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John M. Stahl
Scotty Hamilton is a reporter who works for a crooked editor. Bill Banning is another reporter who is about to expose the editor's ties to the mob. When the editor is killed, both reporter Banning and mobster Tony Garcia are suspected. However, Hamilton's friend Edgar Bergen solves the case (without much help from Charlie McCarthy).Written by
Richard Nathan <Richard-Nathan@worldnet.att.net>
Delightful Universal Comedy/Mystery, with a Great Supporting Cast
After a long wait, I finally got hold of a copy of Charlie McCarthy, Detective (1939), a Universal mystery/comedy directed by Frank Tuttle (known for Philo Vance and other crime-oriented films).
First of all, the running time currently listed on IMDb for this film (as of May 8, 2017) is incorrect. It says 65 minutes, and one of the reviewers here concurs, saying the film runs barely over an hour. But the reviewer, and whoever supplied the 65-minute time, must have seen a shortened edition. My version runs at 74:39. If you have seen only a 65-minute edition, you've missed some of the plot. (Note: I have submitted a request to correct this running time.)
This is a delightful film. It's a murder mystery, of course, with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy taking a break from their nightclub act to work on the case. But before that, we get to see some of the nightclub act, and it's some of the best Bergen/McCarthy stuff on film, even including a "title song" with Charlie dressed up Sherlock Holmes, announcing his brilliance as a detective. Working with Edgar and Charlie in the act is Constance Moore, whose character sings two pretty romantic songs, apparently written especially for the film. There is also plenty of witty repartee between Bergen and McCarthy throughout the film, and several bits of comedy relief by Mortimer Snerd, who is also better than normal in this film.
This film is a treat for fans of old films who love to see their favourite character actors pop up in odd places. Here we see, in major and minor roles, Louis Calhern, Samuel Hinds, Harold Huber (as a comic-bookish gangster), Warren Hymer, Edgar Kennedy, Grace Hayle, Charles Lane (as a doctor!), Milburn Stone, and (for only a quick look) the pretty Universal contract player Anne Gwynne (as one of Lane's nurses). And oh, don't forget, Bob Cummings has a major role in the film, and second-string romantic lead John Sutton (as the love of Constance Moore's life) has a substantial role as well.
As a mystery, the story is only so-so, but that's hardly the point in this film. The point is to combine the genre of murder mystery with Bergen/McCarthy/Snerd clowning, and it's done very well.
I don't go out of my way to catch Bergen/McCarthy films, but this one is worth seeing at least once. It deserves at least a 7 out of 10, and maybe more. My rating of 8 is a bit too high, perhaps, but the 6.4 current average is way too low. It's not a superb comedy, but it's a breezy, entertaining one. If you can get a good copy at the full running time, and if you have no objection in principle to Bergen and McCarthy, and if you love 30s/40s film casts, you won't be disappointed with this one.
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