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S.S. Van Dine

Philo Vance Film Series Concludes With Lecture From Mystery Novelist

LIBBY CUDMORE SHARES INSIGHTS

Mystery-Writing Editor

Places ‘Oneonta-Born’

Philo Vance In Context

Oneonta mystery writer Libby Cudmore assesses Philo Vance’s place in the golden age of detective fiction at this evening’s third installment of the Philo Vance Film Series at the Greater Oneonta Historical Society.  The talk preceded a screening of “The Dragon Murder Case,” based on one of the lesser beloved of S.S. Van Dine’s 12 novels featuring the detective that Van Dine (aka Willard Huntington Wright) created while living in his aunts’ home on River Street. At  left are GOHS Executive Director Bob Brzozowski and Father Ken Hunter, St. James Episcopal pastor and a mystery buff, who organized the film series.  Cudmore is also managing editor of Hometown Oneonta, The Freeman’s Journal and AllOTSEGO.com.  Her “The Big Rewind” was published by William Morrow in 2016. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
River Street House Where Fictional Det. ‘Philo Vance’ Was Born Is Endangered

River Street House Where

Fictional Det. ‘Philo Vance’

Was Created Is Endangered

Salvation Army Plans To Raze It,

But GOHS May Object To Plans

S.S. Van Dine’s detective novels – aka Willard Huntington Wright – were frequently made into movies in the first half of the 20th Century starring such famous actors at William Powell and Mary Astor.

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA – Hidden behind a row of overgrown trees on River Street is a literary legacy.

GOHS Executive Director Bob Brzozowski strolls past 31 Railroad St., where famous “Philo Vance” mysteries were being written a century ago. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

As S.S. Van Dine, Willard Huntington Wright (1888-1939), wrote 12 novels starring dandy detective Philo Vance – and Bob Brzozowski, Greater Oneonta Historical Society executive director, believes that they were written here.

“We know his novel ‘The Man of Promise’ (196) was partially written in the cupola of 31 River Street,” said Brzozowski. “It’s set in Greenwood, which is based on Oneonta. H.L. Mencken called it ‘the Great American Novel’. We believe he wrote some of the Vance novels here as well.”

The heritage will remain, but the house, neglected for year, is about to succumb to the ravages of time.

The Salvation Army, whose local operation is growing, bought the property in March, first to build a parking lot, then expanding its building.

“We need more room,” said Maj. Sharon Harford, the veteran commander who is retiring at the end of May. “We want to expand our food pantry, and the city is looking to us to create a warming station for the homeless when the temperature drops.”

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