Saturday, November 10, 2012

John P. Marquand wrote Mr. Moto novels

John P. Marquand
It is the birthday of writer John P. Marquand (1893), who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1938 for his best-selling novel The Late George Apley (1937), a satire of Boston's upper class. The title character is a Harvard-educated Beacon Hill WASP. The book was adapted as a Broadway play in 1944 and later as a film starring Ronald Colman.

It was a distinct departure from Marquand's earlier Mr. Moto spy novels. Mr. Moto was initially a Japanese Imperial agent but was never the central character in the novels. He was a mysterious character who stayed mainly in the background. The plots usually concerned an American with a checkered past who becomes entangled in international intrigue in the Orient. In the process he meets a beautiful American woman. In the end, and always with help from the mysterious Mr. Moto, he overcomes the danger and gets the girl. Mr. Moto was always impeccably dressed and appeared rather benign but could be remarkably ruthless.

The Mr. Moto series originally appeared in Saturday Evening Post, which was looking for stories with an Asian hero following the death of Earl Derr Biggers, who created Charlie Chan. There were six Mr. Moto novels: Your Turn, Mr. Moto (1935); Thank you, Mr. Moto (1936); Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1937); Mr. Moto is So Sorry (1938); Last Laugh, Mr. Moto (1941); and Stopover: Tokyo (1957) which was reprinted under different titles in 1963 and 1977.

Beginning in 1937, 20th Century Fox made eight films loosely based on the book series. They starred Peter Lorre as Mr. Kentaro Moto, an Interpol agent with a good relationship with the Chinese rulers, a fondness for Western suits, and an inclination to use judo against the bad guys.

Marquand was a prolific writer whose short stories appeared frequently in the Saturday Evening Post beginning in 1921. He wrote 18 novels, the first of which was The Unspeakable Gentleman (1922).

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