AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Quiet Please Murder
Alternate Title: Death from the Sanskrit
Director: John Larkin (Dir)
Release Date:   19 Mar 1943
Production Date:   24 Aug--14 Sep 1942
Duration (in mins):   70
Duration (in feet):   6,313
Duration (in reels):   7
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Cast:   George Sanders (Jim Fleg)  
    Gail Patrick (Myra Blandy)  
    Richard Denning (Hal McByrne)  
    Lynne Roberts (Kay Ryan)  
    Sidney Blackmer (Martin Cleaver)  
    Kurt Katch (Eric Pahsen)  
    Margaret Brayton (Miss Oval)  
    Charles Tannen (Hollis)  
    Byron Foulger (Edmund Walpole)  
    George Walcott (Benson)  
    Bud Geary (Gannett)  
    Frank O'Connor (Guard)  
    George Melford (Guard)  
    Pat O'Malley (Guard)  
    W. R. Deming (Mr. Daly)  
    Arthur Space (Vance)  
    Bud McCallister (Freddy, the stack boy)  
    Chick Collins (Webley)  
    Harold Goodwin (Stover)  
    Jack Cheatham (Policeman)  
    Hooper Atchley (Air raid warden)  
    Arthur Thalasso (Air raid warden)  
    James Farley (Detective)  
    Mae Marsh (Miss Hartwig)  
    Fern Emmett (Miss Philbert)  
    Bobby Larson (Boy)  
    Minerva Urecal (Housewife)  
    Jill Warren (Girl)  
    Bert Roach (Husband)  
    Charles Cane (Henderson)  
    Paul Porcasi (Rebescu)  
    Matt McHugh (Taxi driver)  
    Theodor von Eltz (Lucas)  
    Monica Bannister    

Summary: Expert forger Jim Fleg kills a guard while stealing a rare edition of Hamlet from a public library, then manufactures copies of the book for private collectors. His accomplice is Myra Blandy, a supposedly legitimate book dealer who "authenticates" the forgeries when another accomplice, Rebescu, sells them. One afternoon, Rebescu and Myra sell a copy of Hamlet to Martin Cleaver, a mysterious German. Fleg is furious when Myra informs him about the deal, as he knows that the dangerous Cleaver purchases stolen artworks for a high-ranking Nazi official. Fleg, who is obsessed with his sadomasochistic tendencies and his twisted relationship with Myra, orders her to return Cleaver's money. Myra's situation worsens when Cleaver discovers that the manuscript is a fake, kills Rebescu and demands that Myra take him to Fleg. Another complication arises when private detective Hal McByrne comes to Myra's office and reveals that he is aware of her illegal activities. Instantly attracted to Myra, McByrne agrees to protect her if she helps him catch Fleg. Fleg in turn finds out about McByrne, and Myra, desperate to extricate herself from her predicament, sets up McByrne. She tells Cleaver that she will send Fleg to the library that evening to pick up a book held under her name, but she instead sends in McByrne while she waits in the car. Cleaver and his thugs, Benson and deaf-mute Eric Pahsen, hold McByrne captive in the library and refuse to believe his protestations that he is not Fleg. Meanwhile, Fleg has learned of Myra's scheme and concocted a ruse of his own. Impersonating a police lieutenant, Fleg goes to the library, where he intends to kill McByrne. Fleg accidentally kills Cleaver instead, but quickly recovers and, using the actors he has brought along to play policemen, begins an "investigation" of the crime. He demands that the librarians and patrons remain as witnesses and that the valuable books being kept in the vault be turned over to him for police protection. Meanwhile, Myra plays Fleg and McByrne against each other, reassuring each that she is working for him. Because of Fleg's knowledge of the rare books, McByrne guesses his real identity and as he tries to escape, is pursued by Hollis, Fleg's bodyguard, and Benson and Pahsen. Myra hides the books, which she intends to retrieve later for her own gain. As the various factions conspire and pursue one another, a blackout is announced, and the library's air raid warden escorts everyone to the basement. Hollis takes advantage of the confusion to chase librarian Kay Ryan, whom Fleg suspects is aiding McByrne. McByrne shoots and kills Hollis before he can kill Kay, but is then captured by Fleg, who threatens to torture Myra if she does not reveal the location of the hidden books. Using the inter-office phone, McByrne convinces nervous librarian Miss Oval that the blackout is over, and she turns on the lights. Air raid wardens patrolling the streets are alerted and rush in to investigate. The police also arrive and soon the criminals are rounded up. McByrne explains the situation to the police and then searches for the hidden books while the captured Fleg eagerly anticipates dying in terror after his conviction. Using the Dewey Decimal system and a clue left by Myra, McByrne finds the books and returns them for a reward. Myra, afraid for her life, then pleads with McByrne to escort her home. Tired of her double-crossing, McByrne leaves Myra to fend for herself, and she is strangled by Pahsen, who has temporarily eluded the police. Pahsen is apprehended, and McByrne, both despondent and embittered by his involvement with Myra, leaves the library with Kay. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: John Larkin (Dir)
  William Eckhardt (Asst dir)
Producer: William Goetz (Exec prod)
  Ralph Dietrich (Prod)
Writer: John Larkin (Scr)
Photography: Joseph MacDonald (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Richard Day (Art dir)
  Joseph C. Wright (Art dir)
Film Editor: Louis Loeffler (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
  Frank E. Hughes (Set dec)
Costumes: Herschel (Cost)
Music: Emil Newman (Mus)
Sound: E. Clayton Ward (Sd)
  Harry M. Leonard (Sd)
Stand In: Bob Beck (Stand-in for Richard Denning)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the short story "Death Walks in Marble Halls" by Lawrence G. Blochman in American Magazine (Sep 1942).
Authors: Lawrence G. Blochman

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 15/12/1943 dd/mm/yyyy LP12221

PCA NO: 8773
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Suspense
 
Subjects (Major): Femmes fatales
  Forgers and forgery
  Libraries and librarians
  Murder
  Private detectives
  Psychopaths
 
Subjects (Minor): Air raid wardens
  Blackouts in war
  Bodyguards
  Booksellers and bookselling
  Chases
  Classification, Dewey decimal
  Cynics
  Deaf-mutes
  Fences (Criminal)
  Germans
  Hamlet (Play)
  Impersonation and imposture
  Manuscripts
  Police
  Rewards
  Strangling
  Womanizers

Note: The working title of this film was Death from the Sanskrit . In the onscreen credits, the title Quiet Please Murder is written in form of a library sign, with no punctuation. Some contemporary sources, however, list the film as Quiet, Please--Murder . According to HR news items, Walter Bullock and Robert Lively were assigned to work on the picture's screenplay, but the extent of their contributions to the completed film has not been determined. A 14 Jul 1942 HR news item stated that the picture was based on "an original" by James O'Hanlon, but no other source mentioning his involvement in the film has been found. HR also noted that the film was originally to star Milton Berle, and that Richard Denning was borrowed from Paramount for the production. The film marked the directorial debut of writer John Larkin. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   26 Dec 1942.   
Daily Variety   16 Dec 42   p. 3, 8
Film Daily   24 Dec 42   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Mar 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Mar 42   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Mar 42   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jul 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Aug 42   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Aug 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Aug 42   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Sep 42   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Sep 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Dec 1942.   
Motion Picture Daily   16 Dec 1942.   
Motion Picture Herald   19 Dec 1942.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   31 Oct 42   p. 983.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   19 Dec 42   p. 1067.
New York Times   22 Dec 42   p. 31.
Variety   16 Dec 42   p. 16.

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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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