The Cat and the Canary starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard is a 1939 comedy horror film remake of the 1927 film The Cat and the Canary, which was based on the 1922 play of the same name by John Willard. The film was directed by Elliott Nugent.
Cyrus Norman was a millionaire who lived in the Louisiana bayous with his mistress Miss Lu (Sondergaard). Norman died ten years before the film’s opening scene, in which a Native American man (Regas) paddles Mr. Crosby (George Zucco), the executor of Norman’s estate, through alligator-infested waters to Norman’s isolated mansion, where his will is to be read at midnight.
At the mansion, Crosby meets Miss Lu, who lives there with a large black cat. When he removes the will from a safe, he discovers that someone has tampered with it.
Crosby and Miss Lu are joined by Norman’s survivors: Joyce Norman (Goddard), Fred Blythe (Beal), Charles Wilder (Montgomery), Cicily (Westman), Aunt Susan (Patterson), and Wally Campbell (Hope). As the group gathers in the parlour to read the will, an unseen gong rings seven times. According to Miss Lu, this means that only seven of the eight people present will survive the night…
” …it’s a perfect vehicle for Hope’s bluff, cowardly persona. Predictable, but surprisingly atmospheric (Sondergaard helps no end) and often very funny.” Geoff Andrew, The Time Out Film Guide
“The “Cat” is pretty creepy looking for an old movie, and there’s a nice sequence of him sneaking around a hidden passageway, trying to catch up to our heroine (Paulette Goddard), and even killing a random cop in the process (still not sure what the hell the cop was doing in there, but it doubles the film’s body count, so no complaints!)” Horror Movie a Day
“Unlike in most of his films, Hope is a bit more restrained here, not relying purely mugging and fast humorous quips, though there are plenty of good lines. When asked if big empty houses scare him, Hope responds, “Not me, I use to be in Vaudeville.” The film is more plot driven and is filled with many nice touches of spooky thrills.” Twenty Four Frames