Mulligan and Garrity
Created by Ralph Spence (1890-1940)
"Out go the lights---on go the thrills!
-- lyrics from the musical
Ralph Spence's 1925 play The Gorilla: A Musical Comedy: A Musical Comedy, was a slight piece of silliness that intentionally lampooned the whole haunted house genre. A killer known only as "The Gorilla" (strangler of men---kidnapper of women!) is the prime suspect in the murder of a wealthy businessman whose daughter hires private detectives MULLIGAN and GARRITY, worrying that her boyfriend may be suspected of the crime.
The bumbling detectives investigate, and eventually most of the suspects end up chasing each other around a creepy old mansion full of trap doors, secret passages and the like until the murderer -- a man in a gorilla suit -- is apprehended.
Any doubts that this was anything but a parody are easliy dispelled by the paly's tagline "Out-bats 'The Bat'! Out-cats 'The Cat and the Canary'! Out-warns 'The Last Warning'."
Parody or not, the play lasted only fifteen performances on Broadway. It fared considerably better in its subsequent run in Chicago, and went on to inspire several films.
The first version was silent and appeared only a few years after the curtains went down on Broadway. Mulligan was played by Fred Kelsey and Garrity by Keystone Cops vet Charles Murray, while the young boyfriend was played by a very young Walter Pidgeon.
It's all played out as scenery-chewing slapstick, making Spence's already ridiculous play even more ridiculous, but audiences must have liked it, because it wouldn't be the last adaptation. It was filmed again in 1930 and in 1939 (with the singin' dancin' Ritz Brothers). There was even partially used as the source for a 1937 Warner Bros. flick called Sh! The Octopus, with the gorilla converted to an octopus.
Throw in some Scooby Snacks and it would be a perfect Scooby Doo episode.
There were only fifteen perfomances on Broadway, but the subsequent run in Chicago fared much better, running from May until September in 1925
Included here for thoroughness, although not a private eye film. Kelly and Dempsey are NYPD detectives, out of the 49th precinct. Possibly (from what I've been able to gather) the most headscratching and inept of all the films, the haunted house is replaced by a supposedly abandoned warehouse, and the gorilla by, yes, an octopus. Buy hey, it was only a dream, after all!
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Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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