Melvyn Douglas stars as Michael Lanyard in THE RETURN OF THE LONE WOLF(some places known as THE LONE WOLF RETURNS), a 1935 release based on the Louis Joseph Vance novel The Lone Wolf Returns. Lanyard is a world famous jewel thief with a bent for helping the innocent.
Here, he’s in the midst of stealing a pearl necklace when he realizes the police have staked out the house and now have all exits thoroughly covered. By a bit of subterfuge, posing as the butler, he manages to slip by them and to the mansion next door where a masquerade ball is in progress. Immediately he notices he’s not the only jewel thief in residence, the second dancing with the hostess and making a clumsy attempt to slip an emerald necklace from her throat, only to drop it into her cleavage.
Slipping around, he sees her place it into a safe, the clasp broken by the first thief, and manages to steal it, finally borrowing a mask from a passed out drunk and joining the party. There the hostess, the beautiful Marcia Stewart, uses him to avoid a boorish suitor, and they dance, talking. There it begins, Lanyard finding himself falling under her spell. It only strengthens when the police arrive and demand that all guests unmask so that Marcia can see if any strangers are in attendance and she doesn’t rat him out.
Michael decides to go straight at that point and win the hand of the beautiful young woman. Still, it’s not easy. The emerald necklace is returned to the safe and the pearls are mysteriously sent back as well. An old nemesis, Detective Crane, visits and Michael assures him the Lone Wolf is dead.
Trouble comes when the inept thief at the party and his wife, Liane Mallison, who had had past dealings with the Lone Wolf, inveigle him to join their organization. Their boss won’t take no for an answer and when Michael refuses, reveals his identity to Marcia(the husband and wife team had wormed their way into her confidence to steal the entire collection). At first hurt, he convinces her of his good intentions and takes her home. His mistake is to drop a cigarette butt outside her home, his special made blend with his initials embossed on the paper. The thieves steal the collection and leave the butt, with his fingerprints by the opened safe.
Crane comes to arrest him and he escapes, out to catch the real thieves and clear his name, not because he’s worried about the law, but because Marcia believes he used her to get at the jewels.
The novel this was based on is the fifth in the series, one I haven’t read, only having the first four. It is the second Lone Wolf film I’ve seen, the first being one of the silents, which I may report on later.