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The Black Doll (1938)

Nicholas Rood, dishonest mine owner, finds a Black Doll on his desk and knows that vengeance is about to overtake him for murdering his former partner. He is knifed as he talks to his ... See full summary »


Otis Garrett


William Edward Hayes (novel), Harold Buckley (screenplay)


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Complete credited cast:
Donald Woods ... Nick Halstead
Nan Grey ... Marian Rood
Edgar Kennedy ... Sheriff Renick
C. Henry Gordon ... Nelson Rood
Doris Lloyd ... Laura Leland
John Wray ... Walling
Addison Richards ... A.H. Mallison
Holmes Herbert ... Dr. Giddings
William Lundigan ... Rex Leland
Fred Malatesta ... Esteban, the butler
Inez Palange Inez Palange ... Rosita, the housekeeper
Syd Saylor ... Deputy Red
Arthur Hoyt ... Coroner


Nicholas Rood, dishonest mine owner, finds a Black Doll on his desk and knows that vengeance is about to overtake him for murdering his former partner. He is knifed as he talks to his daughter Marian. She summons her fiancé Nick Halstead, a private detective. He finds that six people had a motive for the murder; Rood's sister Mrs. Laura Leland; her son Rex; Rood's associates Mallison and Walling; Esteban, a servant and Dr. Giddings. Sheriff Renick and his deputy Red get the clues all mixed up, but Nick finally narrows the search down to one suspect... Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A mystery murder with a laugh lurking behind every thrill! See more »


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English | Spanish

Release Date:

30 January 1938 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Boneca Misteriosa See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This was the first of four Universal Crime Club features to be telecast on New York City's DuMont Television Station WABD (Channel 5), making its television debut Monday 18 November 1946, marking the first breakthrough of major studio films being telecast in the postwar era; this actually came about because, by this time, these four titles had fallen into the hands of Astor Pictures Corporation, who had been distributing them theatrically for the past four years. The three that followed were The Lady in the Morgue (1938), _The Westland Case (1937)_ and _Danger on the Air (1938)_. On the West Coast, The Black Doll first saw the light of television in Los Angeles Saturday 28 September 1947 on DuMont's KTLA (Channel 5), in Washington DC Monday 4 August 1947 on WTTG (Channel 5), in Chicago Monday 3 May 1948 on WGN (Channel 9), in Philadelphia Friday 18 June 1948 on WPTZ (Channel 3), in Lowell MA (serving the Boston Area) Friday 1 October 1948 on WBZ (Channel 4), in Detroit Thursday 28 July 1949 on WJBK (Channel 2) and in San Francisco Wednesday 7 September 1949 on KPIX (Channel 5). It would not be until ten years later that Universal itself, and the rest of the majors, opened their vaults to their longtime rival. See more »

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User Reviews

Very entertaining mystery with laughs
2 April 2012 | by csteidlerSee all my reviews

Boy, is rich old Nelson Rood (C. Henry Gordon) asking for it! He is rude and imperious with everyone around him. So when he finds a black doll on his desk with a knife through it, he knows it's a genuine threat.

Who might want to harm Rood? Well….He is cruel to his sister, who lives with him and depends on his support. He scoffs at his nephew, a rebellious young man who has been forging his uncle's name on checks. He tries to chase away his daughter's fiancé. He even insults his faithful butler. And then there are the two old "business partners" from whom he has been hiding for 15 years, seemingly the only two people alive who could have known about the black doll….

Nan Grey and Donald Cook make a nice pair as the intelligent daughter and her clever fiancé. Cook is right on the job when the murder is discovered; true, it's a murder investigation, but he generally gives the impression that he is having great fun with it all. Grey exhibits charm and personality—she's smarter than your average B movie heroine here, and fully a match for Cook's exuberance. (Alas, Grey is not really given quite enough to do.)

Edgar Kennedy is strictly comic relief as the sheriff, but if you like Edgar then this film is for you. His best line: "When I'm investigating a crime, I'm not a man—I'm a bloodhound!" He's blustery, hilarious and totally inept right to the film's final shot.

The mystery plot itself is pretty standard….but it keeps you guessing. The dialog is good and the performances energetic. Lots of fun for B mystery fans.

One line that mystified me: "Get me a jar of jelly, some talcum powder, and a plate." (Donald Woods apparently preparing to take some fingerprints. All for naught, however, as one of Sheriff Kennedy's deputies eats the jelly.)

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