Summer of Forgotten Horror – Week 5: Candles at Nine (1944)
Cast: Beatrix Lehmann as Julia Carberry
Jessie Matthews as Dorothea Capper
Based on the novel The Mouse Who Couldn’t Play Ball by Anthony Gilbert
Screenplay by John Harlow & Basil Mason
Directed by John Harlow
Plot: Our story begins with the age old tale of Everard Hope (Eliot Makeham, 1951s A Christmas Carol), a miserly old man surrounded by his buzzard-like relatives, just waiting for his death so they can grab hold of their inheritance. There is the overly faithful servant, Ms. Julia Carberry, and all the usual suspects. Of course, Hope is murdered under mysterious circumstances, leading to the reading of his will. However, he leaves nothing to his immediate family and everything to an unknown relative named Dorothea Capper. She must take residence within 48 hours and stay for 30 days. If she can’t fulfill those obligations, it goes to the oldest living relative, whoever that may be after everyone else sorts it out.
Personal Thoughts: On the surface, this would appear to be a typical old dark house flick but, unfortunately, it is much more. What it is exactly is a confused effort that never truly decides what it wants to be. For example, at about 20 minutes in, just as we’ve been introduced to Dorothea, we get a prolonged song and dance number. At a length of 75 minutes, the movie didn’t necessarily need it for padding and it sidetracks the film. There are definitely more comedic moments than are needed, which also deter from the genuinely creepy moments of the film. Beatrix Lehmann is especially eerie and should have been seen more on the big screen. All that said, it’s an uneven film that might be worth watching once but I can’t recommend spending too much time to track it down.
- Beatrix Lehman spent most of her career on the stage and came from a very distinguished family. She also had a passion for the arts, being a subject of 13 portraits and a one-time director of the Arts Council Midland Theatre Company.
- Jessie Matthews never quite crossed over to the level of success she long strived for, losing out on an opportunity to dance with Fred Astaire and being the unpublicized inspiration for many of Cole Porter’s famous songs. After three divorces, her last twenty years ended after losing a battle to cancer at the age of 74 in 1981. Sadly, she was buried in an unmarked grave upon her death until her passing received national attention and she was given a proper burial.
- The source from which I purchased this film is no longer offering it. However, there is a brief clip on YouTube and it is available for streaming at a reasonable price on Amazon.