Margaret Lindsay (September 19 1910 - May 9 1981) was an American film actress. Her time as a Warner Bros. contract player during the 1930s was particularly productive. She was noted for her supporting work in successful films of the 1930s and 1940s such as Jezebel (1938) and Scarlet Street (1945) and her leading roles in lower-budgeted B-movie films such as the Ellery Queen series at Columbia in the early 1940s. Critics regard her portrayal of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Hepzibah Pyncheon in the 1940 film adaptation of The House of the Seven Gables as Lindsay's standout career role.
She was a 1930 graduate of Dubuque's Visitation Academy.
Lindsay was often mistaken as being British due to her convincing English accent, which impressed Universal Studios enough to sign her for their 1932 version of The Old Dark House. As James Robert Parish and William T. Leonard wrote in Hollywood Players: The Thirties (Arlington House, 1976), Lindsay returned to America and arrived in Hollywood, only to discover that Gloria Stuart had been cast in her role in the film.
After some minor roles, she rebounded by being cast in the Fox Film Corporation's award-winning Cavalcade. Lindsay was chosen for the small but memorable role of Edith Harris, a doomed English bride whose honeymoon voyage takes place on the Titanic. (Ironically, Gloria Stuart is noted for playing a 101-year-old survivor in the movie Titanic.) Lindsay won the role by backing up her British accent with an elaborate "biography" that claimed she was born in a London suburb, the daughter of a London broker who sent her to a London convent for her education. "Although I looked and talked English", she later explained, "to tell them I was actually from Iowa would have lost the assignment for me." Her work in Cavalcade earned her a contract at Warner Bros. where she became a reliable supporting player, working with Paul Muni, Errol Flynn, Henry Fonda, Warren William, Leslie Howard, George Arliss, Humphrey Bogart, Boris Karloff and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Lindsay was cast four times as the love interest of James Cagney in Warner films from 1933-1935. She appeared with Cagney in Frisco Kid, Devil Dogs of the Air, G-Men and Lady Killer.
She co-starred with Bette Davis in four Warner Bros. films: as Davis' rival in the award-winning Jezebel (1938), as Davis' sister in the forgotten 1934 gem Fog Over Frisco, and two films from 1935, Dangerous (for which Davis won a Best Actress Academy Award) and Bordertown. The latter film starred Paul Muni as the male lead. Playwright Jerome Lawrence, Muni’s biographer, regarded Lindsay's "cool, civilized detachment" as Dale Elwell to be in "striking dramatic contrast" to Muni's "inner fury" as Johnny Ramirez. "Lindsay", Lawrence noted, "got equal feature billing alongside Bette Davis. It was ideal casting: the tall, imperious handsome aristocrat, a civilization apart from Bette Davis' gutter spitfire."
An example of her work in a leading role in lower budget films while at Warner Bros. was 1936's The Law in Her Hands, in which she played a mob lawyer. As film historian John McCarty wrote, it's "that rarity among gangster films to offer a female in the male-dominated mouthpiece role." Author Roger Dooley identified the film as "being the only film of the 1930s to concern itself with a pair of female legal partners."
Unfortunately made after the Motion Picture Production Code came into effect, McCarty noted, The Law in Her Hands ultimately took a "reactionary stance towards the gender switch" and concluded with a plot twist that was the complete opposite of the fascinating Pre-Code period of 1930-1934, when "female characters on the screen could say, do, and be whatever they wanted" to be.
However, Briggs explained, the film she had the most fun with was 1947's The Vigilantes Return. "...[T]his role was a complete departure from my usual parts and I grabbed it," she wrote. "I even warbled a Mae West type ditty. As a man-chasing saloon singer after Jon Hall it was for me a totally extroverted style and I relished the opportunity....I have a framed still from that film on a wall in my home."
Her 1940s film series work in Hollywood included Columbia's first entry in its Crime Doctor series, as well as her continuing role as Nikki Porter in Columbia's Ellery Queen series from 1940-1942. Author James Robert Parish wrote that "Columbia's one inspired touch in their Ellery Queen series was the addition of Nikki Porter (Margaret Lindsay) as a freelance mystery writer who goes to work for Ellery as his secretary. She added a bubbling note of pretty distraction, since more often than not the plots called for her to do some amateur sleuthing to help out boss Ellery."
Author Jon Tuska's affection for the Ellery Queen series mystified its star Ralph Bellamy. During an interview by Tuska for his 1978 book, The Detective in Hollywood, he remarked, "I'm one of the few who does [like the series]." "I don't know how," Bellamy replied. "They were such quickie pictures." Tuska cited Ellery Queen, Master Detective (1940) and Ellery Queen's Penthouse Mystery (1941) as the best of the Bellamy-Lindsay pairings. "The influence of The Thin Man series was apparent in reverse", Tuska noted about Ellery Queen's Penthouse Mystery. "Ellery and Nikki are unmarried but obviously in love with each other. Probably the biggest mystery... is how Ellery ever gets a book written. Not only is Nikki attractive and perfectly willing to show off her figure", Tuska wrote, "but she also likes to write her own stories on Queen's time, and gets carried away doing her own investigations." In Ellery Queen, Master Detective, "the amorous relationship between Ellery and Nikki Porter was given a dignity, and therefore integrity", Tuska wrote, "that was lacking in the two previous entries in the series", made at Republic Pictures before Bellamy and Lindsay were signed by Columbia.
Lindsay appeared in a supporting role in 1942's version of The Spoilers with John Wayne and in Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street in 1945 in support of Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea. While her work in the late 1940s would occasionally involve a supporting role in MGM films like Cass Timberlane with Spencer Tracy, her film career went into decline, with roles in films at Poverty Row studios like Monogram Pictures and PRC.
She returned to the stage and co-starred with Franchot Tone in The Second Man.
Lindsay appeared in only four films during the 1950s and two in the 1960s. Her final feature film, released when she was 53, was 1963's Tammy and the Doctor, with Lindsay as a nurse in love with a doctor played by Macdonald Carey.
Gay Hollywood historian David Ehrenstein claimed that Lindsay was involved in a lesbian affair with actress Janet Gaynor. Hollywood producer Paul Gregory, the last of Gaynor's three husbands, memorably and humorously denied the whole notion of Gaynor's bisexuality when he was interviewed for the television documentary, Janet Gaynor: A Star Was Born (A&E's Biography series, 2000).
Lindsay died at the age of 70 of emphysema in 1981 at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, survived by her four sisters and one brother. She was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.
Adventures of Rusty (Columbia, 1945), with Ace the Wonder Dog in the title role opposite Lindsay, was the first of eight Columbia Rusty films.
The opening scenes of Bordertown (Warner Bros., 1935) were shot on location in 1934 in Los Angeles' Olivera Street, providing modern viewers with a fascinating glimpse of that historic setting.
Broadway Musketeers (Warner Bros., 1938) was a watered-down, Post-Code remake of the fascinating Pre-Code Three on a Match, with Lindsay in the role originally played by Ann Dvorak.
Some scenes of The Case of the Curious Bride (Warner Bros., 1935) were shot on location in San Francisco.
The world premiere of Cass Timberlane (M-G-M, 1947) was held as a charity event for the John Tracy Clinic for deaf children, founded in 1943 by Spencer Tracy’s wife Louise and named for their deaf child.
A Close Call for Ellery Queen (Columbia, 1942) was the first of three William Gargan EQ films after he replaced Ralph Bellamy in the role.
Club Havana (PRC, 1945) was directed by cult director Edgar G. Ulmer. According to the AFI Catalog, Feature Films, 1941-1950, much of the film was improvised as it was made.
Devil Dogs of the Air (Warner Bros., 1935) was filmed on location in 1934 at the U. S. Marines flying base on North Island in San Diego.
The Dragon Murder Case (Warner Bros., 1934) was the first Philo Vance film to star Warren William, rather than William Powell. Director H. Bruce “Lucky” Humberstone took the directing assignment after the script was turned down by Michael Curtiz, Archie Mayo, Mervyn Le Roy and Alfred Green.
The Florentine Dagger (Warner Bros., 1934) was based on a novel by Ben Hecht.
G-Men (Warner Bros., 1935) was initially banned in Chicago for its violence.
Vincent Price was cast opposite Lindsay in The House of the Seven Gables (1940) after Robert Cummings had to step aside due to an illness.
According to Film Daily, Patricia Ellis was originally considered for Lindsay’s role in Lady Killer (Warner Bros., 1933).
Lindsay’s co-star in Louisiana (Monogram, 1947) was Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis, playing himself.
1934's The Merry Wives of Reno cashed in on the notoriety of Reno, Nevada's status as the divorce capital of the United States. In 1931, the residency requirement was lowered to only 6 weeks. In 1926, Nevada courts had granted 1,021 divorces. The 1931 number was 5,260!
Scarlet Street (Universal, 1945) was initially banned in the state of New York for “excessive violence and immorality.” Producer Walter Wanger cut the number of ice pick stabs in Joan Bennett’s death scene from seven to one, and the film was approved.
Seven Keys to Baldpate (RKO, 1947), the fifth film version of Earl Derr Biggers' novel & George M. Cohan’s play, was originally set to star Boris Karloff, Jack Haley and June Clayworth. Karloff & Haley bowed out, and Lindsay replaced Clayworth
Estimating Eggs: Margaret Lindsay and Amanda Scott Enlighten Us on the Teaching and Learning of Mass Estimation
Dec 22, 2005; Mass is one of the three fundamental measurements--the others being length and time. However, estimation of mass is little taught...