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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 »


Telephone Operator: What are you trying to do, put the B on me?
Hildegard Withers: I'm trying to put nothing on you. You have enough on already. Now, if you answer my questions, you can go right back to your artwork!
See more »


Followed by The Plot Thickens (1936) See more »

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User Reviews

Entertaining mystery boosted by Oliver and Gleason chemistry
25 February 2001 | by (Murray Hill, NJ) – See all my reviews

In the 1930s, RKO produced a series of mysteries concerning the detective activities of schoolteacher Hildegarde Withers. Viewing the first film, THE PENGUIN POOL MURDER, one can understand why the series immediately took off. The mystery itself is well constructed and engrossing. Director George Archainbaud's presentation of the murder victim's discovery is imaginative. In an aquarium, a boy discovers a penguin acting strangely, as if encountering an intruder. The penguin's behavior is immediately explained when a corpse suddenly plunges into the tank! The scenario, based on a Stuart Palmer novel, features some intriguing red herrings with plausible motives for the murder. By the time the killer is revealed, it is fairly obvious who the culprit is, but the mystery is resolved in a clever and credible manner.

THE PENGUIN POOL MURDER is especially worthwhile due to its spirited lead performances. As Withers, Edna May Oliver is drolly acerbic, tartly disdaining the police's ineffectual work as she proceeds to solve the case. As Police Inspector Oscar Piper, James Gleason blusters amusingly, determined to find the killer without Withers' help. Oliver and Gleason truly sparkle in their relationship. Initially, they're cagey of each other but an underlying mutual affection quickly develops. Piper and Withers continue to argue about the case throughout the picture but in an amiable manner that precludes the possibility of mutual ill will. Even if the mystery becomes too familiar to be suspenseful upon repeated viewings, THE PENGUIN POOL MURDER can still be savored due to Oliver and Gleason's marvelous chemistry.

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