We meet the lady of the title, Joan Bradley (Jean Muir), before the Lone Wolf even gets to set eyes on her. In an opening reminiscent to The Lone Wolf Strikes, only with a bigger crowd, Joan and a half dozen others ooh and ahh over the valuable diamond necklace that’s been in the Penyon family for nearly a hundred years. Joan’s engaged to Bob Penyon (Warren Hull) and will have full rights on the jewels soon enough. Rose (Marla Waverly) tries it on as Trent (William Forrest) worries over whether it’s insured or not.
We know it had better be!
Word of the Penyon necklace travels from the small party to one Clay Beaudine (Victor Jory), a bit of an underworld figure who’s got Joan’s ex, Rennick (Roger Pryor), under his thumb and is set on getting a hold of the necklace. At Joan’s place things go terribly wrong, two shots are fired and a man is dead. Joan, in a panic heads out into the street where she runs right in front of a car speeding from the police.
Jamison (Eric Blore) slams on the breaks and Michael Lanyard (Warren William) gets out to make sure the girl is okay.
Thus the Lone Wolf finds himself involved once more with a high dollar theft, a mysterious murder, and a lady, all of which but the latter he’s soon implicated being involved with by Inspector Crane and his always incompetent but lovable assistant, Detective Dickens.
Jean Muir, who we’ve also seen alongside Warren William when he played the ever so marvelous Bob of Bedside (1934) as well as getting into a bit of trouble by him in Dr. Monica (also ’34), had already had it with lousy parts by that time and was returning from some time spent away from the screen back East on the stage. She has a nice part and acquits herself well in The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady, but would once more leave Hollywood, this time to take care of a new husband, and only return to the big screen for The Constant Nymph in 1943.
After that Jean Muir’s career took a bad turn when a lucrative 1950 TV deal was killed by accusations that she had been involved with Communists. Blacklisted from that time Muir, who denied Communist ties to her dying day, turned to alcohol, lost her husband, was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and given six months to live. That woke her up! She quit drinking, returned to acting and eventually settled in a position teaching drama at Stephens College where she remained for eight years. Muir made it a lot more than the six months, she died in 1996 at age 85.
But The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady is the entry that gives Eric Blore his first chance to really shine as Lanyard’s butler, Jamison.
Jamison is excited right from the first moment we see him, accelerating as the police siren wails from behind. “Reminds me of the good old days when we had the whole force after us,” he tells Lanyard, who wants no part of any trouble. When Jamison recoils at the idea of the notorious Lone Wolf getting a traffic ticket, Lanyard tells him, “The Lone Wolf is tucked away in mothballs. I am a gentleman of leisure. And an honest one no matter how much it pains you.”
After slipping the motorcycle cop we get an idea of just how involved Jamison was in The Lone Wolf’s affairs during those good old days. Joan tells Lanyard her story and he takes her back to apartment to survey the scene of the crime before the police can get involved. He has Jamison pick over the pockets of the corpse in the room and after Jamison comes back with a laundry ticket Lanyard warns him, “Make your fingers behave, don’t take anything else.”
“Sir, you wrong me!” Jamison declares, but we know better.
Lanyard sets up the scene for Joan by running a bath and telling her that she’s to say that she was in the tub when she heard the shots fired. “Now get undressed,” Lanyard orders her, for a moment recalling the Warren William pre-code leer, until the far more respectable Lanyard closes the door behind himself and Jamison. Jamison’s eyes keep a hold of that bathtub scene for as long as the space between the closing door allows him. Wearing that experienced and twisted grin that he sports throughout the series Jamison says, “Lovely girl, sir. Lovely.”
Lanyard’s fish are forgotten this time around. Inspector Crane is a great admirer of rare plants in this entry, but no hobbies for Lanyard, though he and Jamison had been headed out of town on a winter sports venture so perhaps he’s on a health kick.
The wall where all of his fish tanks resided last time is filled by a bar that has a convenient hidden compartment in The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady. Next to the bar is what is obviously going to be a very important phonograph. It’s the type that makes home recordings which seems to show up as a plot device a bit too often during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Besides providing comedy by way of Jamison’s lack of singing talents, it also captures Victor Jory’s voice at a few key intervals.
The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady serves as a nice barometer for how you’re going to feel about the series as a whole. Jamison and Dickens are both more fully developed in Lady than they were in The Lone Wolf Strikes and the Lanyard-Jamison and Inspector-Dickens relationships have formed into the fun partnerships that do so much to make the series enjoyable.
Lanyard and Dickens even share a nice scene together where we’re thankfully spared the bulk of a batch of bad Confucious jokes that Lanyard uses to stiff Dickens with cabfare. Think of how Warren William interacted with Eugene Pallette in the Perry Mason movies and then make the gulf even wider between his interplay with Fred Kelsey’s Dickens. That will continue.
Three Stooges fans wouldn’t forgive me if I forgot to include mention of Shemp Howard’s brief appearance. Lanyard meets up with his old acquaintance Nick (George McKay), a jewelry fence, putting in a request to spare no expense in finding out where the Penyon necklace went. All of a sudden small time crook Joe comes down and I’m sitting up straight pointing at the TV saying, “Hey, it’s Shemp!” Joe doesn’t do a heck of a lot other than go into too many details about some goods he found in the subway before Nick interrupts him and somewhat cruelly (this is Shemp!) says, “Okay, Joe, powder.” That’s it.Sidney Salkow is back directing his second of four Lone Wolf entries helping to give the series some consistency along with all of the other returnees. It took three weeks to film and opened May 30 in the U.S. though didn’t make it to New York until June 16 where it was reviewed a day later by The New York Times.
That June 17, 1940 New York Times review nicely sums up The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady saying, “Never taking itself too seriously, the Lone Wolf’s latest escapade emerges as a better than average example of the prefabricated mystery thrillers.” Then they do what I did and spend more time than usual talking about how wonderful Eric Blore is as Jamison!
The Times review closes quoting a brief bit of Warren William-Eric Blore interplay that I noted myself during my recent viewing, so we may as well finish with it here too.
Things are getting sticky and Lanyard’s winter sports trip is looking like it’s in serious jeopardy. Jamison remarks, “I prefer a cold tobaggon to a hot seat,” to which Lanyard chuckles and replies, “Jamison, you’re a coward.”
“Have I ever denied it, sir?”