The greatest mystery movies are those that demonstrate how a good story and good acting can hold an audience in thrall, without the need for big budgets, or computer enhanced special effects. Here I unashamedly offer a list of some of my favourites. These classic mysteries stand the test of time and are a joy to watch. In no particular order, they are:
Based on the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name, Rebecca tells the story of widower Maxim de Winter, played by Laurence Olivier, and the shy young woman who becomes his second wife. We never know the first name of the second Mrs de Winter, played by Joan Fontaine, but we know she is haunted by her belief that everyone loved her predecessor, the beautiful Rebecca.
My Cousin Rachel (1952)
Another Daphne du Maurier story adapted for the big screen, My Cousin Rachel stars Richard Burton and Olivia de Haviland (Joan Fontaine’s real life sister). When Philip Ashley’s wealthy cousin Ambrose dies, he becomes convinced that Ambrose’s new wife, Rachel, is a murderer. Then Philip begins to fall under Rachel’s spell.
Portrait of Jennie (1948)
Eben Adams is an artist struggling to find inspiration for his work. A mysterious young woman called Jennie appears and becomes his muse, but Eben wants to know more about her. Who is she? Where does she come from? Where does she go when she vanishes? Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones star in this haunting movie.
Charles Boyer plays Gregory Anton, who romances and marries the young Paula Alquist, played by Ingrid Bergman. Paula’s happiness starts to unravel when the couple return to London to live in the house where her aunt was murdered. A mystery surrounds Gregory, and he will keep his secret even if it means driving his bride insane.
An earlier version of Gaslight, starring Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard, was made only in 1940. It is said that an attempt was made to destroy all copies of this movie, but thankfully it has survived.
The Cat and the Canary (1939)
Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard are in their element in this comedy mystery, set in a dark, spooky New Orleans mansion. Wally Campbell (Hope) joins a group of highly eccentric relatives to hear the reading of a will. Who will be the beneficiary? And by the way, insanity runs in the family.
These are just a few of my personal top mystery movies. I look forward to reviewing each one of them in greater depth in future articles.