Monday, May 12, 2014
HELEN TRENHOLME in THE CASE OF THE HOWLING DOG (1935)
Warner Bros. filmed a total of seven whodunits featuring Erle Stanley Gardner's popular defense atty. sleuth Perry Mason. Warren William portrayed a suave Perry in the first three before leaving in favor of Ricardo Cortez, who did only one. As did Donald Woods, who made perhaps the best-looking Mason of them all. William Lundigan played the role in the final film in 1941, after which fans had to wait 16 years before Raymond Burr took over the mantle, on television, and made the character his signature role for life. Barbara Hale played Burr's faithful secretary Della Street and she, too, created the definitive version. But Helen Trenholme was the first cinematic Della, in The Case of the Howling Dog, and for my money she offered the most faithful interpretation until the arrival of Miss Hale. By far the best of the WB series, and arguably one of the best whodunits of its period, Howling Dog proved Trenholme's second and final film. Why this Broadway actress failed to click with the powers at be at Warners we do not know; perhaps she just didn't feel comfortable away from the boards. She returned to The Great White Way but seems to have retired in the late 1930s. Yet she will always be remembered as the very first Miss Della Street.