Classic Film Review: Miss Withers Finds A Corpse

Murder on the Blackboard (1934) - Turner Classic Movies

Murder on the Blackboard is a comedic murder mystery that was first released in 1934. Willis Goldbeck adapted the story for the screen from the novel by Stuart Palmer. George Archainbaud directed the film. RKO Radio Pictures is the distributing studio. The cast includes Edna May Oliver, Bruce Cabot, James Gleason, and Gertrude Michael.

Oliver plays teacher and amateur sleuth Hildegarde Withers, who featured in several mystery novels by Start Palmer. Ms. Withers gets drawn into the investigation when the music teacher is found by her. Then the corpse is whisked away once she goes to the police to report the dastardly crime. Of course, Ms. Withers isn’t going to let the police do their job without her input.

The film is not devoid of charm, but there is not that much to keep one fully engaged. Oliver is a talented comedic performer and carries the film fairly well considering some silliness peppered throughout. The murder itself is not all that original. The body disappearing when Ms. Withers goes to the local constabulary seems a bit trite and overused even for a film released in 1934. It may be amusing to run down one of the novels penned by Stuart Palmer. It is very far from being a cinematic masterpiece, but it’s far enough from being an utter cinematic disaster for me to not regret sitting through it.

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