Special Investigator (film)
theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Louis King|
by Erle Stanley Gardner
|Music by||Roy Webb|
|Edited by||George Hively|
Special Investigator is a 1936 RKO Radio Pictures American crime-drama film, starring Richard Dix and featuring Margaret Callahan, Erik Rhodes and Owen Davis, Jr. It was directed by Louis King from a screenplay by Louis Stevens, Thomas Lennon and Ferdinand Reyher, based on "Fugitive Gold", a story by Erle Stanley Gardner originally serialized in the New York Herald Tribune's This Week magazine from May 26–July 7, 1935.
Bill Fenwick (Richard Dix) is a criminal defense attorney who's near the top of his career, wealthy from defending gangsters and getting them off, but when he learns from Inspector Perkett (Russell Hicks) that his brother George (Owen Davis, Jr.), an agent for the Justice Department, was killed by notorious racketeer Edward J. Selton (J. Carroll Naish) during a raid to recover a half million dollars in stolen gold bullion, he quits his practice to find his brother's murderer. On a tip from Bennie Grey (Erik Rhodes), a former client, Bill goes undercover and opens a law office in Quartzburg, Nevada under the name of "Richard Galt", to investigate the sudden gold strike at the formerly closed mine at the Gold Bar Ranch, which may be the stolen bullion "re-mined".
In Quartzburg, Virginia Selton (Margaret Callahan), Selton's sister, arrives to take care of her brother, who was wounded in the shootout that killed George, but the rest of the gang is suspicious of her. Meanwhile, Bill is visited by a Justice Department agent who tells him that they need to find out definitely if Selton is at the ranch before they can raid it. Bill contrives to meet Virginia when she stops for gas and, unaware that she is the Selton's sister, but knowing that she's connected in some way to the mine, follows her to Reno, where she picks up Dr. Vic Reynolds (Jed Prouty) at the airport. While they are there, Bill drains the gas from her car to force her to stop on the drive back. When it does, he offers them a ride. At the ranch, while the doctor tends to Selton, Bill plays high-stakes poker with Jim Plummer (Joe Sawyer), who runs the ranch, and the other members of Selton's gang.
Bill returns to the ranch in the next few days, both to see Virginia again and to gather information, but Plummer is suspicious of the supposed small-town lawyer, and has an argument with Selton about what to do about him, in which Selton orders him not to do anything to him. Nevertheless, one of the gang, Dutch (Ray Mayer), takes a shot at Bill while he and Virginia are riding horses, but it's Virginia who is wounded instead when her horse is shot from under her. The feverish Selton orders Plummer to deck Dutch, to show them all that he's the boss.
Learning that the government is planning a raid at midnight, Bill takes Virginia dancing in Reno, but two of the gang follow them there to watch them. When Bill's former girlfriend, Judy Taylor (Sheila Terry) and his former client Bennie Grey run into Bill and Virginia, Bill denies that he is "Bill Fenwick"; later the two hoods force the couple to reveal his identity.
When Bill and Virginia get back to Quartzburg, Bill locks Virginia up in her car in a garage for her safety, but without explaining exactly why. Virginia smashes through the door with the car and heads back to the ranch. Bill learns from Judy that the gang knows his real identity, and joins up with the Justice Department agents heading out to raid the ranch.
When Plummer hears the news about Bill, he makes his move to take over the gang. They tie up Selton, divide the gold and plan to flee the ranch, taking Virginia hostage, but Selton gets loose and confronts Virginia and Plummer, calling them all "rats" who have double-crossed him. As the Feds arrive, Selton dares Plummer to shoot it out with him, and begins firing. When the gang tries to escape, they are gunned down by the authorities.
Bill goes into the ranch house, looking for Virginia, and Selton holds a gun on him. He offers to give himself up to Bill, if Bill will represent him and get him off without the death penalty, but Bill turns down the offer, reminding Selton that he killed his brother. Bill them has the satisfaction of seeing Selton die from his wounds. Bill and Virginia leave together.
Principal filming for Special Investigator, which had the working title of "Fugitive Gold", took place in February and March 1936. The studio had originally announced Preston Foster and Lucille Ball in the lead roles, but a change in the studio administration led to Dix being given the part. Several actors announced in the trade papers at the time as appearing in the film are not credited and their presence in the film has not been conformed: Baby Marie Osborne, a former child star and stand-in for Ginger Rogers; Boothe Howard; and Frank M. Thomas.
Special Investigator made a profit of $91,000.
- "Special Investigator: Detail View". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on April 1, 2014. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
- Hughes, Dorothy B. (1978). Erle Stanley Gardner: The Case of the Real Perry Mason. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc. p. 324. ISBN 0-688-03282-6.
- "Special Investigator (1936) - Notes - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies.
- "Special Investigator". 8 May 1936 – via www.imdb.com.
- Smith, Richard Harland. "Special Investigator" (article) on TCM.com
- Jewell, Richard and Harbin, Vernon. The RKO Story. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1982. p96