Murder, He Says

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Not to be confused with another film, Murder, She Said, starring Margaret Rutherford.
Murder, He Says
Murderhesays poster.jpg
Directed by George Marshall
Written by Lou Breslow
Jack Moffitt (story)
Starring Fred MacMurray
Helen Walker
Marjorie Main
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates 1945
Running time 91 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Murder, He Says (1945) is a slapstick comedy film about a murderous rural family and the hapless pollster who becomes entangled in their hunt for a cache of money.

It was filmed in the spring of 1944, but was held back for a year because Paramount had a backlog of product and felt it was more important to get war-related films released first, lest they suddenly date by the impending end of combat.


Peter Marshall (Fred MacMurray), who works for the Trotter Poll ("like the Gallup Poll, but not as fast"), is sent out to find a missing co-worker, Hector Smedley. He goes to see the last family the man was supposed to interview, the nutty, gun-toting Fleagles.

The matriarch of the clan, Mamie Fleagle Smithers Johnson (Marjorie Main), insists he pretend to be the boyfriend of jailed Bonnie Fleagle in order to gain the confidence of her dying grandmother (Mabel Paige). Grandma Fleagle has hidden $70,000 stolen by Bonnie and her now-executed father, but refuses to divulge where to her unwanted relations for a very good reason: she tells Pete that she has been poisoned by them. Before she dies, she teaches Pete a nonsensical song.

The Fleagles are sure Grandma told Pete where the money is hidden and keep him captive. Then, a woman claiming to be Bonnie shows up, also looking for the loot. When she gets Pete alone for questioning, she reveals she is actually Claire Matthews (Helen Walker). Her innocent father was maliciously implicated by Bonnie's father in the bank robbery. Pete wants to escape, now that they are alone, but Claire insists on staying. If she can retrieve the money, she can exonerate her father.

The Fleagles try to poison Claire at dinner, but Pete accidentally discovers that all but one of their plates have been poisoned (the poison glows in the dark); only the dish in front of Mamie's third husband, Mr. Johnson (Porter Hall), is safe to eat. Johnson slips away, but is soon found glowing and dead.

The uneasy situation is further complicated when the real Bonnie Fleagle (Barbara Pepper) breaks out of prison and comes for her money. She makes Pete sing the song and understands the seemingly meaningless lyrics. Pete gets away, and deciphers the clues hidden in the words, from which Claire finds a key to the safety deposit box. Soon, all of the Fleagles, including Mr. Johnson (who only faked his death), are chasing Pete and Claire through the various secret passageways of the house. Fortunately, the plucky pair are able to drop each of their pursuers into a hay baling machine, from which they emerge safely secured.



"Murder, He Says" is also a jazz standard by Jimmy McHugh and Frank Loesser (1942) first recorded by Betty Hutton and later popularized by Dinah Shore. It was re-popularized by Tori Amos in the film Mona Lisa Smile. As Hutton was under contract to Paramount at the time, it's possible that at one time she was considered for the female lead.

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