Meet Nero Wolfe & The League of Frightened Men (Columbia)
Rex Stout authorized two movies in 1936 and 1937, respectively. He never again sold movie rights to his Nero Wolfe books.
Meet Nero Wolfe (1936) starred Edward Arnold (photo on right) and Lionel Stander (photo on left) and was loosely based on Fer-de-Lance.
In 1937, Columbia made a second (and final) Wolfe movie, The League of Frightened Men, starring Walter Connolly (photo below) as Wolfe and Stander returning as Archie Goodwin.
If you have an opportunity to see these movies, it is worth the annoyances. Stander, for instance, has a thick "Bronx" accent. He is more "recently" remembered as the gravely-voiced chauffeur/house man, Max, in the TV series Hart to Hart (1979-1984) with Robert Wagner. Rita Hayworth has a small role playing Maria Maringola and using her birth name, Rita Cansino. The plots are almost unrecognizable from those of the books.
For additional information, see:
- Screen Captures & Movie Posters from:
- New York Times review of Meet Nero Wolfe
- Dick Lochte recounts an interview he conducted with Rex Stout, in which Mr. Stout talked about casting for his books and the two Columbia Pictures movies.
The President Vanishes (Paramount)
In an interview printed in Royal Decree (1983), Rex Stout's official biographer John McAleer asked the author if there was any chance of Hollywood ever making a good Nero Wolfe movie. "I don't know," Stout replied. "I suppose so. They made a movie of another story I wrote — The President Vanishes. I hate like hell to admit it but it was better than the book, I think."
Rex Stout's anonymous 1934 novel was quickly transformed into a feature film by Paramount Pictures. The President Vanishes (1936, British title Strange Conspiracy) was produced by Walter Wanger and directed by William A. Wellman, and featured a cast that includes Arthur Byron, Edward Arnold, and Andy Devine. See IMDB for further information. It premiered November 1935 and was released in January 1936.
On February 28, 2012, it was shown as part of the William A. Wellman Film Festival at the NYC Film Forum.
- Read The NY Times review from Dec. 8, 1934 following the screening
- Read the review from the 2012 showing at NY Film Forum
- Read the NY Times book review (1934)
Lady Against the Odds (NBC)
In 1992 Stout's 1937 novel The Hand in the Glove, featuring Theodolinda (Dol) Bonner, was adapted for an NBC TV movie titled Lady Against the Odds, which aired April 20, 1992. Crystal Bernard starred as Dol Bonner; Annabeth Gish co-starred as Sylvia Raffray. Bradford May, who also directed, received an Emmy Award for outstanding individual achievement in cinematography.
It has never been released as a video, but is available for streaming on NetFlix.