The Case of the Black Cat, Mason, Street and Halloween

Case of the Black Cat


cat-halloween-clip-art_09Ah… The thirty-first of October; a chill in the air, a thrill on the nape of the neck and a movie that makes you go bump in the night! And the perfect title for a Halloween release, The Case of the Black Cat. At least that is what Warner Bros. and First National Pictures, were hoping for, when they settled on Halloween of 1936 for, The Black Cat, opening. The Publicity department considered it a “good bet” for exploitation of the movie.[1]

cat-halloween-clip-art_09The Case of the Black Cat, based upon the Perry Mason mystery-thriller, The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat (penned by Erle Stanley Gardner), finished filming by mid-summer, and an autumn release was announced.[2] Ricardo Cortez appeared as Perry Mason, replacing Warren William as the wily defense attorney; William performed nicely in the first four cases of the: Howling Dog, 1934; Curious Bride, 1935; Lucky Legs, 1935 and Velvet Claws also in ‘35. Donald Woods in turn substituted for Cortez in the next and what was to be the last film in the Warner Bros. series, The Case of the Stuttering Bishop, 1937; in my opine, the least capable performance of the cinematic Masons. Cortez I believe afforded the best of the three Mason interpretations adding energy, deftness, sleekness and compassion to the lawyer, helping this pseudo-Halloween story along. The remainder of the recurring Perry Mason characters in the Black Cat cast were: June Travis as Della Street, Garry Owen as Paul Drake and Guy Usher as District Attorney Hamilton Burger.

cat-halloween-clip-art_09Exhibitors felt the same way as Warners-First National, for, Black Cat, got thirty-three, Halloween openings;[3] much seasonal imagery was used in local advertisements.


Nashua Reporter, Nashua, New Hampshire, Wednesday, October 28, 1936


Amarillo Globe, Amarillo, Texas, Friday, October 30, 1936


Amarillo Globe, Amarillo, Texas, Friday, October 30, 1936


cat-halloween-clip-art_09On the west coast, Black Cat was paired with Cain and Mabel and the dynamic duo did bang-up business in Los Angeles, breaking house records at Warners’ Hollywood and Downtown theaters.[4] Also in New York, Black Cat, was playing at the Palace Theatre, for Christmas, 1936.[5]

cat-halloween-clip-art_09Of course the title was ripe for promotion and theater owner George Limerick scheduled the film for Saturday, November 14, with what he termed as a Jinx Prevue, which started at 11:15 PM, the evening before, on Friday the 13th. His advertising campaign included a challenge to attend the Jinx showing, “Are you superstitious? We dare you to attend our Jinx Prevue.”  A cage was constructed with large cards with the dare on each side. A ladder was placed in the foyer of the theater for the week prior to the Black Cat premier, located in such a way that theater patrons had to walk under it to get to the other side of the lobby. Limerick had another ladder placed at the top of the box-office, so ticket buyers had to walk under it. Ladders against the marquee, more posters, with the question, “Are you superstitious?” All of his advertising and gimmicks worked well, and his box-office draw a winner with the Black Cat.[6]

Motion Picture Herald December 5, 1936

Motion Picture Herald December 5, 1936


cat-halloween-clip-art_09Enjoy, your last day…                       of October, and don’t forget the extra melted butter for your pancakes.





By C. S. Williams


[1] Film Daily, October 1, 1936

[2] Manitowoc Herald Times, (Manitowoc, Wisconsin) August 21, 1936

[3] Film Daily, October 26, 1936

[4] Motion Picture Daily, November 12, 1936

[5] Film Daily, December 24, 1936

[6] Motion Picture Herald, December 5, 1936


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