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Decoy (1946)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir  |  14 September 1946 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 984 users  
Reviews: 41 user | 16 critic

A mortally wounded female gangster recounts how she and her gang revived an executed killer from the gas chamber, to try and find out where he buried a fortune in cash.



(screenplay) (as Ned Young) , (story)
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Complete credited cast:
Jean Gillie ...
Margot Shelby (as Miss Jean Gillie)
Edward Norris ...
Herbert Rudley ...
Dr. Lloyd L. Craig
Police Sgt. Joe Portugal
Marjorie Woodworth ...
Craig's Nurse
Philip Van Zandt ...
Tommy (as Phil Van Zandt)
Carole Donne ...
John Shay ...
Bert Roach ...
Mack - Bartender
Rosemary Bertrand ...


Gangster Frank Olins is to die in the gas chamber much to the dismay of his girlfriend Margot Shelby as he is carrying the secret of the location of $400,000 with him. Margot seduces gangster Jim Vincent to get him to engineer the removal of Olins' body from the prison immediately after he dies in the gas chamber. She takes prison doctor Craig away from his nurse/girl friend and gets him to administer an antidote for cyanide gas poisoning. During the removal of Olins' body, the hearse driver is killed by Tommy. The revived Olins gives Margot half of a map showing the money location and Vincent, in a fit of jealousy, kills Olins and takes the other half. Because the doctor's plates on his car will get them through the police roadblocks, Vincent and Margot take him with them on the money hunt. Written by Les Adams <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


She Treats Men the Way They've Been Treating Women for Years!






Release Date:

14 September 1946 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Mulher Dillinger  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The movie was largely unavailable for viewing from 1970 to 2000, and since its rediscovery has acquired cult status. See more »


As shown on the EKG machine in the doctors office, Olins had no heartbeat, so there was no way for the methylene blue to circulate and be effective as it was being administered by a gravity drip IV. See more »


Sergeant Joe Portugal: [Reading a note] To you who double-crossed me... I leave this dollar for your trouble. The rest of the dough, I leave to the worms.
See more »


Featured in Decoy: A Map to Nowhere (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

A knockout film noir with no frills, save Methylene Blue – and Jean Gillie as Margot Shelby.
7 December 2002 | by (Western New York) – See all my reviews

When Jean-Luc Godard dedicated Breathless to Monogram Pictures, foremost in his memory must have been Decoy. It's a movie whose reputation, over the years, has grown into folklore, because it's all but impossible to view or obtain. For aficionados of film noir, it has attained the stature of a Holy Grail (or Maltese Falcon), a fabulous treasure the quest for which seems doomed to futility. It has, however, showed up at festival screenings, and now circulating, in samizdat as it were, is a subtitled copy taped from Croatian television.

While probably it can't ever live up to the inflated legend that trails in its wake, it's decidedly no disappointment. Monogram and its raffish rivals on Poverty Row shot fast and cut corners, working from fast-and-loose scripts full of implausible chunks of plot for viewers either to swallow or choke on. Usually, the results were shoddy and forgettable. But now and again enough elements came together to generate unexpected chemistry. Decoy marks one such serendipitous occasion.

The key element in this explosive reaction is Jean Gillie, an English actress whose early death in 1949 deprived cinema of one of its darkest Jezebels. Like her compatriot Peggy Cummins (Annie Laurie Starr in Gun Crazy), she makes no attempt, as Margot Shelby, to Americanize her origins; in explanation, Decoy lets her spit out her contempt for poverty in an eloquent aria about that 'dingy, dirty street' that 'runs all over the world,' and through the sooty mill town in England she came from. She vows never to go back to want, and her unquenchable greed powers the plot.

Tricked out in haut-forties snoods, stoles, muffs and dead-serious hats, Gillie cuts a swath through the various men who stand between her and the $400-grand stolen by her gangster boyfriend (Robert Armstrong. Trouble is, he's the only one who knows where it's stashed but won't tell even though he's on death row.

But her days as a high-maintenance moll have taught her a thing or two, one of them that a tincture called Methylene Blue can reverse an execution by cyanide. She works her wiles on maverick mobster Edward Norris and an idealistic doctor who does prison autopsies (Herbert Rudley), enlisting them in her gruesome scheme. They hijack the fresh corpse, en route to an 'oven job,' and, in a sequence reminiscent of Frankenstein, bring it back to life.

Still, the tight-fisted old zombie won't trust them, instead roughing out a map to the buried strongbox but keeping half (why just half?) against the prospect of this second coming's failing to take. It's a turn of events that kicks Gillie's avarice into lethal overdrive....

Though the movie wouldn't be remarkable without Gillie, it shows a fair amount of craft. From his 11 recorded directorial credits, Jack Bernhardt couldn't have been expected to contribute much, but he adds some arresting details (a sprung window shade in the doctor's office among them) and an offbeat pace. He splits the ending in two, leaving half in its proper place and opening the movie with the other, in a gas-station men's room where the shattered mirror and filthy sink outdo one another as emblems of last-ditch squalor. Police detective Sheldon Leonard figures prominently in those two segments; the rest of the movie is told in extended flashback.

There's barely a moment when Gillie isn't front and center, for which gratitude should be fulsome. She delivers a go-for-broke performance, short on nuance but long on the flamboyant gesture. She coldly guns the motor to run down one of her victims, skitters into hysterical giggles when she shoots the next, and, dying, laughs in Leonard's face after coaxing him to kiss her ('Jo Jo, just this once, come down to my level'). She's a knockout, and because of her the elusive Decoy, despite the inevitable shortcomings of its Monogram origins, can be counted a knockout, too – film noir with no frills.

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