Forgotten Films: Bulldog Drummond (1929)

The 1929 version of Bulldog Drummond stars the dashing Ronald Colman.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 184th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

This week, I am still hanging out in the early stages of cinema with the first talkie version of Bulldog Drummond. (There had been two silent films prior to this one.)

If you are not familiar with Bulldog Drummond, you should correct that fault. Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond is one of the singular British heroes of the period between the World Wars. He is the creation of “Sapper” (otherwise known as H. C. McNeile. Sapper did ten novels featuring Drummond prior to his death in 1937 from throat cancer. The series of was continued by Gerald Fairley (seven novels until 1954) then Henry Reymond (two novels in the late ’60s). While not a first-tier character like Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, or Superman, he was a fairly well-known and popular character during his time. His popularity was on a par with Fu Manchu. Wikipedia lists 23 films featuring Drummond from 1922 to 1969, including the two silent versions with 12 different actors taking on the role. Alan Moore even inserted him into the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen history, while Philip Jose Farmer includes him in his Wold-Newton Universe of various heroes and villains.

The 1929 version of Bulldog Drummond has several distinctions going for it. First, it was a talking picture. Second, the star was a well-known silent film star trying to make the jump to the talkies. Ronald Colman was dashing and heroic. He had appeared in more than 25 films prior to the talking revolution, per IMDB. Samuel Goldwyn wanted to make a splash with Colman’s debut in the sound era, and he decided Bulldog Drummond would be the vehicle. As Singing in the Rain showed us, many silent stars had trouble making the transition. Colman was not one of them. This was the perfect choice. In fact, he got an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor as a result.

But, on to the film. As it opens, “Bulldog” Drummond is sitting at his club one night. He is amazingly bored. The most exciting thing happening is that someone has dropped a spoon. He is too rich to work and totally bored. So, he posts an ad in a London newspaper. He states that he is bored and looking for adventure. It gives a post box for replies. Almost immediately he receives one.

A woman asks if he is serious. If he is, she requests that he meet her at an inn where she has reserved a room for “John Smith.” She asks to meet him at midnight. He arrives and meets Phyllis Benton (Joan Bennett). But his good friend Algy (Claud Allister) is suspicious of the whole matter and drags along Drummond’s valet, Danny (Wilson Benge).

Phyllis tells Drummond a strange story involving her uncle; John Travers (Charles Sellon), whom she suspects has been kidnapped into a hospital and is held against his will. He is rich, so money is the obvious motive. The hospital is run by Dr. Lakington (Lawrence Grant), who is aided by Carl Peterson (Montagu Love) and the slinky Irma (Lilyan Tashman). Drummond soon determines that Phyllis is correct and he sets out to rescue Travers.

Algy and Danny provide some comic relief amid all the posturing, testosterone and action. There are twists and turns in the overall process, but Drummond finally succeeds.

Bulldog Drummond is fun film and it kept my interest. There was some horrendous overacting by Joan Bennett, who took a little longer to make the successful transition to sound pictures. The film music was sparse, as was true early on. So there are some long silences in the film.

I’ve seen several of the later Bulldog Drummond films with Tom Conway, Walter Pigeon and John Howard, who played Drummond seven times. Ronald Coleman recreated the role in Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back. They are passable B films of the times.

Of course, your mileage on the first Drummond talkie may vary, particularly during the comic bits. But I recommend this one.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.




Forgotten Book: Anniversary Day by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (2011)

The moon starts to look more and more like Swiss Cheese in Rusch's Anniversary Day. Review by Scott A. Cupp

This is the 155th in my series of Forgotten Books.

I have been a fan of Kristine Kathryn Rusch for close to 25 years. I met her in the early 1990’s in New Orleans at one of the NOLACons. She and Dean Wesley Smith came there for several years. I read some of her early works and was blown away by her novella “The Gallery of His Dreams” (1992), which dealt with Matthew Brady and the Civil War. She went on to edit The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for 6 years.

Recently I had the chance to get all eight novels in her recent Anniversary Day series and I grabbed the chance. The Retrieval Artist has been a series she has revisited regularly since 2002. Others had recommended this series to me so I dove right on in.

Anniversary Day begins on a fateful day on the moon, when terrorists destroy part of the dome protecting the city of Armstrong from the cold vacuum outside. Thousands died and each year thereafter there was a celebration of those who survived. Detective Bartholomew Nyquist and his partner were both seriously injured in that original explosion. Four years later, he is back at work. His partner Ursula Palmette was not as lucky and had to leave the police force. So Anniversary Day is always a day seen with trepidation.

Now, four years after the original blast, something is going wrong. The Mayor of Armstrong is getting ready to make his annual speech and is glad-handing the crowd when he suddenly gets rigid and goes into cardiac arrest. Similarly the Governor General of the Moon finds herself attacked in the same way. Moon Security Chief Noelle DeRicci realizes there is something going on and enlists Nyquist to check out the attacks. Another mayor is attacked, but that attack fails. Security measures uncover a major plot to blow all the city domes on the moon.

Nyquist pursues the clues as a policeman. DeRicci also contacts Miles Flint, the Retrieval Artist, who works outside all systems in tracking down people, who begins to track from another direction. They find clues that point to the big plot and realize they have very little time to prevent the total destruction of life on the Moon.

Anniversary Day is the first novel in an eight-novel sequence. The final was published this year, so I know I can read the entire story, unlike some other series where long times pass between installments and I, as a reader, lose track of the story and have to re-read thousands of pages to get back into the plot. Phil Farmer and Riverworld cured me of this, as did Gene Wolfe and the New Sun books. George R.R. Martin is the current one like that.

Anniversary Day is a good, fast police procedural thriller with interesting characters and a well fleshed universe. It was so good, I immediately read the second book, Blowback. It’s just as good. I don’t have time to read eight novels by the same person in a row, but I plan to read the rest during the coming year. I think this will be a very good year.

As always, your mileage could vary, but I don’t think so. This is good stuff. Check it out.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.