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Find the Blackmailer (1943)

John Rhodes (Gene Lockhart)hires private detective D. L. Trees (Jerome Cowan)to track down a talking blackbird owned by Fred Molner, who uses the bird as a means of blackmailing Rhodes. ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (from a magazine story by "Blackmail with Feathers")


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Complete credited cast:
Mona Vance
John M. Rhodes
Marjorie Hoshelle ...
Pandora Pines
Mark Harper
Detective Lieutenant Cramer
Ray Hickey
Mitch Farrell
Lou Lubin ...
Mr. Olen
Mr. Coleman


John Rhodes (Gene Lockhart)hires private detective D. L. Trees (Jerome Cowan)to track down a talking blackbird owned by Fred Molner, who uses the bird as a means of blackmailing Rhodes. Molner has taught the bird to repeat "Don't kill me, Rhodes" in the event he is murdered by a member of a gambling syndicate he has defrauded. Going to Molner's apartment, Trees finds him murdered and his bodyguard, Ray Hickey (John Harmon), unconscious. Clues lead Trees to Mona Vance (Faye Emerson, Molner's girlfriend, who is involved with Mark Harper (Robert Kent, presumably her lawyer. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


IT'S CLUE-LESS! BAFFLING! STARTLING! (original print ad-all caps) See more »


Crime | Drama | Mystery


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

6 November 1943 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Released at a mere 55 minutes, this was one of the shortest feature films released by Warner Brothers in 1943. Warner Brothers would soon abandon production of B-pictures such as this one. See more »


D.L. Trees: Now be quiet, I'm listening to the radio.
Pandora Pines: You, listening to jive? You don't even know what a hep cat is.
D.L. Trees: Sure I do. It's a cat that heps.
Pandora Pines: [rolls eyes]
See more »


Spoofs The Maltese Falcon (1941) See more »

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User Reviews

It's a good thing this one is half the length of your average feature...
6 November 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

... because you'll probably need to watch this one twice to figure out exactly what is going on. However, don't let that bother you since a fine-tuned plot is not the point of this little B mystery. With every able bodied male between 18 and 40 in the armed services, WWII gave older players such as Sydney Greenstreet and normally supporting players such as the lead in this film - Jerome Cowan as detective D.L. Trees - a chance at a starring role in major studio releases.

The story has to do with a not so successful detective, Mr. Trees, and his seldom-paid secretary and semi-romantic interest, Pandora Pines, getting a visit from the reform candidate for mayor, John Rhodes. It seems that Rhodes' girlfriend has a brother - Fred - that has been in prison. The girlfriend doesn't know about Fred's record and neither do the mayor's potential voters. Fred doesn't see his record as any source of shame. Instead he sees it as a money-making opportunity, and he's been putting the bite on John Rhodes ever since he got out of jail to keep quiet about his sordid past. The final straw is when Fred shows Rhodes a crow that has been taught to say "Rhodes killed me!". Apparently Fred did it for insurance so that Rhodes doesn't kill him, realizing the growing inconvenience he has become, but Rhodes is afraid that if something does happen to Fred he'll be implicated by the talking crow. He therefore pays Trees to steal the bird. And this is only the first ten minutes.

Things get wild, wacky, and down-right preposterous from this point forward. The film is loaded with action and the kind of 40's detective story dialogue that you often see parodied but hardly ever laid on so thick in one short film of that era. As for the not-so-well-known cast, they acquit themselves marvelously. Mr. Cowan must have been studying Humphrey Bogart closely during his brief role in "The Maltese Falcon", because he is the personification of the cool-headed P.I. with questionable scruples 40's style.

I'm sure this little film helped audiences forget the seriousness of the war for a short period of time back in 1943, and I think you'll find it good escapist entertainment today.

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