AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Whistling in the Dark
Director: S. Sylvan Simon (Dir)
Release Date:   8 Aug 1941
Production Date:   13 Jun--mid-Jul 1941
Duration (in mins):   76-77
Duration (in feet):   6,990
Duration (in reels):   8
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Cast:   Red Skelton (Wally Benton)  
    Conrad Veidt (Joseph Jones)  
    Ann Rutherford (Carol Lambert)  
    Virginia Grey ("Fran" Post)  
    "Rags" Ragland (Sylvester)  
    Henry O'Neill (Philip Post)  
    Eve Arden ("Buzz" Baker)  
    Paul Stanton (Jennings)  
    Don Douglas (Gordon Thomas)  
    Don Costello ("Noose" Green)  
    William Tannen (Robert Graves)  
    Reed Hadley (Beau Smith)  
    Mariska Aldrich (Hilda)  
    Lloyd Corrigan (Upshaw)  
    George Carleton (Deputy Commissioner O'Neill)  
    Will Lee (Herman [the druggist])  
    Ruth Robinson (Mrs. Robinson)  
    John Picorri (Gatekeeper)  
    Joe Devlin (Taxi driver)  
    John Wald (Announcer's voice)  
    Ken Christy (Inspector)  
    Betty Farrington (Mrs. Moriarity)  
    Paul Ellis (Captain)  
    Dora Clement (Mrs. Upshaw)  
    James Adamson (Attendant)  
    Inez Cooper (Stewardess)  
    Emmett Vogan (Producer)  
    Barbara Bedford (Local operator)  
    Lester Dorr (Dispatcher)  
    Mark Daniels (Co-pilot)  
    Mel Ruick (Engineer)  
    Leon Tyler (Gerry Farrell)  
    Dorothy Adams (Mrs. Farrell)  
    Jenny Mac (Mrs. Kendall)  
    John Dilson (Vanderhoff)  
    Billy Bletcher (Effects man)  
    Larry Steers (Studio manager)  
    Ronnie Rondell (Waiter)  
    Brick Sullivan (Policeman)  
    Al Hill (Policeman)  
    Robert Homans (Policeman)  

Summary: Joseph Jones, the leader of Silver Haven, a phony Long Island cult, is informed by his lawyer, Jennings, that although one of his deceased followers has left a one million dollar estate to him, the interest will go to her nephew, Upshaw, until Upshaw's death. While Jones and his cohorts try to think of a way out of their dilemma, the butler, "Noose" Green, is listening to a radio broadcast of popular Wally Benton, who writes and performs murder mysteries in which his alter ego, "The Fox," solves seemingly perfect crimes. Jones's cohort, Beau Smith, gets the idea that Wally would be the perfect person to help them get rid of Upshaw. Meanwhile, Wally is about to elope with his longtime fiancée, Carol Lambert, but, because his contract is up for renewal, reluctantly agrees to his manager "Buzz" Baker's request that he go out once more with "Fran" Post, the sponsor's man-chasing daughter. That night, Jones and his men arrive at Wally's dressing-room, posing as manufacturers of a health tonic that rivals Post's, and promise to double his contract. They insist that he go with them and promise that both Carol and Fran will be notified that he has been detained. Wally soon realizes that Jones is not a sponsor and that he has been kidnapped. At Silver Haven, Jones informs Wally of his need for "the perfect crime" and coerces him to help by bringing the confused Fran and Carol to the estate. When the three are alone, they try to find a way out, but wind up in the same room as Jones after finding a secret passageway. Jones forces Wally to stay alone until he concocts the perfect murder as Upshaw will be flying to New York from Kansas City the next day. Meanwhile, Fran's father, Philip Post, has become worried and contacts Deputy Commissioner O'Neill, who thinks that Fran has eloped with Wally, much to Post's displeasure. The next morning, after Wally has successfully developed a perfect murder idea, he tries to bribe Noose with a radio contract to let them free, but Jones interrupts. Wally then happily explains his loophole-proof plan: the poison will be placed in Upshaw's tooth powder and after he gargles, all traces of the poison will disappear and the death will appear to be from heart failure. Jones is about to send his henchman, Gordon Thomas, to Kansas City to sneak the poison into Upshaw's toiletry case, but first tries out the powder on Noose, who immediately dies. Later, Wally secretly tells Fran and Carol that he substituted sugar for the poison, but when Thomas forgets Wally's packet, Jones's druggist, Herman, makes certain that Thomas receives a fresh poison packet. Some hours later, Upshaw boards his plane and Thomas sits across from him. At the same time, after fruitlessly trying to coerce or overwhelm their guard, Sylvester, Wally rigs a portable radio with a disconnected telephone wire and is able to contact a telephone operator, who signals Upshaw's plane. Because Thomas has tampered with the plane's communication system, Wally cannot warn Upshaw, but is able to have the operator connect him to his radio station and relate the facts as if they were part of his regular program. The radio staff and Mr. Post realize what is happening, as does Smith, who summons Jones to the estate. A child's radio eventually broadcasts the warning to Upshaw just as the police and Post arrive at Silver Haven. After the police arrest Jones and his gang, Wally finally speaks with Upshaw, who not only promises not to brush his teeth, but says he won't even take them out. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: S. Sylvan Simon (Dir)
  Al Raboch (Asst dir)
Producer: George Haight (Prod)
Writer: Robert MacGonigle (Scr)
  Harry Clork (Scr)
  Albert Mannheimer (Scr)
  Eddie Moran (Contr wrt)
  Elliott Nugent (Contr wrt)
Photography: Sidney Wagner (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Gabriel Scognamillo (Assoc)
Film Editor: Frank E. Hull (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
Costumes: Kalloch (Gowns)
Music: Bronislau Kaper (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Country: United States
Series: Whistling

Source Text: Based on the play Whistling in the Dark by Laurence Gross and Edward Childs Carpenter, as presented on the stage by Alexander McKaig (New York, 19 Jan 1932).
Authors: Alexander McKaig
  Edward Childs Carpenter
  Laurence Gross

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 4/8/1941 dd/mm/yyyy LP10670 Yes

PCA NO: 7550
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Comedy
  Mystery
  Mystery
 
Subjects (Major): Amateur detectives
  Murder
  Radio performers
  Radio programs
 
Subjects (Minor): Airplanes
  Butlers
  Chauffeurs
  Engagements
  Kidnapping
  Long Island (NY)
  Jealousy
  Lawyers
  Managers (Entertainment)
  Nephews
  New York City
  Pharmacists
  Poisoning
  Police
  Radio sponsors
  Radios
  Religious cults
  Romantic rivalry
  Secret passageways
  Telephone operators
  Toothpaste

Note: Whistling in the Dark marked comedian Red Skelton's first starring film role. It was also the first of three films in M-G-M's "Whistling" series, all of which starred Skelton as "Wally Benton," Ann Rutherford as his fiancée, "Carol Lambert," and "Rags" Ragland, who played "Sylvester" or his twin brother "Chester." The other two films were Whistling in Dixie (1942) and Whistling in Brooklyn (1943). All three films were directed by S. Sylvan Simon. A fourth film, Whistling in Hollywood , was planned in late 1943, but was never made. M-G-M had previously filmed a version of the Laurence Gross-Edward Childs Carpenter play in 1933. That version, also called Whistling in the Dark , was directed by Elliott Nugent and Charles Riesner and starred Ernest Truex, Una Merkel and Edward Arnold. (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.5074). 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   2 Aug 1941.   
Daily Variety   30 Jul 1941.   
Film Daily   4 Aug 41   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Jun 41   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jun 41   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jun 41   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jul 41   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Jul 41   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald   2 Aug 1941.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   9 Aug 41   p. 205.
New York Times   28 Aug 41   p. 23.
New York Times   12 Sep 1943.   
Variety   6 Aug 41   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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