Wednesday, January 18, 2017

When Were You Born? (1938)

Starring Margaret Lindsay, Anna May Wong, Lola Lane, Anthony Averill, Charles Wilson
Directed by William McGann
(actor & director credits courtesy

After an astrologer accurately predicts a wealthy art importer's death, the police bring her in for questioning, and discover her reasoning based on the date someone was born is uncannily accurate.

Although it's hard to imagine any astrologer would ever be as accurate as Wong's character is in this film, the screenplay offers an enjoyable mystery with more than enough suspects, Wong offers a very likable performance, and the filmmakers largely dispense with any Chinese stereotypes.  Nevertheless, Leonard Mudie, who is not Oriental in the least, plays another Chinese character, making Wong's scenes with him seem a little awkward.  What I found most intriguing however was the presence of Manly Hall, who provided the film's plot, and introduces us to the symbols of the horoscope and their meanings at the start of the picture.  Previously I had only known Hall for his presence in the trailer for the 1940 film Black Friday, in which he hypnotizes Bela Lugosi in an apparent publicity stunt.  According to Wikipedia, Hall was a reputed author with expertise in philosophy and the occult, and this movie marks his only foray into Hollywood moviemaking.

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