The Mystery of Marie Roget (1942)

The Mystery of Marie Roget (1942) is a historical film noir mystery rendering of an early detective  crime solving story film starring Patric Knowles. 

The story in question is The Mystery of Marie Rogêt written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1842. The film, directed by Phil Rosen and produced by Universal Pictures, is set in 1889.

In 1889 Paris, musical comedy star Marie Roget has been missing for ten days. Police inspector Gobelin is investigating her disappearance. This is side shaving of film noir with the ambience of the old city creating ham where there should may not be so much ham, but also creating tension where possible, in a solid attempt to bring the mystery and the history as one to the screen.

The French Minister for Naval Affairs, Henri Beauvais, a friend of Marie's grandmother, Madame Cecile Roget, and her younger sister Camille, threatens to take Gobelin off the case. Therefore, Gobelin brings medical officer Dr. Paul Dupin into the case.

1942's The Mystery Of Marie Roget was born from the fertile mind of Edgar Allan Poe, who drew inspiration from the real-life unsolved murder of Mary Cecilia Rogers. Poe, known for his macabre tales, spun a narrative around Rogers' disappearance and reappearance, weaving a web of mystery and intrigue that captivated readers. Notably, Poe's story served as a sequel to his earlier work, The Murders In The Rue Morgue, featuring his detective C. Auguste Dupin.

Directed by Phil Rosen and adapted by Michael Jacoby, the film boasted a cast including Patric Knowles, Maria Montez, Maria Ouspenskaya, John Litel, and Edward Norris. Montez, with her exotic allure, oh that is what they called it back then, an exotic allure that was only American and British, nobody else shared this woo-wah obsession with the exotica of globally-based women, and it is something that they likely insisted drew audiences, while Knowles' established reputation added to the film's appeal too clearly, the exotica historica was now a thing.

The plot centers if it focuses on anything at all on the enigmatic disappearance of actress Marie Roget (played by Maria Montez), whose sudden return sparks intrigue. However, the mystery quickly loses its allure when it's revealed that Roget orchestrated her vanishing act to pursue a forbidden romance. 

The narrative veers but does not wobble into predictable melodrama, with Roget's eventual death serving as the climax. Despite attempts to inject suspense, the culprit's identity is evident early on, robbing the film of its suspenseful potential.

In short essence, and put more finely than AI could, The Mystery Of Marie Roget fails to deliver on its promise of a gripping mystery, instead devolving into a conventional tale of forbidden love and betrayal. While the premise holds promise, the execution falls short, leaving audiences disappointed and yearning for more depth and complexity.

Maria Ouspensaka in The Mystery of Marie Roget (1942)

Maria Montez, born María África Gracia Vidal, was a Dominican actress renowned for her roles in Technicolor costume adventure films during the 1940s. Born on June 6, 1912, in Barahona, Dominican Republic, she was the second of ten children. Montez received her education at the Sacred Heart Convent in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain.

Her career began in the mid-1930s when she arrived in New York and was discovered by a film talent scout. Her debut film, "Boss of Bullion City" (1940), marked the start of her journey to stardom. She quickly became known for her exotic and seductive on-screen persona, earning her the title "The Queen of Technicolor."

Montez's breakthrough came with Arabian Nights (1942), a Technicolor production that solidified her status as a star. She continued to captivate audiences in films like "Cobra Woman" (1944) and "Sudan" (1945), often co-starring with actors like Jon Hall and Sabu.

Despite her success, Montez grew weary of being typecast and sought more diverse roles. She clashed with Universal Studios over her desire for different parts, eventually leading to her departure from the studio in 1947.

Montez then embarked on a freelance career, appearing in various films and endorsements. She ventured into European cinema, co-founding Christina Productions with her husband, Jean-Pierre Aumont. Their productions included "Wicked City" (1949) and "Portrait of an Assassin" (1949).

Suggestive of an historical noir —  The Mystery of Marie Roget (1942)

Tragically, Montez's life was cut short when she died on September 7, 1951, in France, at the age of 39. Her death was attributed to a heart attack and drowning while taking a hot bath. She left behind a legacy as a pioneering Latina actress and cultural icon.

Montez's influence extended beyond the silver screen. She received decorations from the Dominican Republic and was named Goodwill Ambassador of Latin American countries to the United States. Her life has been commemorated in various forms, including biographies, plays, and films like "Maria Montez: The Movie" (2015).

Montez's impact on popular culture is evident in the work of artists like Jack Smith, who idolized her as an icon of camp style. Her story continues to inspire and fascinate audiences, cementing her place in the annals of Hollywood history.

“When I look at myself, I am so beautiful… I scream with joy!”-Maria Montez

Hamming with a lantern in The Mystery of Marie Roget (1942)

The Mystery of Marie Rogêt, penned by Edgar Allan Poe in 1842, marked a departure from his usual gothic tales, delving instead into the realm of true-crime fiction. Set in Paris rather than New York, the story revolves around an unsolved murder, serving as a sequel to Poe's earlier work, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." The narrative centers on the investigative efforts of detective Paul Dupin, previously known as Pierre Dupin in the 1932 adaptation of "Rue Morgue."

Michael Jacoby, known for his work on films like Doomed to Die (1940) starring Boris Karloff and The Undying Monster (1942), undertook the task of adapting Poe's intricate tale for the screen. With credits spanning various mystery and horror genres, Jacoby was well-equipped to tackle the complexities of Poe's narrative.

The film and it is an historical kind of mystery with the odd noir shaving, barely clocks in at an hour, and they bring in the sultry Montez to spice things up, with exotica, historical exotica, even if it ain't exactly a leading role. Her presence adds just the right touch of allure to the whole shebang.

What we do find out is that Marie ain't exactly a saint. Dupin, played by Knowles, digs deep and passes judgment on her character. As a forensic scientist, he gets downright macabre, yanking out her brain in the morgue like some kinda mad scientist from a horror flick.

No, he's just fixated on unraveling the mysteries of the criminal mind. Still gives some people out there the creeps, though.

Regardless of the truth, The Mystery of Marie Roget is a quick and easy ride, a neat little programmer that uses Montez's smoldering presence to perfection in her role as the missing-turned-found-turned-murdered dame.

I sure wish I had the time to whip up another post in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month Blogathon, paying tribute to another fiery actress, Lupe Vélez. Remember her terrorizing poor Virginia Bruce in that 'B' flick "Kongo" from '32? Now that was some heat!

Maria Montez, the dame with hair blacker than midnight and lips as full as a ripe cherry, was the undisputed queen of Technicolor in the 1940s. A real diva, both on and off the set, she didn't take no guff from nobody. With a drive as tough as nails, she wasn't about to settle for anything less than being a star.

Expect some of this and get it in The Mystery of Marie Roget (1942)

Starring Patric Knowles as Detective Paul Dupin, he's up against a couple of murder cases that ain't as straightforward as they seem. 

Knowles teams up with Lloyd Corrigan, his partner in crime-solving, to crack the case wide open. And let's not forget about Maria Montez, whose star was on the rise back then. Sadly, she didn't stick around long after, but she sure left her mark. And then there's Maria Ouspenskaya, adding a touch of sass and a sprinkle of light comedy to the mix. That gal always knew how to steal the show.

With a solid cast like that, they manage to elevate the material, making it shine brighter than it might've otherwise. Sure, the plot ain't exactly groundbreaking, but with these folks on board, it's more than just your average flick.

According to Peter Rubie, the guy who penned Hispanics in Hollywood, Montez hailed from the beauty of the Dominican Republic. She didn't learn English from no fancy schools or tutors, no sir. She picked it up from reading magazines and listening to American pop tunes.

After a short-lived marriage back in '39, she gave her ex the old heave-ho and high-tailed it to the Big Apple. That's where she decided to make a name for herself, starting out as a model. But this dame wasn't content with just looking pretty. Oh no, she built herself a wardrobe that could knock a guy's socks off and hired a whole team of maids just to keep it all in line. She was determined to make a splash, and she sure as hell did.

Rooftop chasery in Olde Paris in The Mystery of Marie Roget (1942)

Bosley Crowther at NY Times 1942 on The Mystery of Marie Roget
The Mystery of Marie Roget (1942) at Wikipedia

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