Edna May Oliver & James Gleason
Edna May Oliver and James Gleason launch a series of Hildegarde Withers comedy/detective films with The Penquin Pool Murder (1932) movie. Oliver is perfect as Withers, whose prim and proper determination to solve a mystery complements and contrasts Inspector Piper’s (Gleason) “What the-?!” ineptitude as he seeks not only to catch a murderer, but to extricate himself from a domineering and exasperatingly capable Miss Withers — amature detective and persnickety school teacher extraordinaire. Oliver and Gleason are a match made in heaven — the heaven with a good sense of humor.
The two made two more Hildegarde Withers movies: Murder on the Blackboard (1934) and Murder on a Honeymoon (1935). Oliver left the series in 1935 to pursue other roles for which she is probably much better remembered: Miss Pross in A Tale of Two Cities (1935) and Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice (1940), to name just two.
Gleason continued in his role as Inspector Piper for all six of the Hildegard Withers detective films. Helen Broderick (perhaps best known as the mother of Broderick Crawford) appeared with Gleason in the 1936 Murder on the Bridle Path; after which Zasu Pitts assumed the role for the series’ final two films: The Plot Thickens (1936) and Forty Naughty Girls (1937).