Rita Johnson and George Murphy in London by Night (1937)


(director: William Thiele; screenwriters: from a play by Will Scott/George Oppenheimer; cinematographer: Leonard Smith; editor: George Boemler; cast: George Murphy (Michael Denis), Rita Johnson (Patricia Herrick), Virginia Field (Bessie), Eddie Quillan (Bill), Leonard Mudie (Squires), Leo G. Carroll (Correy), George Zucco (Inspector Jefferson), Montagu Love (Sir Arthur Herrick), J.M. Kerrigan (Tims); Runtime: 70; MGM; 1937)
“An entertaining mystery filmed on the back lot of MGM.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An entertaining mystery filmed on the back lot of MGM, though it convincingly looks like foggy London. A couple of cockney lovebirds, barmaid Bessie (Field) and store clerk Bill (Quillan), are sitting on a park bench in Sundial Square when they observe a man with an umbrella go into the shop where Bill works. The man with the umbrella hastily leaves the shop after a shot is fired, but the owner of the shop who was just whistling can’t be located. It’s as if his body disappeared. The only thing that is found inside is a note in red chalk saying: Pay or be seen no more! First on the scene is newspaper reporter Michael Denis (Murphy) and his Irish Terrier called Jones. He calls Scotland Yard Inspector Jefferson (Zucco).

A half-hour later, a policeman is shot by the same man with the umbrella. The inspector labels the killer as the Umbrella Man, and Denis who is supposed to go to Paris on a vacation finds the case too intriguing to leave.

Everyone looks suspicious in the foggy night so when Denis sees a man with an umbrella sneaking into the window of a house on the square, he tackles him. It turns out he’s the butler, Squires, to Sir Arthur Herrick (Love). Herrick’s attractive daughter Patricia (Rita) finds this escapade amusing, and a romance blossoms between Denis and her. While her father seems upset with the intrusion and his sickly secretary, Correy (Carroll), seems ashen.

Warning: spoiler in the next two paragraphs.

Meanwhile two more people involved with the Umbrella Man disappear. As the mystery is built around the fact these victims didn’t exist, but that it was the killer disguised as them so he could execute his diabolical scheme.

The climax comes when Sir Arthur receives the same note in red chalk the other victims received and must give money to the note sender or else die like the other victims. Denis works out a way to trap the Umbrella Man with the assistance of Scotland Yard.

It was strictly lightweight fare, done in a breezy style, but it proved to be an enjoyable B-film. George Murphy was later on to become the Republican senator from California.