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Calling Philo Vance (1940)

Approved | | Crime, Mystery, Thriller | 3 February 1940 (USA)
Despite an exclusive contract with the U.S. government, designer Archer Coe's design is being bid on by German, Japanese, and Italian agents - until he's murdered.



(screenplay), (novel)


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Complete credited cast:
Margot Stevenson ...
Philip Wrede
Jimmy Conlin ...
Dr. Doremus - Coroner (as Jimmy Conlon)
Edward Raquello ...
Du Bois - Fingerprint Man
Richard Kipling ...
Wedgwood Nowell ...
Bo Ling ...
Ling Toy


Philo is in Vienna working for the US Government to see if Archer Coe is selling aircraft designs to foreign powers. He grabs the plans with Archer's signature, but is captured by police before he can escape. Deported he comes back to America and plans to confront Archer, but Archer is found dead in his locked bedroom with a gun in his hand. While it looks like a suicide, Vance knows better and the coroner finds that Archer has been shot, hit with a blunt instrument and stabbed - making suicide unlikely. But Vance is on the case and is looking to see if government secrets have been sold and who has murdered Coe. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

3 February 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tres horas trágicas  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Ralph Forbes is credited onscreen as "Tom MacDonald," but throughout the film, he is called Taylor MacDonald. See more »


Dr. Doremus - Coroner: [after being called for the third time] I'd like to rent a room here until they finish this case.
See more »


Followed by Philo Vance Returns (1947) See more »


I'm Happy About the Whole Thing
Music by Harry Warren
Played when Vance and Ryan meet Grassi in the bar
See more »

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User Reviews

It's just a re-tread! See it ONLY if you never say THE KENNEL MURDER CASE or PRIVATE DETECTIVE 62!
11 November 2007 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

This is a very cheaply made and predictable programmer--predictable since its plot is taken, almost verbatim, from two earlier films. It was literally like splicing two old movie together to make a new film!

The first 15 minutes of the film is lifted right out of PRIVATE DETECTIVE 62 (1933--starring William Powell), though the hero was stealing information from a French safe in the original film and in CALLING PHILO VANCE it involved stealing from an Austrian one. In both, he was working for the state department (though they denied this) and in both cases he was deported back to the US--only to have the boat's captain be told to return the man just as they are pulling into New York harbor--at which point the man jumps overboard and the rest of the film begins. It's so exact that they are practically the same film in the first reel.

Following this narrow escape, the plot is THE KENNEL MURDER CASE (also starring Powell). I am sure of this because I just saw both 1930s films in the last month. In fact, in many places it was word-for-word the same--so much so that I couldn't stand watching the film again--especially because James Stevenson on his best day doesn't even come close to the charm and style of William Powell's version of Philo Vance. It's like having Lee Majors play the lead in High Noon instead of Gary Cooper (this DID happen) or Timothy Dalton play "Rhett Butler" instead of Clark Gable (this, sadly, also DID happen)!! So, unless you've never seen the near-perfect KENNEL MURDER CASE (which earned a well-deserved 9 from me), don't even bother with this by-the-numbers re-make. It just isn't worth your time. And, for that matter, PRIVATE DETECTIVE 62 is also quite superior to CALLING PHILO VANCE. In fact, just WHO is this James Stevenson and why is he stealing from William Powell?!

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