(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on November 11, 2009.)
Look quickly during the opening credits of HOME SWEET HOMICIDE and you’ll see a picture of Craig Rice on the cover of TIME, as far as I know still the only instance of a mystery writer’s photo appearing on the cover of that magazine. It shows up here because HOME SWEET HOMICIDE is based on Rice’s novel of the same name (which I haven’t read) and because the story is somewhat autobiographical. It concerns a female mystery writer, Marion Carstairs (played by the very attractive Lynn Bari, cast somewhat against type here since she usually played sultry villainesses), her three precocious children (Peggy Ann Garner, fresh off her Academy Award win for A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN the year before), Connie Marshall, and Dean Stockwell (who grew up to play Al on QUANTUM LEAP), a couple of police detectives (the great Randolph Scott and ubiquitous character actor James Gleason), and the murder they all get mixed up in.
You’ll probably figure out the mystery and spot the murderer pretty early on in this 1946 film, but that doesn’t really matter. The fun in HOME SWEET HOMICIDE is in the gentle swipes at the writing game and the publishing business (there’s a nice line about FOREVER AMBER delivered by one of the kids, for example), as well as the domestic comedy centered around trying to raise three children who are probably too smart for their own good. In fact, this movie pretty much belongs to the kids, who try to solve the murder that takes place in their suburban neighborhood so that their mother will get the credit for it. Dean Stockwell is especially good as the conniving ten-year-old who’s saddled with a couple of older sisters.
For a film that’s concerned with murder, HOME SWEET HOMICIDE is a really pleasant movie, as well a nice little slice of post-war Americana. It’s not that easy to find – I think there was an old videotape, but it’s never officially been released on DVD – but it’s out there if you know where to look. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it, especially if you’re a Craig Rice fan.