THE MURDER MAN (1935) 

Spencer Tracy
Virginia Bruce
Lionel Atwill
Harvey Stephens
Robert Barrat
John Sheehan
James Stewart
William Collier Sr.
Louise Henry
Lucien Littlefield

Tim Whelan


About Tracy

Time: 69 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Drama/Crime

SYNOPSIS: A well-known crime reporter seems to be one step ahead of the police as they try to solve the murder of a local shady businessman, which is quickly pined on the victim's partner. When the partner, who is sentenced to die, is up for execution the real truth about the murder is revealed.

BOTTOM LINE: A by-the-book mystery that has very little to recommend it except the presence of Tracy, who isn't exactly in top form. The film's main trouble is a plot that lacks any excitement because it's clear, almost from the beginning, who actually committed the murder. It's a first-rate frame-up that takes an hour for the true killer to find the courage to confess, which leaves the middle sort of mundane. Tracy, as a morose reporter, spends most of his screentime angry or drunk, which isn't very pleasant to watch. The other characters can't seem to figure out why he's trying to drown his sorrows, however, the answer quickly becomes obvious to the viewer.

The guts of this film don't lay in the how, but the why, which isn't revealed until the very end and makes the pace pretty slow-going. Tracy's good enough to get you to care what happens to him, but just barely. The person you feel sorry for is his "girl friday" Mary, played poignantly by the lovely Virginia Bruce. She may have mostly been a B-movie actress, yet she takes an almost thankless role here, generating real warmth and chemistry with Tracy. Blink and you'll miss Stewart in one of his first appearances as a young reporter trying to help Tracy. The bits of humor about the hardscramble ways of the newspaper racket are amusing, yet hardly original and fail to lift the energy of the piece. Even the potential for romance is cut off at the pass due to the inevitable ending. Though well-constructed with some moments of wit, this isn't a film that will enthrall anyone but a true Tracy fan.

"If he was sober there must be something the matter."

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