FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK
(director: Lloyd Bacon; screenwriters: Lester Cole/John Wexley/from the play by Jeffrey Dell & Ladislas Fodor; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Owen Marks; music: Frederick Hollander; cast: Errol Flynn (Francis Warren), Brenda Marshall (Rita Warren), Ralph Bellamy (Dr. Davis), Alan Hale (Inspector Mason), Lee Patrick (Blondie White), William Frawley (Hopkins), Lucile Watson (Mrs. Archer); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal B. Wallis; Warner Brothers; 1941)
“Can you imagine Errol Flynn in a light comedy/suspense story, wearing a suit and a tie?”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Can you imagine Errol Flynn in a light comedy/suspense story, wearing a suit and a tie? Flynn between roles as a swashbuckler does his poor man’s imitation of a Thin Man sleuth. It’s a palpable and genial popcorn movie, that is easy to take for those whose demands are not that demanding–like those more interested in the taste of their popcorn than the movie. Flynn plays as an investment broker for the swells, Francis Warren, leading a double life as a suspense crime author using a pseudonym. Playing amateur detective at night to gather information for his stories, even Warren’s sleeping wife Rita (Brenda Marshall) is unaware of what he’s up to. His wife suspects he’s cheating on her with another woman–which is not a bad idea, it would have probably made for a better story. But Flynn is actually investigating the murders of a jewelry smuggler and an exotic dancer. The trail of evidence leads to a respected dentist (Bellamy) who is above suspicion. Flynn helps the cops track down the jewel thief ring and the murderer. The forced comedy comes from Flynn’s efforts to hide his secret life from his wife and her mother, who when she discovers what he is doing bemoans that she will be dropped from the social register. It ends with the wife promising to join Flynn in his next detective case, but saner heads prevailed among the studio honchos and there never was a sequel.
Lloyd Bacon does his usual workmanlike job delivering a typical studio film. Screenwriter Lester Cole was one of the Hollywood 10, blacklisted and imprisoned during Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Communist witchhunt.
REVIEWED ON 3/18/2004 GRADE: C