Secret Evidence (1941)

US / 63 minutes / bw / PRC Dir: William Nigh Pr: E.B. Derr Scr: Brenda Cline Story: Edward Bennett Cine: Arthur Martinelli Cast: Marjorie Reynolds, Charles Quigley, Ward McTaggart, Howard Masters, Bob White, Kenneth Harlan, Donald Curtis, Charles Phipps, Dorothy Vaughan, Bud Buster, Kitty McHugh, Boyd Irwin.

On the eve of accepting a new job as Assistant Prosecutor, lawyer David Harrison (Quigley) becomes engaged to his longtime secretary Linda Wilson (Reynolds). That same night, however, her ex-fiancé Tony Baxter (McTaggart) calls by her house; released from jail after serving four years for robbery, he wants to reclaim the stash he left with Linda’s kid brother Jerry (Masters) . . . and is mortified to discover Linda made Jerry turn over the loot to the cops. And, of course, Tony would like to renew relations with Linda.

She tries to tell him to get lost, but in the end agrees to meet him later that night at his lodgings in the down-at-heel Arcadia Cottages . . . where, unknown to her, Tony has booked her in as his wife. By the time she gets there, however, Tony has broken it to his old accomplice Sniffy (White) that the loot they stole together is no more; Sniffy, believing Tony’s trying to stiff him of his share, shoots him—although the wound’s only superficial. As this is all going on, Linda arrives and, separately, Jerry, the latter with a gun; when Linda struggles to get the gun from him, it goes off. No one’s hurt by this accidental detonation but the appearance is that it might have been Jerry who shot Tony, and Tony isn’t planning on telling the cops who his assailant was, not when he has the chance to make David look stupid in front of the woman they both crave.

To the bafflement of the DA, William Burt (whom we don’t actually see), David persists in pressing the prosecution of Jerry even after forensics demonstrate the bullet that wounded Tony didn’t come from Jerry’s gun . . .

The story’s obviously somewhat fanciful, but at the same time it’s rather cleverly worked out, and overall this is quite neatly scripted—a cut above the PRC norm. The production values and acting standards are, alas, more as we’re accustomed to seeing from this studio: scenery that looks as if it might fall over if anyone slams a door too hard, hasty sound editing, and patchy acting, with Reynolds her usual charming self, McTaggart and especially Masters surprisingly good, and all the rest—including leading man Quigley—being at best blandly forgettable.

Reynolds’s time of glory was just about to begin: the following year she’d be starring opposite Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn (1942); by then, though, she’d have made no fewer than six further movies for the likes of PRC.

On Amazon.com: Secret Evidence and Secret Evidence

 

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