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Penguin Pool Murder (1932)

Passed | | Comedy, Drama, Mystery | 9 December 1932 (USA)
Shady stockbroker and abusive husband Gerald Parker is found dead in the penguin pool of a NYC aquarium after being knocked cold by his wife's boyfriend.



(screen play), (from the novel by) | 1 more credit »


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Complete credited cast:
Gwen Parker
Philip Seymour
Clarence Wilson ...
Bertrand B. Hemingway (as Clarence H. Wilson)
James Donlan ...
Von Donnen (as Gustav Von Seyffertitz)
William Le Maire ...
MacDonald (as William LeMaire)
Joe Hermano ...
Chicago Lew
Guy Usher ...
Gerald Parker
Telephone Operator
Wilfrid North ...


The body of unscrupulous stockbroker Gerald Parker suddenly appears in the penguin tank at the aquarium. Naturally, suspicion falls on his wife and her boyfriend, who were present. Inspector Piper investigates with the unsolicited aid of teacher Hildegard Withers, a witness who's taken an interest in the case; Piper develops a grudging respect for Miss Withers' acumen (and sharp tongue), as they search among the red herrings for the aquarium killer... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

9 December 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Penguin Pool Murder  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The Ruth Snyder - Judd Gray murder case alluded to by Inspector Piper was a notoriously inept crime of passion committed in 1927. Both "Double Indemnity" and "The Postman Always Rings Twice" were inspired by the case, according to their author James M. Cain. See more »


The boom's shadow appears on a column behind Edna Mae Oliver when Miss Withers is looking through the aquarium at night. See more »


Oscar Piper: Miss Withers, you took the very words right out of my mouth.
Hildegard Withers: Don't worry, you'll have plenty left.
Oscar Piper: And if I haven't, you've got a couple!
See more »


Followed by Murder on the Blackboard (1934) See more »

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User Reviews

Shows just why 1930's movie audiences kept studios and theaters so busy
21 July 2004 | by (California) – See all my reviews

I saw this movie at the Stanford Theater, a restored small-town movie palace of 1925. The Stanford only shows old classics, and often some films show up on the bill that sound completely unfamiliar, but sound like they might be worth a look.

Penguin Pool Murder is just such a film. When I reat a little bit about it, it didn't sound too interesting, but since I like the pre-code period so much, and I'd never seen an Edna Mae Oliver film before (other than a tiny snippet from Saturday Night Kid) I decided that I might as well go and see it.

PPM is a fast-paced and hilarious murder mystery, still as gleefully enjoyable as it was upon it's first release. The lead character, school marm Hildegarde Withers, is brilliantly portrayed by snappy, vivacious and proper Edna Mae Oliver. I'm sure some people might get annoyed by her high-toned and imperious British accent, but I loved it. It lent buoyancy to her already top-notch dialogue.

Despite it's status as a B-production (as opposed to a more prestigious "A" movie with more stars, more crowd scenes and an all-around bigger budget), PPM is a movie that reflect's Hollywood's unending attention to detail, high visual standards and emphasis on glamour whenever possible. Take for instance one of the first scenes: Mae Clarke in her posh boudoir, dressed in a shimmering evening gown, making a telephone call and getting accosted by her husband. Later, when she visits the aquarium, she's swathed in an enormous fur collar and the chiquest of clothes. Imagine how many depression-weary families went to see this, and the mother imagined herself with Clarke's clothes and figure. Dad could fancy himself her husband, and the kiddies would be entertained by the character's antics. This is, if any thing, a family in the best sense of the word.

Edger Kennedy has a small role in this, as the token blundering Irish cop. When I was a kid, I saw him perform his routines in the Our Gang shorts When the Wind Blows and The First Seven Years, and again as the antagonized street vendor in Duck Soup. Recently, I've come to dislike his "slow burn" technique, but I'm starting to like it again. It's an acquired taste, that's for sure. Here, Kennedy the cop has a shaved head, which I thought was a bit unusual.

I hope this movie comes out on video and DVD so I can own it for myself. To my limited knowledge, it's still relegated to the vaults, with the likes of so many great movies. Some day, people will begin to hear more about Edna Mae Oliver and want to see her films. Penguin Pool Murder will surface and be enjoyed by a whole new legion of fans. That day will be a good day indeed.

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