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Whistling in the Dark (1933)

A mystery writer and his sweetheart are held hostage by a fugitive gangster, who hopes to get writer's help in devising the "perfect crime"


Elliott Nugent, Charles Reisner (co-director) (uncredited)


Elliott Nugent (screenplay), Laurence Gross (based upon the play by) | 1 more credit »


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Complete credited cast:
Ernest Truex ... Wallace Porter
Una Merkel ... Toby Van Buren
Edward Arnold ... Jake Dillon
John Miljan ... Charlie Shaw
C. Henry Gordon ... Ricco Lombardo
Johnny Hines ... Slim Scanlon
Joseph Cawthorn ... Otto Barfuss
Nat Pendleton ... Joe Salvatore
Tenen Holtz ... Herman Lefkovitz
Marcelle Corday ... Hilda


A mystery writer and his sweetheart are held hostage by a fugitive gangster, who hopes to get writer's help in devising the "perfect crime"

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The funniest picture ever made. Imagine a celebrated author of murder stories captured by real outlaws...given 24 hours to think up a perfect crime for them to commit. (Print Ad- Register-Herald, ((Pine Plains, NY)) 23 February 1933)


Comedy | Crime | Drama


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Release Date:

21 January 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Assobiando no Escuro See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Harry Langdon originally signed for the lead role. Replaced by Ernest Truex. See more »


After Wally tells Slim about the $10,000 and Slim is walking into the adjoining room whistling, the mic shadow is clearly visible on the upper left hand side of the frame. See more »


Toby Van Buren: Now come on Wally, get going. Here's everything: paper and pencils, and even rubbers.
Wallace Porter: Darling, do you think that all I have to do is to sit down there and it comes right off the end of the pencil?
See more »


Remade as Whistling in the Dark (1941) See more »


Yankee Doodle
(ca. 1755) (uncredited)
Traditional music of English origin
Whistled by Ernest Truex
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Watch the remake with Red Skelton...
12 December 2018 | by AlsExGalSee all my reviews

... because he makes all of the difference in the outcome and in the delivery. Ernest Truex as the mystery writer kidnapped by gangsters to come up with the perfect murder is just not funny, and furthermore there is nothing about him that makes me believe that his sweetheart, played by feisty Una Merkel would be interested in him romantically. His milquetoast demeanor, his nondescript delivery, it all just makes me think of MGM cartoon character Droopy who somehow always gets the girl. What carries this thing is Una Merkel, probably one of the most underrated actresses of all time, the rather ingenious story even if it does have a couple of rather ridiculous plot devices, and the best cast of gangsters ever assembled by MGM, a studio that was normally not known for its gangster films. Edward Arnold as the head gangster is perfection - here is a guy who can play tough bad guys or tough good guys effectively, also underrated and unfairly forgotten by film history.

It's a shame Skelton wasn't ten years older or Merkel wasn't ten years younger, because in the remake, they would have made a dynamite couple and made the 1941 version so funny and effective it could have given those in delicate health a coronary. This version is mildly recommended for the plot and the supporting players.

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