Thursday, March 29, 2012
Murder on the Blackboard - 1934
“Murder on the Blackboard” (1934) keeps the teachers after school to find the killer when one of the staff is murdered. This is the second appearance of the superb Edna May Oliver as amateur sleuth and full-time teacher Hildegarde Withers. James Gleason is back as her foil and friend, Inspector Oscar Piper. They first teamed up for “Penguin Pool Murder” (1932), and would be back again for “Murder on a Honeymoon” (1935). Later entries in the series would feature Helen Broderick and Zasu Pitts in the role.
“I like you for that, young man, but the police, though they may be fools, are not sentimental fools.”
One comic bit between them: He is about to help her through a trap door, and standing behind her, he grasps her underarms. She whoops and wiggles like a girl being fondled under the bleachers and remarks, “Oscar, this is no time for fooling.”
Annoyed at her misinterpretation, he drops her through the trap door like a sack of cement.
Gleason’s detective style is a bit more direct than Miss Oliver’s. He tells the principal, “Do you talk, or do I let the boys go to work on you?”
The title comes from a set of musical notes written on the blackboard by the murder victim, who taught music. One of the funny elements to the movie is that Edna May whistles the short series of notes to everyone she meets to try to judge their reaction and determine their guilt. They all look at her as if she is loony.