MURDER MAN, THE
(director/writer: Tim Whelan; screenwriters: from a story by Guy Bolton/John C. Higgins; cinematographer: Lester White; editor: James E. Newcom; music: William Axt; cast: Spencer Tracy (Steve Grey), Virginia Bruce (Mary Shannon), Lionel Atwill (Police Capt. Cole), Harvey Stephens (Henry Mander), Robert Barrat (Hal Robins, editor), William Collier Sr.(Pop Grey), Lucien Littlefield(Peter Rafferty), Robert Warwick (Coleville, defense attorney), Theodore von Eltz(James Spencer Halford), Lita Chevret (Clara, secretary for financiers); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harry Rapf; MGM; 1935)
“Breezy programmer crime drama.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Breezy programmer crime drama directed and cowritten by Tim Whelan (“The Thief of Bagdad”/”Nightmare”/”Action for Slander”).It was the acting debut of James Stewart and Spencer Tracy’s first film for MGM. It’s based on a story by Guy Bolton.
Set in NYC. Hotshot heavy drinking homicide reporter of the Daily Star, Steve Grey (Spencer Tracy), is found after a drinking binge asleep on a merry-go-round and his distressed editor, Robins (Robert Barrat), sends him out to cover the murder story of crooked womanizing financier Halford. The slick financier was found with a rifle bullet in his head while riding in the back seat of his chauffeur driven car. As usual, Steve is so good at his job that he sniffs out the murderer before the police. Using his newspaper skills he figures out it was Halford’s crooked partner, Mander (Harvey Stephens), who did it from a shooting gallery, to disguise the noise. The motive was to collect an insurance policy on his partner because he needed to cover a bond loss. Mander gets the electric chair and before the execution the Daily Star is granted a last interview with the condemned man.
Steve’s colleague, who writes an advice column for romantics, Mary Shannon (Virginia Bruce), has a crush on Steve and feels he’s killing himself by drinking so much and acting so depressed with the part he played in the conviction of Mander, as he testified at the trial that Mander and his partner once swindled his father out of his life savings. Mary gets Steve to take a long country vacation and not tell anyone where he is holed up. But the editor badly wants Steve to do the Mander’s deathhouse interview at Sing Sing and has Shorty track him down by following Mary.
Unable to allow Mander to die for the crime he framed him for, the guilt-stricken Steve confesses and turns himself over to the police and gives his editor the sensationalist confession story.
Stewart has a small part as a cub reporter jokingly named “Shorty,” given that he’s 6’3.”
Though it strains credibility, it was entertaining and pictures a bygone era when the Fourth Estate took themselves so seriously and there were so many profitable newspapers competing for circulation.
REVIEWED ON 8/15/2011 GRADE: B-