Movie Critique – A Shot in the Dark

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: A fast paced mystery movie; entertaining and enchanting 57 minutes that wont bore you even for a second. 

A Shot in the Dark is a 1941 American comedy mystery film starring William Lundigan, Nan Wynn and Ricardo Cortez. Film is based on a short story, No Hard Feelings, by Frederick Nebel in the Black Mask magazine. It is also a remake of the 1937 film Smart Blonde starring Torchy Blane.

Lieutenant William Ryder (portrayed by Regis Toomey) is tagged along by reporter Peter Kennedy (portrayed by William Lundigan) when William is trying to solve two murders. Both of them have love interest in Dixie Waye (portrayed by Nan Wynn), club singer at the club owned by Philip Richards (portrayed by Ricardo Cortez).

Contrary to how the opening credits of the key characters were given for most films then, here we see only the role of the character on their picture. Their real names are not mentioned on their pictures but are shown in text format at the very beginning of the opening credits. 

Ricardo Cortez portrayed the role of the night club owner Philip Richards in the movie. A few days ago I had seen him in the 1936 mystery film The Murder of Dr. Harrigan where he portrayed the role of the lead doctor trying to solve the case and get his girl friend off the suspect list. 

Nan Wynn, the very pretty club singer, performs three songs for the viewers delight. First song, I'm Just Wild About Waldo" opens the movie. Noble Sissie penned the Lyrics to Eubie Blake's Music. The other two songs that she performs in the film are - For You whose Lyrics were penned by Al Dubin and Music composed by Joseph A. Burke; and It Just Happened whose Lyrics were penned by Ralph Freed and Music composed by Jimmy McHugh. 

William Lundigan reminds me so much of William R. Moses when he played the role of Ken Malansky, private investigator and assistant attorney to Perry Mason in the TV moves that were made between 1985 and 1995.

Although William and Peter fight for the girl, they actually form a pretty good pair of detectives - one professional and one amateur. Their chemistry is seamless and the timing of comedy between them is perfect.

The car chase is memorable from the movie, more so because it is lead by Helen Armstrong (portrayed by Maris Wrixon), a woman for a change when most car chasings are portrayed with men. One thing I found odd though. William is portrayed as a reporter, but after the chase when the final report is published in the newspaper, there is no where his name mentioned in the report. 

The final dialogue between William and Peter reminded me of the closure of Disney cartoons from yester years where it was closed by "That's All Folks!". In here they say:

Peter: That's All, Brother!
William: That's All!.

A fast paced mystery movie with comic relief, unexpected turns, romance, mobs, villains and a happy conclusion in the end. Entertaining and enchanting 57 minutes that wont bore you even for a second. 

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Nan Wynn's character role is shown as Torch Singer in the credits. Ricardo Cortez incidentally had been in the 1933 film titled Torch Singer. Perhaps a homage. 

b. Nan Wynn as Dixie, walks off with a Navy Lieutenant-Commander (the man in the middle in the picture below) instead of going with either of the guys - Detective or the Reporter. The Naval Officer was portrayed by Frank Wilcox. Frank had appeared in several of Perry Mason as a Judge in the episodes that aired on TV between 1957 and 1960. That's where I remember him from and hence seemed very familiar.


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