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The Thirteenth Chair (1929)

Passed | | Drama, Mystery | 19 October 1929 (USA)
Although his murdered friend was by all accounts a scoundrel a true "bounder" Edward Wales is determined to trap his killer by staging a seance using a famous medium. Many of the 13 seance ... See full summary »


Tod Browning


Bayard Veiller (from the play by), Elliott J. Clawson (dialogue continuity) (as Elliott Clawson)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Conrad Nagel ... Richard Crosby
Leila Hyams ... Helen O'Neill
Margaret Wycherly ... Madame Rosalie La Grange
Helene Millard ... Mary Eastwood
Holmes Herbert ... Sir Roscoe Crosby
Mary Forbes ... Lady Crosby
Bela Lugosi ... Inspector Delzante
John Davidson ... Edward Wales
Charles Quatermaine Charles Quatermaine ... Dr. Philip Mason (as Charles Quartermaine)
Moon Carroll Moon Carroll ... Helen Trent
Cyril Chadwick Cyril Chadwick ... Brandon Trent
Bertram Johns Bertram Johns ... Howard Standish
Gretchen Holland Gretchen Holland ... Grace Standish
Frank Leigh Frank Leigh ... Professor Feringeea
Clarence Geldart ... Commissioner Grimshaw (as Clarence Geldert)


Although his murdered friend was by all accounts a scoundrel a true "bounder" Edward Wales is determined to trap his killer by staging a seance using a famous medium. Many of the 13 seance participants had a reason and a means to kill, and one of them uses the cover of darkness to kill again. When someone close to the medium is suspected she turns detective, in the hope of uncovering the true murderer. Written by Ron Kerrigan <mvg@whidbey.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


All Talking Drama of a Woman's Struggles Against the Great Unknown (Print Ad-Newberry Observer, ((Newberry, SC)) 11 March 1930) See more »


Drama | Mystery


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

19 October 1929 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The 13th Chair See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Circa minute 44:20, Bela Lugosi points to the sitting medium and pronounces her name, Madame La Grange, with a flawless French accent. As he did in White Zombie (1932) and in The Black Cat (1934) when pronouncing French phrases, Bela completely drops his Hungarian accent and does not roll his R's as was customary for him when he spoke English with his thick native accent, but rather uses the same guttural R's as the French do. Not only that, but his French "an" sound is flawless, and nasal like a native Parisian, without a trace of any foreign accent. This would indicate that Bela Lugosi was probably fluent in French. For Bela to be able to so easily switch from one accent to the other, he would have had to have learned French as a child, and most likely before the age of 7 to be able to speak it like native, as he did. Where he learned it is a mystery, as he is only known to have lived in Germany besides Hungary and USA, and documentaries indicate that Bela dropped off school at the age of 12. The mystery therefore persists and has yet to be revealed. See more »


It's noted elsewhere as a "goof" that the actors seem to be caught waiting for their cues, but many of the earliest MGM talkies employed a technique of long lingering inactive moments at the beginning and ending of reels, which apparently are supposed to take the place of leader when they change over, perhaps accommodating the Vitaphone print versions. Years ago, when these titles appeared on TV, they didn't do that, so maybe Movietone versions were more succinctly edited. By WesternOne. See more »


Inspector Delzante: [Interrogating Madame La Grange, consulting his notes] Perhaps this will refresh your memory.
See more »

Alternate Versions

MGM also released this movie in a silent version at 1628.55 m in length. See more »


Version of The Thirteenth Chair (1937) See more »

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User Reviews

You have to be a fan...
23 January 2001 | by dsayneSee all my reviews

You have to be a fan of Bela Lugosi to really enjoy this film. The pacing is slow, the direction is wooden, and many of the supporting cast is just so-so.

Being a filmed stage play in the very early talky era, The Thirteenth Chair doesn't have much action. What it does have is Bela Lugosi who becomes the focus of the film as Inspector Delzante as soon as he makes an appearance. There are few surprises to anyone who has seen very many mysteries, but a few genuinely spooky scenes occur in the darkened room as the sound takes over and your imagination is allowed to supply the imagery. On the prints that I have seen the sound is of a poor quality with a high level of hiss as in so many older films. It takes some dedication to sit through, and listening carefully to understand all the dialogue. It is fascinating to see Lugosi as a key supporting character before he was typecast.

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