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Philo Vance - The Kennel Murder Case


Archer Coe has been found dead in his locked bedroom. The cops consider it suicide, but Philo believes otherwise. When the Coroner shows up, he finds that Archer had been hit with a blunt object, stabbed and shot - making suicide unlikely. When the evidence points to his brother, Brisbane is found stabbed to death in the closet. Archer had a number of enemies, any one of which would have been glad to knock him off, but which one did and how did the murder occur in a room looked from the inside. Only one man, the keen, fascinating, debonair detective Philo Vance, would be able to figure out who is the killer.

The Kennel Murder Case is a 1933 American mystery film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring William Powell as Philo Vance, reprising the role for Warner Brothers after appearing as Vance in three films for Paramount Studios.


Philo Vance's entry does not make it into the final of the Long Island Kennel Club's Conformation show, disappointing fellow competitor Archer Coe (Robert Barrat), who had hoped to savor a victory over Vance. Coe is found dead the next morning in his bedroom, locked from the inside. District Attorney Markham (Robert McWade), Police Sergeant Heath (Eugene Pallette) and everyone else assume it was suicide since he was shot through the head and was found holding a pistol. However, Vance is not convinced. He soon finds evidence that shows that Coe was murdered. Coroner Dr. Doremus (Etienne Girardot) determines the victim died of a stab wound.
There is no shortage of suspects; Coe was very much disliked. His niece Hilda Lake (Mary Astor) resented her uncle's tight control of her finances and jealousy of any men who showed interest in her. Her boyfriend, Sir Thomas MacDonald (Paul Cavanagh), suspected Coe of killing his dog to ensure winning the competition. Raymond Wrede (Ralph Morgan), the dead man's secretary, was in love with Miss Lake, but had been laughed at when he sought Coe's support. Coe's next door neighbor and lover Doris Delafield (Helen Vinson) had been cheating on him with Eduardo Grassi (Jack La Rue). When Coe found out, he canceled a contract to sell his collection of Chinese artworks to the Milan museum for which Grassi worked. Liang (James Lee), the cook, had worked long, hard and illegally to help Coe amass his collection. He warned his employer against the proposed sale and was fired as a result. Even Coe's own brother Brisbane (Frank Conroy (actor)) made it clear that he despised him. Finally Gamble (Arthur Hohl), the head servant, had concealed his criminal past.
Brisbane Coe becomes Vance's prime suspect. His alibi of taking a train at the time of the murder is disproved. However, when he is found dead in a closet, Vance is both puzzled and enlightened. Among Brisbane's effects, Vance finds a book titled Unsolved Murders; a bookmarked page details a method of using string to lock a door through the keyhole without leaving a trace. Part of the mystery is solved.
Later, an attempt is made on the life of Sir Thomas using the same dagger used to kill Coe. Finally, a Doberman Pinscher belonging to Miss Delafield is found seriously injured, apparently struck with a fireside poker. From these and other clues, Vance finally solves the crime.
It turns out that two men had sought Coe's life that night. The successful murderer had struggled with Coe, stabbed him, and left him apparently dead. However, Coe awakened soon after. Too dazed to recall the fight and notice that he was mortally wounded, he went upstairs to his bedroom and opened his window before dying. Brisbane entered the chamber, saw his brother apparently asleep in his chair. He shot the corpse and arranged the scene to look like a suicide. However, downstairs he ran into the actual killer, who had seen that Archer Coe was still alive and came back to finish the job. In the darkness, he mistook Brisbane for Archer and killed the wrong man. Delafield's dog then wandered in, attracted by the commotion, and attacked the murderer.
While sure of the killer's identity, Vance has no proof. He theore arranges for Sir Thomas and Wrede to quarrel over Hilda Lake. When Wrede instinctively reaches for the poker to strike his rival, the healed Doberman which Vance had brought recognizes its attacker and leaps on him. Wrede confesses he became enraged when Coe used to assist his courtship of Miss Lake, precipitating the initial stabbing.


  • William Powell as Philo Vance
  • Mary Astor as Hilda Lake
  • Eugene Pallette as Detective Heath
  • Ralph Morgan as Raymond Wrede, the Secretary
  • Robert McWade as District Attorney Markham
  • Robert Barrat as Archer Coe
  • Frank Conroy (actor) as Brisbane Coe
  • Etienne Girardot as Dr. Doremus
  • James Lee as Liang, the Cook
  • Paul Cavanagh as Sir Thomas MacDonald
  • Arthur Hohl as Gamble, the Butler
  • Helen Vinson as Doris Delafield
  • Jack La Rue as Eduardo Grassi


Many film historians (including William K. Everson, who pronounced it a "masterpiece" in the August 1984 issue of Films in Review) consider it one of the greatest screen adaptations of a whodunnit, and rank it with the 1946 film Green for Danger (film).

Category:1933 films
Category:1930s mystery films
Category:American mystery films
Category:English-language films
Category:Black-and-white films
Category:Films directed by Michael Curtiz
Category:Warner Bros. films
Michael Curtiz
public domain

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