Alibi (1929 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoland West
Written byElaine Sterne Carrington
Based onNightstick
by Elaine Sterne Carrington, J.C. Nugent, Elliott Nugent, and John Wray
Produced byRoland West
CinematographyRay June
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • April 20, 1929 (1929-04-20)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States

Alibi (also known as The Perfect Alibi, Nightstick and The Bat Whispers)[1] is a 1929 American pre-Code crime film directed by Roland West. The screenplay was written by West and C. Gardner Sullivan, who adapted the 1927 Broadway stage play, Nightstick, written by Elaine Sterne Carrington, J.C. Nugent, Elliott Nugent, and John Wray.[2]

The movie is a crime drama starring Chester Morris, Harry Stubbs, Mae Busch, and Regis Toomey. Director West experimented a great deal with sound, music, and camera angles.


"Alibi" ad in The Film Daily, 1929

Joan Manning, the daughter of a police sergeant, secretly marries Chick Williams, a gangleader who convinces her that he is leading an honest life. Chick attends the theater with Joan and, at the intermission, sneaks away, committing a robbery during which a policeman is killed. Chick is suspected of the crime but is able to use Joan to substantiate his alibi. The police plant Danny McGann, an undercover agent, in Chick's gang; but he is discovered, and Chick murders him. Chick is later cornered by the police in his own home. Before they can arrest him, he flips the light switch, plunging the room into darkness. In the midst of the chaos, Chick escapes to the roof. He attempts to jump off to a nearby building, but stumbles on the landing, thus falling to his death.



The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, including for Best Picture (Roland West), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Chester Morris) and Best Art Direction (William Cameron Menzies).[3]Time praised it as "more credible than most crook pictures,"[4] and The New York Times said it was "by far the best of the gangster films, and the fact that it is equipped with dialogue makes it all the more stirring."[5] In a retrospective review, Bruce G. Hallenbeck said the film was "creaky by today's standards...[but] still fun to watch."[1]

Chicago banned the film, citing it for "immorality, criminality, and depravity."[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hallenbeck, Bruce G. (2008). Comedy-Horror Films: A Chronological History, 1914-2008. Jefferson: McFarland. p. 15.
  2. ^ Nightstick at the Internet Broadway Database
  3. ^ "The 2nd Academy Awards (1930) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  4. ^ "Cinema: The New Pictures Apr. 22, 1929". Time. April 22, 1929. Retrieved January 28, 2023.{{cite magazine}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ Hall, Mordaunt (April 9, 1929). "THE SCREEN; An Audible Thriller". The New York Times.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ Tsika, Noah (2021). Screening the Police: Film and Law Enforcement in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 170.

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