Unbeknownst to both his wife (Brenda Marshall, The Sea Hawk) and mother-in-law (Lucile Watson, Watch on the Rhine), Francis Warren (Errol Flynn, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex) leads a double life: he’s a financial consultant who writes popular mystery novels under a pseudonym. When one of his business clients dies under mysterious circumstances, Warren adds another identity to his resume: amateur sleuth.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Highly entertaining comedy-whodunit in the vein of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s very popular serio-comic The Thin Man series.
Errol Flynn, in a nice change-of-pace, is hilarious as he tries to keep his multiple identities from his family. The mystery is rather easy to guess, but Flynn’s charm and charisma make it irresistible. And here he proves that he had perfect comic timing — it’s really a pity that he didn’t make more comedies like this one. Flynn makes the most a rare chance to prove that there was a whole lot more behind his good looks and matinée idol screen persona.
Directed by Lloyd Bacon (42nd Street and Marked Woman) from a screenplay by Lester Cole and John Wexley, Footsteps in the Dark is based on two stage plays: Footsteps in the Dark (by Ladislas Fodor) and Blondie White (by Bernard Merivale and Jeffrey Dell). The project went through many hands until it landed on Flynn’s lap, who was eager to take a break from period dramas and action movies.
The supporting cast is fantastic. Alan Hale (The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Adventures of Don Juan), Flynn’s sidekick in so many movies, plays a grumpy copper, Inspector Mason. Lucile Watson has fun as Flynn’s nosy mother-in-law. William Frawley (‘Bub’ on the TV show My Three Sons) steals many scenes as a dumb (and kinda racist) police detective. The cast also includes Ralph Bellamy (His Girl Friday), Grant Mitchell (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), and Lee Patrick (The Maltese Falcon). All in all, a pretty strong group of character actors.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Footsteps in the Dark was one of Flynn’s less financially successful Warner films. I’m guessing that the public wasn’t eager to see Flynn in a comedy. That’s a pity because he is really, really good. The ending seems to leave the door open for a sequel, and I’m a bit sad that they didn’t make more films with this character. It is also a great idea for a weekly TV series. B&W, 96 minutes, Not Rated.