Cast & Crew
Arthur B. Woods
Sir Seymour Hicks
When talented amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey marries detective novelist Harriet Vane, they vow to give up crime for good. Sealing their resolve, Harriet buys them both open handcuff charms. To surprise Harriet, Lord Peter buys her old family cottage in Devon where they plan to spend their honeymoon, accompanied by their faithful valet, Mervyn Bunter. The morning after they arrive, however, their serenity is interrupted by the clatter of workmen cleaning the chimney and also by Bunter's discovery of the body of Noakes, the man who sold Lord Peter the cottage. Although the Devonshire village is usually peaceful, a series of suspects now come forth, including Noakes's niece Aggie Twitterton, who was his heir, her lowborn fiancé Frank Crutchley, chimney sweep George Puffett, Rev. Simon Goodacre and even Constable Sellon. Not wanting to get involved, Harriet and Peter decide to leave, but the arrival of their friend, Scotland Yard detective Andrew Kirk, the inquest, and various intriguing obstacles, prevent their departure. Though Peter claims disinterest in the case, as does Harriet, they both follow clues until Peter is able to reconstruct the crime by showing that Noakes was killed by a hanging cactus when he went to his radio to hear the nine o'clock news broadcast. By turning the power knob, Noakes triggered a device that caused the plant to swing down and hit him on the temple. Because Crutchley, an experienced gardener, was seen incorrectly watering the plant, he is the prime suspect. Peter proves Crutchley's guilt, establishing money as the motive. After the excitement dies down, the Wimseys and Bunter head for a more peaceful honeymoon spot and when they hear shots and a scream ring out from the seemingly innocent inn they have chosen, they immediately drive away.
Arthur B. Woods
Sir Seymour Hicks
C. C. Stevens
A. W. Watkins
F. A. Young
Dorothy L. Sayers had enjoyed some notoriety as a mystery writer in the 1920's and 1930's, especially with her novels featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. In the 1930's, her friend and fellow writer Muriel St. Clare Byrne convinced her to bring Lord Wimsey to the London stage, resulting in Busman's Honeymoon. The novel version appeared in 1937, one year after the play began its run. In 1939, director Arthur B. Woods began production on the screen version of the novel for MGM, at the company's British studio. Robert Montgomery (who had gotten his acting start on Broadway) and Maureen O'Sullivan were cast as the crime-fighting duo, but O'Sullivan soon bowed out and returned to the United States. World War II had begun, causing problems with film production abroad. First of all, Woods was a Royal Air Force pilot and was only able to work on the film when given official permission. To make matters worse, the Germans threatened to bomb the studio because MGM had recently released an anti-Nazi film, The Lion Has Wings (1939). Luckily, the threat was never carried out and the production was safe to continue, with Constance Cummings (whose career also began on Broadway) replacing O'Sullivan as Harriet Vale.
The finished film was released in the United States in 1940; Bosley Crowther of The New York Times Film Review stated "Seldom has there been a film so pleasantly conducive to browsing as this leisurely, bookish fable of murder...A glass of port, at least, should be taken along with it." In a time of world crisis, Haunted Honeymoon, with its body count of one, served as an easy escape from serious wartime issues and entertained armchair mystery fans.
Director: Arthur B. Woods
Producer: Harold Huth
Screenplay: Harold Goldman, Monckton Hoffe, Angus MacPhail (based on the novel by Dorothy L. Sayers)
Cinematography: Freddie Young
Editor: Al Barnes, James B. Clark
Music: Louis Levy
Cast: Robert Montgomery (Lord Peter Wimsey), Constance Cummings (Harriet Vane), Leslie Banks (Inspector Kirk), Seymour Hicks (Bunter), Robert Newton (Frank Crutchley)
by Sarah Heiman
What seems to be the trouble?- Lord Peter Wimsey
We're reconstructing the crime.- Inspector Andrew Kirk
From the noise we heard upstairs you're obviously going on the theory that Mr Noakes was killed by a herd of buffalo.- Lord Peter Wimsey
I'm afraid it's my fault, mylord... Inspector was Noakes and I was the assassin...- Bunter
Apparently one of great brutality.- Lord Peter Wimsey
The original play opened in London on 16 December 1936.
Richard Thorpe was the original director starting 4 August 1939, traveling to various locations in England. World War II started in early September, and the film was shelved until March 1940 with Arthur B. Woods as director.
Maureen O'Sullivan was to appear in the film and sailed on the Queen Mary for London, but she returned to the USA when the film was shelved because of the war.
The working title of the film was Busman's Honeymoon. According to an entry for the first edition of the novel in the National Union Catalog, the original title of Dorothy Sayer's story was A Busman's Holiday. This was the fourth and final film made by M-G-M's British studio prior to its closure during World War II. Acccording to the M-G-M story file on the film contained in the USC Cinema-Television Library, L. A. G. Strong provided additional dialogue for the film in April 1939, however, the extent of his work to appear in the completed film has not been determined. According to various entries in the story files and Hollywood Reporter news items, the film began under Richard Thorpe's direction on August 4, 1939, when Thorpe traveled to various locations in Devon, England, including Dartmoor. Maureen O'Sullivan sailed to England on the Queen Mary to appear opposite Robert Montgomery in the film, which was to be produced by Victor Saville. On September 18, 1939, about two weeks after the start of the war, Montgomery arrived back in the United States, and on 19 September it was announced that the picture had been shelved because of the war and because the Denham sound stage on which the film was to be shot was being used to store foodstuffs.
According to a contemporary notation contained in the AMPAS Library file on the film, the production was cancelled by M-G-M on February 2, 1940. However, a Hollywood Reporter news item on March 22, 1940, noted that the production began filming in Denham on the sound stage that temporarily had been used for storage, and that the extensive backgrounds and location shots done in 1939 were to be included in the film. At that time, M-G-M British production chief Ben Goetz was in charge of the picture and Constance Cummings took over the role of "Harriet Vane" that was originally slated for O'Sullivan. Production charts and news items include Gwen ffrangcon-Davies in the cast; however, her participation in the released film has not been confirmed. An article on the film in Time noted that director Arthur B. Woods, who was an RAF pilot, had to take time off from his military duties to complete the film. The article noted that the cast and crew were threatened with bombing in a broadcast by "Lord Haw Haw," the Nazi propaganda broadcaster, but they were unharmed. It also noted that Robert Montgomery sailed to France when the production was halted and drove a Red Cross ambulance for three weeks.
There have been a number of adaptations of Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey stories. A 1935 British film entitled The Silent Passenger was directed by Reginald Denham and starred Peter Haddon as Wimsey. A popular British television series featuring Ian Carmichael in the role was produced in the mid-1970s and shown on public television in the United States, and another British series, produced in the late 1980s, featured Edward Petherbridge as Wimsey.