Phantom Raiders. A fine actor who may be remembered for his performance as ‘Vadas’ in Shop Around The Corner.
Another nice touch in Sky Murder is to see the usually dizzy blonde, Joyce Compton come right out of her type cast mold in the very last scene of the film. Throughout the film Joyce plays a comic private detective called ‘Chris Cross’ (that’s a famous character name!). Joyce,in the finale, becomes Chris’s twin sister. The difference is immediate. She’s calm, quietly spoken and totally different! I wonder if Joyce ever did get away from her usual comedy character for a whole film.

So many 30s,40s films were peppered with these great supporters who always delivered even in small roles. Thank heavens the Hollywood writers appreciated them too.

The Nick Carter stories started in dime novels in 1886. The detective had his own magazine, ‘Nick Carter,Detective’ from 1933 to 1936. There was also a radio series in the 40s. MGM bought the rights but provided their own scripts.


2 responses »

  1. Cool post, Vienna! Donald Meek’s character sounds like terrific fun…you make a good point about how classic Hollywood found a place for all these gifted character actors. I just received the Warner Archive 3 movie set of these Nick Carter movies but haven’t had a chance to give ’em a spin yet. Thanks for the fun preview!

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