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The Secret Witness (1931)

 |  Drama  |  12 December 1931 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.6/10 from 25 users  
Reviews: 4 user | 1 critic

A wealthy, cheating husband is found murdered in his penthouse apartment. The police soon arrest a suspect, but the victim's downstairs neighbor believes the man is innocent and sets out to... See full summary »



(novel), (screenplay)
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Title: The Secret Witness (1931)

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Cast overview:
Una Merkel ...
William Collier Jr. ...
Purnell Pratt ...
Capt. McGowan
Ralf Harolde ...
Lewis Leroy
Clyde Cook ...
Larson - Building Engineer
June Clyde ...
Tess Jones
Gunner - Bodyguard
Jeff - Building Janitor


A wealthy, cheating husband is found murdered in his penthouse apartment. The police soon arrest a suspect, but the victim's downstairs neighbor believes the man is innocent and sets out to prove who really committed the murder. Written by

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

murder | adultery | based on novel | See All (3) »


Best mystery drama you've ever seen!







Release Date:

12 December 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Penthouse Murder  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Originally produced by Famous Attractions for independent release as "Pentouse Murder", it was bought by Columbia Pictures, retitled "The Secret Witness" and released as a Columbia picture. See more »


Bella: [Speaking to friend on phone with notorious lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness on desk] What am I doing? Oh, I've been reading a book. Oh, it's a book about... Well, can't quite make it out.
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User Reviews

Was it the chimp?
2 March 2011 | by (Youngstown,Ohio) – See all my reviews

"The Secret Witness," a Columbia release from late 1931, is a decent whodunit with an unusual twist. Hooper Atchley plays Herbert Folsom, a womanizing husband whose latest lover, Tess Jones (June Clyde), confronts him about leaving his wife Sylvia (Rita La Roy). He prefers to be married, avoiding taking responsibility for his affairs, and refusing Sylvia's numerous requests for a divorce. After the heartbroken Tess leaps to her death from Folsom's high rise penthouse apartment, the police discover a dying Folsom lying on the floor, shot at close range by an unseen assailant. His last words implicate Arthur Jones (William Collier Jr.), brother of Tess, who is found one floor below in the apartment of Lois Martin (Una Merkel), daughter of the city's deputy commissioner, who believes him to be innocent, especially after the building engineer (Clyde Cook) also winds up shot dead. The lone witness to both crimes is Folsom's longtime pet chimpanzee, who expresses genuine grief at finding the dead body of its master (but is later revealed to be capable of handling a gun). Both Zasu Pitts and Nat Pendleton are around for some light comedy relief, thankfully not too intrusive, due mostly to the short 66 minute running time (as was customary of the early talkie era, there is no music in this film). Una Merkel was a dependable comic performer who was quite capable of drama as well, and Clarence Muse again proves to be one of Hollywood's most respected actors, playing the helpful doorman with a light touch, not as a clichéd comic stereotype. The flawed "The Leavenworth Case," from Republic in 1936, was a later mystery that featured a primate, billed on screen as 'Jocko.'

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