Cub reporter Dusty investigates the murder of the District Attorney and stumbles into a plot involving a kidnapping and a crooked election.



(continuity & dialogue), (story)


Cast overview:
Dustin Hotchkiss
Constance Hall
Pearl Vaughan
William B. Davidson ...
M.H. Thomas
Robert Hall
Harold Goodwin ...
'Speed' Hansen
Richard Tucker ...
District Attorney Martin Harrison
Willard Robertson ...
E. T. Scudder


Cub reporter Dusty investigates the murder of the District Attorney and stumbles into a plot involving a kidnapping and a crooked election.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

21 September 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Dead Line  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?


Boris Karloff was shooting this movie when James Whale, director of Frankenstein (1931), spotted him eating lunch in the Universal commissary. Whale saw Karloff's height and rather boxy head and decided to offer him a test for the role of the Monster in "Frankenstein," which became Karloff's star-making role. See more »


The first name of the district attorney changes several times during the film. He is Carter Harrison in the opening credits, Martin Harrison on the door to his office, Carter again in the newspaper headlines announcing his murder, Martin in the final scenes and Carter in the closing credits. See more »


Featured in The Universal Story (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

Karloff on the brink of stardom.
6 February 2006 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

'Graft' is a peculiar film. It's a straightforward crime drama, except that the actor in the central role -- Regis Toomey -- plays his character as a comic-relief stumblebum. He plays a reporter named Dustin Hotchkiss, a name that's nearly as funny as "Regis Toomey". At one point, Hotchkiss sees the D.A. shot dead by an unknown assailant. As Hotchkiss hurries away, he bumps into another man fleeing the same scene ... and it doesn't occur to him that this might be the gunman, as indeed it is.

Nor is Toomey's character the only one slow on the uptake. Dorothy Revier plays a ward-heeler's floozy who threatens to shop him to the D.A. The ward-heeler's toady promptly abducts her, holds her hostage for several days, then tells her she's going on a trip. He hustles her to the quay, drags her aboard a yacht, puts her in a cabin and locks the door. This is when she begins to suspect she's in trouble.

We get several of the crusading-newspaper clichés here. Willard Robertson is extremely impressive as the newspaper's overworked editor, juggling incoming calls on a row of candlestick telephones. Hotchkiss's rival is a reporter cried Speed Hansen, but Speed doesn't seem to be in a hurry. Sue Carol is annoyingly twee and crumple-faced as the daughter of the reform candidate. George Irving is good in that brief role ... but please note that his character is named Robert Hall, not the punning "M.T. Hall" that's shown on IMDb's cast list. Carmelita Geraghty, whom I've never liked, has one very peculiar scene as a receptionist who shows up at the office dressed in elaborate chinoiserie.

Christy Cabanne's direction is brisk throughout, although with a bit too much undercranking in the action sequences, and some of the rear projection is more obvious than it needs to be. This story takes place in an unnamed city, but the street photography makes it clear we're in Los Angeles.

'Graft' is (rightly) best known for featuring Boris Karloff in one of his last roles pre-'Frankenstein'. (James Whale discovered him while he was shooting this film on the Universal lot.) Although Karloff has only a supporting role, Cabanne seems to be aware of Karloff's star quality, and gives him every opportunity to shine. Karloff makes his first entrance with his back to the camera (anticipating 'Frankenstein'), and he's thoroughly menacing throughout the film. There are several good points in 'Graft', but Karloff's performance is far and away the best reason for seeing this film. Almost entirely on the strength of his performance and Cabanne's direction, I'll rate 'Graft' 8 out of 10.

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