Thirteenth Chair, The (1929): Tod Browning’s Pre-Code Mystery Thriller, Starring Conrad Nagel and Bela Lugosi

Tod Browning. directed The Thirteenth Chair, a pre-Code mystery, based on Bayard Veiller’s 1916 play of the same name.

It stars Conrad Nagel, Leila Hyams, Margaret Wycherly, and Bela Lugosi, whom Browning would direct as Dracula.

Inspector Delzante (Bela Lugosi), investigates some murders near a British mansion in Calcutta. Helen O’Neill (Leila Hyams) becomes a chief suspect based on circumstantial evidence. A fake Irish medium, Madame LaGrange (Margaret Wycherly) is called in to try to help solve the first murder.

The film was one of many that were released in both sound and silent versions.

An earlier version of the film, starring Creighton Hale, was made in 1919 by director Leonce Perret.

In 1937, the film was again remade by MGM, starring Elissa Landi and Dame May Whitty.

Margaret Wycherly, who was at one time married to Bayard Veiller, the writer of The Thirteenth Chair play, also appeared in the original 1916 production.

Conrad Nagel as Richard Crosby
Leila Hyams as Helen “Nellie” O’Neill
Margaret Wycherly as “Madame” Rosalie La Grange
Helene Millard as Mary Eastwood
Holmes Herbert as Sir Roscoe Crosby
Mary Forbes as Lady Alice Crosby
Bela Lugosi as Inspector Delzante
John Davidson as Edward “Ned” Wales
Charles Quatermaine as Dr. Philip Mason (as Charles Quartermaine)
Moon Carroll as Helen Trent
Cyril Chadwick as Brandon Trent
Frank Leigh as Professor Feringeea
Clarence Geldart as Commissioner Grimshaw (as Clarence Geldert)