» » The Murder Man (1935)

Short summary

Steve Grey, reporter for the Daily Star, has a habit of scooping all the other papers in town. When Henry Mander is investigated for the murder of his shady business partner, Grey is one step ahead of the police to the extent that he often dictates his story in advance of its actual occurrence. He leads the police through an 'open and shut' case resulting in Mander being tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Columnist Mary Shannon is in love with Steve but she sees him struggle greatly with his last story before Mander's execution. When she starts typing out the story from his recorded dictation, she realizes why.

James Stewart spoke his first movie line in this film: "Hi, Joe."

This film marks the first for Spencer Tracy under MGM contract. He would remain at MGM for the next 20 years.

This film did well at the box office, earning MGM a profit of $184,000 ($3.3M in 2017) according to studio records.

Although credited with the score, only stock cues by William Axt were used on the soundtrack.

Robert Benchley and Frank Mayo are in studio cast lists but are not in the released print.

This film was first telecast in Los Angeles Thursday 28 February 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11), followed by Chicago 9 March 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), by Altoona PA 19 March 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10), by Philadelphia 31 March 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6), by Kansas City MO 17 May 1957 on KCMO (Channel 5), by Minneapolis 17 June 1957 on KMGM (Channel 9), by Norfolk VA 4 July 1957 on WTAR (Channel 3), and by Amarillo 19 July 1957 on KFDA (Channel 19); its initial airings in Seattle occurred 19 February 1959 on KING (Channel 5), in New York City 5 July 1959 on WCBS (Channel 2) and in San Francisco 30 November 1959 on KGO (Channel 7).

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Nuadora
    A very good film. It is typical of the 1930's "news reporter" films that were so prevalent back then, and this one holds up very well. Spencer Tracy gives another great performance as the reporter and the rest of the cast help him out with outstanding performances all around. It was something to see Lionel Atwill without a moustache!! Never saw that before!! LOL And it was great to see my favorite character actor, Charles Trowbridge in it also, although he is the prosecuting attorney in the film and not the investor, as it says in his bio on the IMDB. Great little film with a twist ending!! Be sure and catch it when it is on television. You won't be disappointed, I wasn't.
  • comment
    • Author: Natety
    This was one of the first features that Spencer Tracy did for his new studio MGM when they signed him in 1935. At his first studio, 20th Century Fox he was cast in a whole lot of routine action pictures as a two-fisted rugged type in whatever role he played. It's no different here, in fact until he played Father Mullin in San Francisco, Tracy's MGM career promised more roles of the same type.

    Here he's a newspaper reporter in the best tradition of The Front Page which this film borrows a lot from. He's called The Murder Man because he's the one the editor, Robert Barrat, call for when he wants coverage on any homicide. He's covering one in this film concerning an investment broker (con artist) who's accused of killing his partner. In fact Tracy provides key evidence for a conviction.

    The movie does have a surprise ending which I won't reveal, unusual for a film in the 1930s. That and the presence of Spencer Tracy and James Stewart make it worth viewing.

    This was the film debut of James Stewart. He has a role of another reporter on the same paper as Tracy. He was signed by MGM after appearing on Broadway in the play Yellow Jacket and garnering rave reviews. He's the same Jimmy Stewart that soon became an icon, but he didn't get much attention for the few lines he had here. He would have to wait for his next film appearance in Rose Marie to get moviegoers attention.
  • comment
    • Author: Milleynti
    I predict that when junk like Big Brother and The Weakest Link are gone and forgotten from our TV screens movies of the vintage and caliber of `The Murder Man' will still be providing us with superb entertainment.

    I love these old thirties `Newspaper dramas' which probably culminated with the sublime `His Girl Friday' and this one stands up well despite lack of realism. Did New York papers really produce fresh editions all day long? Come to think of it perhaps they did in the days pre-TV.

    I agree with the many judges who rate Spencer Tracy one of the greatest of all screen actors but feel he goes a bit over the top here, he certainly reined in his performances later. On the other hand James Stewart in his debut (?) appears fully formed with all the shy gawky charm which made him a star for the next fifty years already apparent.

    `The Murder Man' is an excellent fast-moving film with a twist in the plot that I challenge you to pick. See this one if you can.
  • comment
    • Author: Painshade
    This is an exceptional little film due to an excellent script. Spencer Tracy stars as an alcoholic newspaper man who specializes in covering murder investigations. His ability to guess what occurred and how it occurred is amazing--as again and again he's able to piece together the little it of evidence they have to determine the facts of the case. As a result, he always beats out the competing papers for breaks in the investigation. However, Spencer actually has a bit of an edge in this particular case, but I don't want to say more as it would spoil the film.

    The writing, acting and direction are all exceptional and the film is well worth seeing. Overall, an excellent effort by Tracy playing a role VERY close to home, as he himself was an alcoholic and binge drinker in real life--just like the character in the film. Also, look for a very young Jimmy Stewart in a rather bland supporting role before he became a star.
  • comment
    • Author: Raelin
    Steve Grey (Spencer Tracy) is the best homicide newspaper journalist in the city: they call him "the Murder Man." If there's a murder, he'll get all the inside information, and he'll have it on the press first. That he always succeeds despite a debilitating weakness for alcohol is considered by colleagues simply a part of his genius. In the killing of investment broker (read: con artist) James Spencer Halford – snipered in a car from a streetside shooting gallery – Grey is once again on the frontline, with an uncanny knack for reporting murder details before even the police know them.

    Grey plays the story from both sides, as a pivotal witness in the murder case against Henry Mander, the victim's business associate, and as a reporter ostensibly reporting the unbiased facts (intriguingly, it's a two-way street, since Grey often twists the facts to his advantage). This MGM drama, which I had expected to be as grim as the similarly- themed 'Crime Without Passion' with Claude Rains, is surprisingly light- hearted in tone for the most part. Particular amusement is provided by the lanky young form of Jimmy Stewart, boasting a cheerful cockeyed grin in his feature debut. Jimmy's first ever words in a prolific movie career? "Hi, Joe!"
  • comment
    • Author: SoSok
    This movie includes the first significant starring role for James Stewart who has a supporting part as a newspaper reporter. The main focus of the movie is on Spencer Tracy who is the ace reporter for the New York Star newspaper who is good at reporting on murder cases. The movie starts off with a scene that involves two rather shady money financiers. You need to pay attention to what happens at the start because it is crucial to explaining the conclusion of the movie's storyline. The story involves a murder of one of the shady financiers and the trial of his partner for his murder. Spencer's character appears to have the jump on all of the other newspaper reporters when the headline news comes out during the murder trial. The trial ends with the conviction of the partner and he is sentenced to die. The movie then has a twist that turns the storyline completely in a different direction. Spencer's character makes a voice recording that explains the events that occurred at the start of the movie. Spencer plays a somewhat "bad" character which differs from his many other movie roles in this film. There also wasn't a final conclusion at the end of this movie, so it might leave some viewers disappointed. However, it was a very interesting movie with a surprise twist at the end.
  • comment
    • Author: Marr
    The thirties was an amazing time in film. Noir was to be refined, with one of its main elements being our on-screen detective. Before the conventions matured, we had a good 6- 7 years of experiments about embedded story and on screen surrogates. Some of those surrogates were detectives of different kinds, including newspaper reporters and insurance guys.

    This is one of the most interesting experiments. The large shape has our detective being both outside and inside the story, what I can folding. He is a writer, and writes both the outside and inside stories. An inner observer of our folded man is an earnest woman. There are a lot of symmetries in this thing — very tight writing and lots of screen details.

    One screen detail is a good example. We have a nervous street huckster who factors as an innocent in the murder. He is portrayed with a delicate balance of confidence and control when he is in his element and slightly hidden deference when with the law. He is court to testify as to what he saw. As he is called, he hands his hat to the surprised cop beside him. There is a 3 second — not even that — interplay concerning the hat, and its role in the social order. It is perfect.

    I came to not like Spencer Tracey in his later career, his stock mannerisms and one-size- fits-all reflexes. But here he is fresh, spontaneous, right on.

    Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
  • comment
    • Author: Arador
    Spencer Tracy is the title character. He is a newspaper's ace crime reporter in this very good movie that could have been great.

    I've read quite a lot about Tracy's life. The character he plays seems to have many traits and behavioral patterns in common with the real Spencer Tracy, who was apparently a far darker person than many of the benevolent roles he played.

    This moves along at a good clip. At times it's upsetting, at others it's exciting.

    Virginia Bruce is the lonely-hearts columnist at the paper. She has crush on Tracy but he has secrets and a past that have kept him from allowing a relationship to develop. (A couple years earlier, before the Code, it well might have developed anyway.) Bruce was a beautiful woman, with a poignant, ethereal quality. Here, however, she is unflatteringly costumed, made-up, and/or lit. She comes across more as a mannish, dowdy old maid schoolteacher than the romantic leading lady she was.

    "Fury" is not a sunny movie, to say the least. This is another movie that shows a different Tracy we know from his two 1930s Oscar-winning roles, the collaborations with Katharine Hepburn, and "Father of the Bride" and its sequel.

    The very darkest of all his movies, however, is "The People Against O'Hara." I consider that one a classic. This is not quite a classic but it's unique and gripping.
  • comment
    • Author: Dalallador
    A man is murdered and hard-drinking reporter Spencer Tracy is on the story. Tracy specializes in murder cases, not only scooping other papers but often figuring out the cases before the police do. Here his investigation leads the police to the murdered man's shady business partner. I won't reveal more as this one has a dandy twist. If you haven't watched yet, I strongly recommend you avoid reading too much about this movie so you don't accidentally read any big spoilers.

    Tracy's terrific in a complex role in this smart, fast-paced crime drama from MGM. It's notable today for being Jimmy Stewart's film debut (as a reporter named Shorty). Stewart's just one of the many good actors in the supporting cast, which includes Lionel Atwill, William Demarest, Robert Barrat, Harvey Stephens, George Chandler, and beautiful Virginia Bruce as the girl in love with Tracy. This is one that deserves some wider recognition. It's somewhat surprising it was made after the Code was in effect and surprising it was made at MGM. But then again, they made Fury the following year, which also starred Tracy and was grittier than their normal fare. It's worth a look for anyone who's a fan of '30s crime dramas and a must-see for Spencer Tracy fans.
  • comment
    • Author: net rider
    Spencer Tracy is a newspaper reporter known as "The Murder Man" in this 1935 drama, also starring Virginia Bruce and Lionel Atwill. James Stewart has a small part as a reporter named Shorty. Two parts of this film are of particular interest, the first being something called a shooting gallery that's not what you think it is. Apparently these carnival/state fair type things where you shoot ducks actually existed along city streets in the '30s. They still do, only today, a shooting gallery is something else entirely. In "The Murder Man," this shooting gallery figures into the plot.

    The second thing of interest in this film has to do with the very beginning of the movie, which today, gives away the entire plot. For the 1935 audience, it did not. Without using a spoiler, I'll just say - pay careful attention to the telephone call.

    The plot concerns the death of an investment broker and the subsequent indictment of his partner. The Tracy character is Steve Gray, a top reporter who has some personal demons but nevertheless is on top of the case. It's he who demonstrates to the police that the killer actually was standing at the shooting gallery at the time of the murder. He's therefore able to scoop his competitors.

    Tracy is very good as the reporter, and Virginia Bruce is lovely as a secretary on the paper who is falling for Steve. It's interesting to see the young Stewart in a minor role, but he fits in well with the ensemble.

    The dialogue is quick and sharp, but for this viewer, there was no surprise ending. Worth seeing for two great stars before they really hit it big.
  • comment
    • Author: Shaktiktilar
    Murder Man, The (1935)

    *** (out of 4)

    Very good "B" movie from MGM has Spencer Tracy playing newspaper reporter Steve Grey who has the nickname of "The Murder Man" due to him being able to crack any case. The latest big story deals with a murdered insurance man who appears to have been killed by his partner (Harvey Stephens) but he claims he's innocent and the majority of the evidence from the police captain (Lionel Atwill) really doesn't tie him to the events. THE MURDER MAN looks like it was a rushed job and there's no question not too much money went into it but the cast, story and direction make it a must see and it's really a gem that should be better known. The greatest aspect is certainly the cast as we get veterans like Tracy, Atwill and Virginia Bruce but we also get a small role played by James Stewart. I'm sure a number of lesser actors could have been handed this role but it's quite easy to see that they wouldn't have brought as much to it as Tracy. Tracy has that terrific ability to make acting look easy but the role here was a pretty difficult one because he's character is dealing with alcohol abuse as well as other issues. Tracy does a remarkable job at showing off all of these emotions and while this certainly isn't as great as many of his future roles, the actor really gives it his all and delivers a memorable performance. Bruce is also very good in her role as the girlfriend and the two have some nice chemistry together. I was also quite impressed with Stephens who manages to be quite cocky early in the film and the actor really gets to shine towards the end when he's cracking from about to hit the chair. Stewart doesn't have a very big role but he does what he can with it. I love watching legends before they were stars and here's the perfect example because it's not everyday you can see someone like Stewart playing such a role. Tracy and Stewart share a couple scenes together, which will certainly please film buffs. The story itself is a pretty strong one and when the final twist happens you can't help but feel good that the film would stick to its gun and go for the shock instead of dealing some weak, lame attempt to make everything happy.
  • comment
    • Author: Flathan
    The Murder Man is one of several newspaper films from the 1930's that ran the gamut of dramatic to comedic, like The Front Page and His Girl Friday respectively. What it has in common with both is its lightning quick pace and snappy dialog. What it lacks is a believable story and compelling, well drawn characters. Spencer Tracy plays Steve Grey, the murder man, so named because he handles all of the Star newspaper's homicide stories. Tracy played this hard-bitten, dramatic type of role well throughout his career, and this film is no exception. Lionel Atwill is on hand as a police official in an unusual good guy role for him. Virginia Bruce plays an unusually unglamorous role for her, that of Tracy's newspaper co-worker. The film contains a few welcome supporting performances from William Demarest, Lucien Littlefield, and a guy by the name of James Stewart (in his feature film debut). The film rests solely on Tracy's performance to carry it, and he does to a certain extent. However, the twist ending is not that believable and seems almost abrupt. In retrospect, everything in the film leading up to the ending seems contrived. It's still worth viewing for an early Tracy performance and Stewart's debut. **1/2 of 4 stars.
  • comment
    • Author: Ynye
    Another of the good newspaper movies of the Thirties. Spencer Tracy dominates as usual with a stellar performance. He is supported by a handful of veteran character actors that are wonderful to watch augmented by the appearance of James Stewart in his introductory appearance. Hard boiled and hard drinking Tracy as Steve Grey seems to be more detective than reporter and is a confidant of the police captain, Lionel Atwill. Everyone knows and admires Steve Grey. It was not surprising that the obvious criminal was not the guilty party but it was stunning to find Steve Grey the culprit. One half expected this to be implausible and another killer found. However, Grey is the admitted murderer, but not to be taken too seriously. This is because of the strange ending. Captain Cole, Lionel Atwill, says that his girlfriend and father really shouldn't worry because Steve Grey might well get off implying he had good cause and how the jury would react. That he was a cold blooded killer seemed to be a minor issue. Enjoyable because of the cast not the script.
  • comment
    • Author: Gom
    Copyright 15 July 1935 by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Corp. New York opening at the Capitol: 26 July 1935. U.S. release: 12 July 1935. Australian release: 1 April 1936. 7 reels. 70 minutes.

    SYNOPSIS: Who killed a racketeering investment broker? His partner? A disgruntled client? A discarded lady? A rival "businessman"?

    COMMENT: "A"-grade murder mystery which plays scrupulously fair to its viewers. In fact, I would say it's too fair, as a keen-eyed and acute-eared audience will have no trouble spotting the killer straight away. Nonetheless, it's directed with pace and enacted by as fine a cast as M-G-M ever assembled. Tracy in his first outing for the Lion provides a typically driving performance in a characterization which seems remarkably close to the knuckle. Miss Bruce makes a charming and sympathetic "love" interest. Although his role can be counted as small, "Shorty" Stewart will not disappoint his fans as his gawky mannerisms and drawling delivery are already fully fledged. We also enjoyed Lionel Atwill's ingratiating police captain. Aided by a first-class script, Atwill (in a rare totally-on-the-side-of-the-angels part) builds an uncommonly rounded portrait of a dedicated detective.

    As for the support players, just look at that cast! I'd love to go through the list and congratulate all, one by one, but let's just say that Lucien Littlefield, as the patently law-abiding shooting gallery-man, and Charles Trowbridge, an immaculate District Attorney, are especially fortunate both in the size and scope of their roles and the vital way in which their scenes are directed by tenacious Tim Whelan.

    As well as its powerful direction and cup-runneth-over assembly of Hollywood's brightest players, The Murder Man also boasts a friendly budget with top-of-the-drawer production values plus atmospherically A-1 behind-the-camera credits.
  • comment
    • Author: Beazerdred
    **SPOILERS**Even though crooked financial investor Henry Mander, Harry Stephens, was nothing but a low down and despicable swine he still didn't deserve the fate that faced him with Mander being just hours away from his trip to the Sing Sing electric chair. Nobody knew that better then the "New York Star" ace crime reporter Stev Gray, Spencer Tracy, yet it was Gray's testimony that put Mander in the very fix that he was in.

    The movie "The Murder Man" tries and succeeds to convince it's audience that justice should be blind in it's treatment even of someone as guilty as Henry Mander of the financial crimes that he committed against hundreds of unsuspecting victims. Two of Manders many victims included reporters Gray's both father "Pop" Gray, who lost his life savings in one of of Manders schemes, and his wife Dorothy who was driven to suicide by Mander and his partners J.S Halfords,Theodore Von Eltz actions. Halford not only took Dorothy's money but had an illicit affair with her and then unceremoniously dumped Dorothy leaving her estranged from Steve and out on the street.

    It's obvious right from the start that Mander was set up in the murder of his equally sleazy partner J.S Halford as we see him being told in a mysterious phone call to be at this shooting gallery where someone in the vicinity takes a pot shot at Holford, as he was in his open air limousine, that killed him. It doesn't take that long for the police to arrest Mander for his partners Halfords murder and the evidence is that Mander is to be the recipient of a $200,000.00 insurance policy on Halford.

    Being the star witness at Manders murder trial Gray's testimony is the icing on the cake that convinced the jury to come back with a guilty verdict that was to send Mander to the electric chair. Having the exclusive to the biggest news story in the city Gray doesn't at all act as if you, or his fellow reporters, expect him to and goes on a drinking binge that has his boss at "The Star" news editor Hal Robins, Robert Barrat, order Gray to take a forced vacation and dry out.

    Gray is obviously suffering some kind of severe depression over Manders impending execution but it takes an exclusive interview with Mander just before his scheduled execution for us the realize why. Gray had a lot more to do with Mander's crime and later conviction for it that anyone, but Gray, could have ever imagined and it's the absolutely shocking and surprising conclusion of the movie that put that all into focus.

    Powerful crime film that goes against the grain in it's treatment of both the killer and his victim that will really blow you away. Spencer Tracy as Steve Gray gives one of his most underrated as well as, being that the film is almost totally unknown to most movie goers, unseen performance of his long and distinguished career. The movie "The Murder Man" also has the distinction of being James 'Jimmy" Stewart's motion picture debut. The tall, six foot three inch, and lanky Stewart plays Steve Gray's fellow reporter on "The Star" who's ironically referred to by everyone in the movie as "Shorty"!
  • comment
    • Author: Alexandra
    This was a great B&W film from the 1930's and the film was full of great veteran actors. Spencer Tracy, (Steve Grey) "Edison" '40 played a hot shot murder reporter for a large newspaper and some times he would go on very long serious drinking bouts. His fellow reporters often wondered why he drank so much, but Steve never revealed what was bothering him. Virginia Bruce,(Mary Shannon), "Strangers When We Meet",'60, worked for the same newspaper as Steve and a small spark of romance started between them, but his drinking kept them a part. Lionel Atwill, (Police Capt. Cole), "House of Frankenstein",'44, gave a great supporting role along with William Demarest,(Red), "My Three Son's",'65 TV series, was a character actor who played a newspaper reporter on another newspaper in town. In real life, Spencer Tracy would often go on drinking bouts and not be seen for weeks during breaks between his filming engagements. This is a great 1935 film and even James Stewart, (Shorty-reporter) made a very brief performance.
  • comment
    • Author: Rich Vulture
    A man is deeply wronged by smart businessmen and acts upon it. He is morally in the right, since the culprit being acted upon would go on with his mayhem if he was not stopped and there was only this way to stop him.

    I cannot tell much more without Writing a spoiler but I wanted to Review this film because it tells about a moral code that seems lost today. Today everybody in America seems so committed to business that they would not react like the man above because I hear of no such stories although there must be a billion of them around and seemingly nobody is reacting on them.

    Maybe it will happen some time and then it will come like a big Avalanche and sweep most of it Clean - who knows? If it happens though, it will be the end of all business and the beginning of decency.
  • comment
    • Author: Dishadel
    Okay, it was the height of the depression. But who at MGM back in 1935 signed off on making a depressing murder mystery? I'd say more but then I'd have to add a spoiler alert. The tale centers on Spencer Tracy as a boozy, embittered crime reporter who's hauled back from a bender to cover the murder of a crooked financial guru. He not only helps homicide detective Lionel Atwill solve the case but becomes a star witness when the accused killer goes on trial. Along the way, he's assisted by Virginia Bruce as a lonely hearts columnist who's clearly nuts about the drunken newsman as well as a gangly young reporter nicknamed "Shorty" -- Jimmy Stewart in his feature film debut. "Murder Man" also gives stage actor Robert Barratt the chance to deliver a terrific performance as Tracy's long-suffering editor. The movie clips along at a fast pace and the twists keep building nicely although I found myself wondering how a carnival shooting gallery wound up across the street from an investment firm's high-rise HQ? But I guess that's the cinematic version of poetic license. As a curiosity piece, "Murder Man" is well worth watching -- and quite entertaining. But I'm still surprised that in those dark days when moviegoers went to the movies to escape the gloom, the screenplay ever got approved.
  • comment
    • Author: Rasmus
    Two financiers and swindlers get theirs when one is shot and killed and the other is accused and tried for the crime in this early, somewhat creaky film from the 1930's. The film has at its core the story of one newspaperman's spiral into drunkenness as the wife he once had has died and his father has lost all his savings to said swindlers. Spencer Tracy plays the newspaperman as only he can essay any role: with complete conviction and enormous talent. While this film is not great, it is a solid film on all fronts and has an intriguing conclusion. I enjoyed the look at what newspapers were like back then, the relationship to police that reporters had, and the wonderful character acting with the likes of Lionel Atwill, a young Jimmy Stewart, Virginia Bruce, William Demarest, and Robert Barrat as a hounding editor. Sure, lots of the journalism clichés are used here, but let's remember that for its time they were a lot fresher than they are now. Director Tim Whelan is solid behind the camera and manages to give Tracy(with his help) and Bruce some depth. The mystery isn't too hard to figure out, but the way it was handled was what struck me as somewhat inventive.
  • comment
    • Author: Legionstatic
    By that I mean it's not fair to insert the murderer in the last 10 minutes of a film. Up to that point it was a fairly tense murder mystery, with Spencer Tracy in the title role of the reporter who covers all the murders for a big city newspaper, and known as the Murder Man. Many contributors have related the plot, so I won't. Enough to say he is the witness who has the evidence to put the murderer behind bars.

    The end of the picture is one of the most contrived endings I had seen in some time, and none of it rang true. It wasn't a surprise ending, it was a phony ending. Tracy shines in a role in which he plays against type as a dissipated drunk, not the upstanding figure he became in subsequent films. Lionel Atwill is miscast as a Police Chief and Robert Barrat is unconvincing as the paper's editor. Virginia Bruce is her ethereal self and look for James Stewart as a cub reporter. And boos and hisses to the screenwriter who didn't know how to end this movie.

    5/10 - Website no longer prints my star rating.
  • comment
    • Author: AfinaS
    Newspaper stories like this one were popular beginning with "The Front Page" (1931) and including "Dance Fool Dance" (1931), "It Happened One Night" (1934), "Front Page Woman" (1935), "Love on the Run" (1936), and "Libeled Lady" (1936). My favorite newspaper stories include "Citizen Kane" (1941), "The Front Page" (1931),"All the President's Men" (1976), "Deadline USA" (1952) , "Sweet Smell of Success" (1957), and "Ace in the Hole" (1951), and "Meet John Doe" (1941).

    This film doesn't have the acting, direction, or location to match any of these films. It does have Spencer Tracey and a good supporting cast that includes Jimmy Stewart (his second film), Fuzzy Knight, Lionel Atwil, Robert Barrat, and Virginia Bruce. And it does have a twist that comes out of left field. But when you consider the quality of the films being produced in 1935 ("Mutiny on the Bounty", "The Informer", "Anna Karenina", "The 39 Steps", "The Bride of Frankenstein", "David Copperfield", "A Tale of Two Cities", "Les Miserables", "Top Hat", and "A Night at the Opera") the film has little merit.
  • comment
    • Author: Hulbine
    Spencer Tracy as a star New York reporter in a murder mystery that starts out as a fast-pace comedy and gradually turns dramatic.

    You'll recognize many of the faces in the supporting cast, even if you don't recognize the names. It's Jimmy Stewart's first film. He's "Shorty", the new reporter. Lionel Atwill gives the only performance in his life where he shows something resembling compassion, instead of his usual clipped authoritarianism.

    The cop at the merry-go-round is played by James Flavin. A native of Maine and a graduate of West Point, Flavin usually played Irish cops. Actually, he played nothing but Irish cops, and all cops in Hollywood in the 30s and 40s were played by James Flavin. Even the word "flavinoid" was coined to describe a person resembling a cop played by James Flavin. A performance that deliberately spoofs Flavin's notion of a cop is known in the trade as a "riboflavin," originally "rib of Flavin." You don't believe it? Look it up in Wikipedia.

    I'm trying to avoid any details of the plot because the solution to the mystery may come as a surprise.

    The first half hour is a shameless rip off of "The Front Page". Even the set design seems to replicate the press room in the play, or at any rate in "His Girl Friday." The pace isn't as fast in "The Murder Man" but still everyone rushes around, shouting fabricated stories into phones. It seems to call for bouncy Jimmy Cagney but he was busy at Warners and perhaps Tracy was better suited to the events leading up to the Big Reveal.

    Tracy's slouching figure is not exactly heroic. He's a star reporter, so they keep saying, but he disappears for days on end while on a major bender. At first his drunken impertinence is played for laughs. He and his editor at the New York Star grumble at each other, like Clark Gable drunkenly calling his editor a "big palooka" at the opening of "It Happened One Night." At first it seems like just another cheap movie with a fine cast, but after the writers have worked through their imitations and gotten the fake jokes out of the way, it turns rather interesting.
  • comment
    • Author: Rigiot
    I should preface my comments by saying that Spencer Tracy is one of my two very favorite movie actors. The first time I watched this film, I panned it. Today I watched it again, and I'm going to revise my review a bit.

    The problem with this film is not the acting. Spencer Tracy -- in his first MGM film -- does rather well in that category. There are times that, without words, Tracy characterizes a man with deep inner turmoil, which is exactly what this film needed. Virginia Bruce does well as the love interest. Lionel Atwill is acceptable as a police investigator. James Stewart has one of the most irrelevant roles of his career here, but then again, it was his very first film.

    The problem here also isn't the general story line. In a general sense, it works.

    But, as they say, the devil is in the details. For example, yes, reporter Tracy could seemingly report the news before it even happened...well, while we later learn that he knew things first hand, he didn't know how a police detective or a lawyer or a judge would react to certain events, so a newspaper -- even back then -- wouldn't be printing stories that might very well not pan out as reported. I don't expect film trials to be realistic, but here, each lawyer asked each witness one, or at most two, questions. Totally unrealistic. And then there's the first 10 minutes of the film -- a total waste of celluloid and adds little to the story; once Tracy shows up...asleep on a carousel, it does get more interesting, but everything is just a little too convenient for Tracy's character.

    But the, without warning, the last 20 minutes of the film comes alive as we find out that Tracy is the actual killer.

    With a good manuscript, this could have been a great film...but you have to at least give some hints to the audience that something is amiss. Not so here. The first half was so bad, that were Tracy not a personal favorite, I would have turned the film off.

    So watch the film to see great acting by Spencer Tracy. Tolerate the script.
  • Cast overview, first billed only:
    Spencer Tracy Spencer Tracy - Steve Grey
    Virginia Bruce Virginia Bruce - Mary Shannon
    Lionel Atwill Lionel Atwill - Captain Cole
    Harvey Stephens Harvey Stephens - Henry Mander
    Robert Barrat Robert Barrat - Hal Robins - Newspaper Editor
    James Stewart James Stewart - 'Shorty'
    William Collier Sr. William Collier Sr. - 'Pop' Grey
    Bobby Watson Bobby Watson - Carey Booth
    William Demarest William Demarest - 'Red' Maguire
    John Sheehan John Sheehan - Sweeney
    Lucien Littlefield Lucien Littlefield - Peter J. Rafferty
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