Satan Met a Lady (1936) Classic Movie Review 176

Satan Met a Lady (1936)

Satan Met a Lady (1936)

Do you mind very much, Mr. Shane, taking off your hat in the presence of a lady with a gun?

Today’s movie is Satan Met a Lady (1936). God, it’s terrible. I felt like I was being punished when I watched it. This is what I expect a remake to be like, not like The Maltese Falcon (1941). They decided to turn it into a comedy and made Gutman a woman named Madame Barabbas. They made the falcon into a jewel filled ram’s horn from the age of Charlemagne.

This movie is rated 6.2 on[1]. It should be in the low 4s. doesn’t have a Tomatometer score for this film and the audience approval is 20 percent[2].

New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther said at the time of release that the film:

“a cynical farce of elaborate and sustained cheapness…deserves to be quoted as a classic of dullness…Without taking sides in a controversy of such titanic proportions, it is no more than gallantry to observe that if Bette Davis had not effectually espoused her own cause against the Warners recently by quitting her job, the Federal Government eventually would have had to step in and do something about her. After viewing Satan Met a Lady…all thinking people must acknowledge that a Bette Davis Reclamation Project (BDRP) to prevent the waste of this gifted lady’s talents would not be a too-drastic addition to our various programs for the conservation of natural resources…So disconnected and lunatic are the picture’s incidents, so irrelevant and monstrous its people, that one lives through it in constant expectation of seeing a group of uninformed individuals appear suddenly from behind the furniture and take the entire cast into protective custody. There is no story, merely a farrago of nonsense representing a series of practical studio compromises with an unworkable script. It is the kind of mistake over which the considerate and discreet thing is to draw the veil of silence.”[3]

In 1936, Variety said:

“This is an inferior remake of [1931’s] The Maltese Falcon…. Many changes have been made in story structure as well as title, but none is an improvement.” It noted that both Davis’s and William’s credits were dropped “below the title” and that “Davis has much less to do than at least one other femme member of the cast.”[4]



Bette Davis played the role of Valerie Purvis, which should be a Femme Fatale. Davis was covered in Episode 101 – The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939).

Porter Hall played the role of detective Milton Ames. Hall was covered in Episode 89 – Ace in the Hole (1951).


Warren William played Detective Ted Shane, in the same role as Ricardo Cortez and Humphrey Bogart. William was born in 1894 in Minnesota. He attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and served in the Army during World War I. He worked on Broadway from 1924 to 1930. During this time, he was in three silent films. With the advent of talkies, William became part of Warner Brothers. His major films include Honor of the Family (1931), The Dark Horse (1932), Three on a Match (1932), The Match King (1932), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), Employees’ Entrance (1933), Lady for a Day (1933), Imitation of Life (1934), Cleopatra (1934), The Dragon Murder Case (1934), The Case of the Howling Dog (1934), where he was the first to play Perry Mason, Stage Struck (1936), sadly he was in Satan Met a Lady (1936), and nine films in “The Lone Wolf” series from 1939 to 1943. He died in at an early age in 1948.

Olin Howland was Detective Dunhill and his voice and comic timing were the high points of this movie. Howland was born in Colorado in 1886. His older sister, Jobyna Howland, was an actress and Olin followed in her footsteps. From 1909 to 1927, he worked on Broadway and made short films. He was in over 200 films between 1918 and 1958. He played a lot of kooks and rubes. Notable films include Nothing Sacred (1937), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), Gone with the Wind (1939), In Old California (1942), Angel and the Badman (1947), Them! (1954), The Spirit of St. Louis (1957),  and The Blob (1958) which was his last film. Howland died at the age of 73 in 1959.

Marie Wilson played Shanes’s secretary, Miss Murgatroyd. She is described on as:

Lovely, innocent-looking, well-endowed comedienne Marie Wilson was a featherbrained delight instantly reminiscent of the zany Gracie Allen. Unlike Allen, however, Marie was a knockout–with high cheekbones, a wide slash of a mouth and a figure that wouldn’t quit.[5]

That bit of text may be left over from the Film Noir era and has certainly not been evaluated by the thought police. Wilson was born in California in 1916. After a good education, she worked as a sales clerk until a luck meeting got her in films. Her films include Bum Voyage (1934) Ladies Crave Excitement (1935), March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934), Broadway Hostess (1935), Stars Over Broadway (1935), Miss Pacific Fleet (1935), Satan Met a Lady (1936), Melody for Two (1937), Public Wedding (1937), The Great Garrick (1937), Fools for Scandal (1938), Boy Meets Girl (1938), Broadway Musketeers (1938), Sweepstakes Winner (1939), and The Cowboy Quarterback (1939).

Roles became harder to find after 1939 but she kept busy with stage work as well as few movies that include Rookies on Parade (1941), She’s in the Army (1942), The Fabulous Joe (1947), A Girl in Every Port (1952), Never Wave at a WAC (1953), Marry Me Again (1953), and Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962). Marie died in 1972.


Private detective Ted Shane (Warren William) is being thrown out of a town by the city fathers. He is wearing some kind of cowboy hat thing. On the train, Valerie Purvis (Bette Davis) sits nearby, Shane convinces a rich lady that she needs protection when she gets to what I presume is San Francisco. Shane gives the name of his old partner Milton Ames (Porter Hall).

Satan Met a Lady (1936)

Satan Met a Lady (1936)

Shane gets to Ames’ office and meets his ditzy secretary Miss Murgatroyd (Marie Wilson). He goes into Ames’ office just in time to take the call from the woman on the train. He has been gone from the Ames’ agency for three years and he takes it over when he gets back.

Ames takes Shane home to have dinner with his wife Astrid Ames (Wini Shaw), who three years prior was in love with Shane. Ames is pretty jealous but Shane tries to get him to leave his wife alone with him, while Ames goes to protect the lady with the jewels.

In the morning, Shane goes into the office and confirms his date with Miss Murgatroyd. He goes to Ames’ office and he is with Valerie Purvis. She is asking them to find a man named Farrow who will help her find the lover that jilted her. Purvis gives them $200 and they are on the case. Ames waits outside of the hotel until Purvis meets with Farrow. They are all followed by a younger man, Kenneth (Maynard Holmes).

Shane and Murgatroyd are on their date. Shane is flirting with one of the dancers when he gets a call. After the call, Shane sends Murgatroyd away and makes a joke about going to the graveyard. Ames has been shot at close range and is dead at the cemetery. Detective Dunhill (Olin Howland) questions Shane and wonders why he doesn’t want to examine the body. Detective Pollock (Charles C. Wilson) was searching for clues. Shane leaves and less than five minutes later Farrow is shot in the back. Shane let Murgatroyd know about the death.

Shane goes back to the nightclub and picks up the dancer he was flirting with. When he goes outside, Dunhill and Pollock are waiting. They are asking him about the Farrow killing and why he left to tell Astrid about her husbands’ death, but he sent Murgatroyd instead.

In the morning Murgatroyd tells Shane that an Englishman called. Astrid is in Shane’s office. She is still in love with Shane. She asks if he killed Ames and then uses the be kind to me line. Murgatroyd asks if he killed Ames.

Shane gets a call Purvis is checking out of her hotel. Shane jumps in the taxi with her. She tells the driver not to go to the depot and instead take her to the Carondelet Apartments. She says she is only leaving because the hotel detective was trying to force himself on her.

At her apartment, Shane searches her purse and takes a small gun out. Purvis see him do it. Shane asks for the true story. She says she was in business with Farrow but did not trust him. She says Farrow definitely killed Ames. Shane asks for $500 more. When Purvis goes to her purse, the money and the gun are missing. Shane laughs and then she pulls the gun and money out having picked his pocket. He kisses her gun hand and leaves.

Outside Shane confronts Kenneth and Shane gets the better of it.

Satan Met a Lady (1936)

Satan Met a Lady (1936)

Dunhill and Pollock go to Farrow’s hotel and the clerk says the only person that has contacted him was Purvis. Then he remembers a tall Englishman called on him too.

Shane returns to his apartment and it has been ransacked by a tall Englishman, to include cutting open all of the furniture. Anthony Travers (Arthur Treacher) comes in and apologizes for ransacking the rooms. Travers says since he couldn’t find the ram’s horn, he will pay for it. He gives Shane a $500 retainer. Travers explains the story of the ram’s horn going back to the 8th century. Sir Roland was betrayed by the Saracens but refuse to blow the horn that would save him. When the Saracens got the ram’s horn, they filled it with jewels. Shane tells Travers in will cost a lot more than $5,000 for him to get the horn back.

When Shane gets back to the office, it has been ransacked and Murgatroyd has been locked in the closet. Shane begins writing a letter to Murgatroyd’s uncle who is a medieval history professor. Kenneth comes in unseen. After hearing the story, Kenneth grabs a bag and runs out. Shane sets up a meeting with Purvis. He sends Murgatroyd to watch Purvis while get goes to her apartment to search for the ram’s horn.

When he starts searching, Purvis comes out and holds a gun on him. Murgatroyd calls and lets Shane know that Purvis is not at the meeting place. She takes his gun from him. Room service brings food and a telegram from Espinoza saying the SS Fujiyama will arrive tomorrow. She burns the telegram and her and Shane sit down to enjoy the room service. Shane tells her that her English friend wants him to find the ram’s horn. Purvis proposes sex instead of $5,000. Shane grabs the gun and searches the apartment. Kenneth is waiting outside. After Shane destroys her apartment, she throws him out but he goes back.

Satan Met a Lady (1936)

Satan Met a Lady (1936)

Dunhill and Pollock approach Shane in the morning about his ransacked apartment. Kenneth shows up and says his boss wants to see Shane. Madame Barabbas (Alison Skipworth) is a well-known thief. She uses some of Gutman’s lines. Shane says he is working for himself. Barabbas says she found the horn in Greece and she paid Travers and Purvis to steal it. However, they betrayed her and stole the horn.

Shane sees his pipe bag, which Kenneth stole, thinking it was the ram’s horn. The two get into an argument and Barabbas fires a gun to stop the fight. She pays $2,000 to Shane and promises $100,000. Kenneth wants to kill Shane because he stole his gun.

Murgatroyd’s uncle says the story may be true about the ram’s horn. Travers comes back in and brings flowers to apologize for locking her up. Shane is sure Purvis has the horn and he wants to stick with her.

A flyer talks of the horn legend and how many have died looking for it.

Purvis and Shane are dancing at the nightclub. Trevors is there as well as a sea captain. The jazz is good. Trevors calls Kenneth and Barabbas and says he has big news. Purvis gets a note and leaves quickly.

In the morning, the city fathers come to see Shane about his activities. They give him 24-hours to turn in the Ames killer. Astrid shows up and is jealous of Murgatroyd. Just then Dunhill and Pollock arrive to talk to Shane. He gets a call from an Italian man with an important message. When Shane finds out the detectives are there, he ushers Astrid out the back. The message tells Shane to come to the SS Fujiyama and meet Espinoza. When he gets to the dock the ship is burning. A skiff comes in with a lone man carrying a bag.

Kenneth fires two shots and Shane and the Shipman go down. Purvis is on the dock as well. Barabbas is in the car while Trevors and Kenneth get the bag. They decide to double cross Barabbas. Shane gets up and Barabbas goes after him. Dunhill and Pollock are at the dock as well.

Shane has the ram’s horn and he beats Kenneth and Trevors. Purvis claims she is the rightful client. Shane mocks Kenneth and he confesses to killing Farrow and Espinoza. Shane convinces them to make Kenneth the fall guy. Barabbas pays Shane for the horn. When they open the horn and it is full of sand. Just then Dunhill arrives to arrest the group. A gunfight breaks out and Shane shoots Kenneth in his hand. Shane hides Purvis in the car. After they leave, Dunhill realizes that Purvis is missing.

Satan Met a Lady (1936)

Satan Met a Lady (1936)

Shane and Purvis get on a train and escape. Dunhill and Pollock arrive and by chance get a telegram that Shane was having sent. Shane accuses Purvis of killing Ames. He shows how she murdered Ames. She realizes that Shane knew all the time that she was the murderer. Because of the telegram, detectives meet Shane at the first train stop. Purvis turns herself into a washroom attendant to keep Shane for getting the $10,000 reward. Purvis feels proud that she fooled Shane.  Murgatroyd shows up and she and Shane leave together.

World-Famous Short Summary – God, this remake is awful.

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Beware the moors


Satan Met a Lady (1936)

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