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Cinema: The House of a Thousand Candles

1 minute read

(Republic) has nothing, except its title, in common with Meredith Nicholson’s 1905 best seller. It is a spy melodrama of the old school, concerning code letters, the Simplon Express, diplomats in Geneva and a beautiful dancer (Rosita Moreno) who gives her admirers knockout drops. The courier (Phillips Holmes) whose job is to deliver a message on which the peace of Europe depends, succeeds in doing so, aided by a young female tourist (Mae Clarke) and not too seriously hampered by the head of the spy ring (Irving Pichel).

As a milestone in cinema history, The House of a Thousand Candles’ only claim to attention is Mr. Pichel’s sinister smile, which remains upon his face as if carved there, from the first reel to the last, giving to an otherwise somewhat episodic narrative a comforting if not entirely reasonable continuity. Typical shot: Pichel, as he smiles, patting a carrier pigeon which he calls “Chérie.”

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