Classic Film Guide

Murder Man, The (1935)

James Stewart's film debut is also a pretty entertaining, if somewhat predictable, crime drama vehicle for Spencer Tracy. Both are reporters (as is noted character actor William Demarest), though Stewart's character is more an admirer of the legendary character Tracy plays, so dubbed the "murder man" because of his ability to solve homicide cases, scooping his fellow reporters and the police. Virginia Bruce plays copywriter Mary Shannon on the paper who also cares for Tracy's character (Steven Grey) deeply; Robert Barrat plays his editor Hal Robins. William Collier Sr. plays his father; Lionel Atwill plays Police Captain Cole. It was directed by Tim Whelan, who wrote the story with Guy Bolton and the screenplay with John Higgins.

There has been a murder and so Robins has engaged Mary, Shorty (Stewart), and everyone else in town to try to find Steve (Tracy), who is frequently found in a bar or some other place recovering from a bender (yes, the irony is rich in this one). When they find him, true to form, he is able to help point the police in the right direction and works to solve the mystery. In this case, it also turns out that he's a witness and is called to testify to help convict someone who is then sentenced to die.

True to form though, Steve disappears (on a bender again?) and when the paper gets wins an exclusive with the condemned, they have to find him again; which gives Stewart more screen time. The whole film is less than 70 minutes long, but though one hardly has time to catch their breath, most moviegoers will see the end of this one coming.

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