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Who Done It? (1942)

Approved | | Comedy, Mystery | 6 November 1942 (USA)
Two dumb soda jerks dream of writing radio mysteries. When they try to pitch an idea at a radio station, they end up in the middle of a real murder when the station owner is killed during a broadcast.


Erle C. Kenton


Stanley Roberts (story), Stanley Roberts (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview:
Bud Abbott ... Chick Larkin / Voice of Himself on Radio
Lou Costello ... Mervin Q. Milgrim / Voice of Himself on Radio
Patric Knowles ... Jimmy Turner
William Gargan ... Police Lt. Lou Moran
Louise Allbritton ... Jane Little
Thomas Gomez ... Col. J.R. Andrews
William Bendix ... Detective Brannigan
Don Porter ... Art Fraser
Jerome Cowan ... Marco Heller
Mary Wickes ... Juliet Collins
Ludwig Stössel ... Dr. Anton Marek (as Ludwig Stossel)


Two dumb soda jerks dream of writing radio mysteries. When they try to pitch an idea at a radio station, they end up in the middle of a real murder when the station owner is killed during a broadcast.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The most riotous riot of defective detecting that ever took you into laugh-sterics! (original print ad) See more »


Comedy | Mystery


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


As part of a display on telephones and communication, the Smithsonian Institute used a clip of Lou Costello trying to call in for the radio contest to demonstrate the mechanics of placing a call with an operator-run exchange. See more »


When Bud and Lou first meet/search the two Police detectives Costello searches the Police Lt and feels his badge. He screams, yells out 'RING' and tricks the detective into answering the phone giving them time to escape. Abbott runs and exits the door with Costello close BEHIND him. In the very next scene from outside in the hallway the Camera shot shows Costello exiting the door in FRONT of Abbott. See more »


Mervin Q. Milgrim: Don't call me Blimp!
Detective Brannigan: Why not?
Mervin Q. Milgrim: What makes a blimp go up?
Detective Brannigan: Hot air.
Mervin Q. Milgrim: What's holding you down?
See more »


Referenced in Private Eyes (1953) See more »

User Reviews

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21 June 2006 | by slokesSee all my reviews

There are better films featuring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, but "Who Done It" is as good a way as any to discover why the comedy pair was one of the 1940s' most consistent box office draws. It's a marvelously elongated piece of slapstick comedy that showcases Bud and Lou in peak form.

Chick (Bud) and Mervin (Lou) are soda jerks at the Radio Center Drug Store, located in the same building where GBS broadcasts radio shows across the country. The pair want to write a mystery, so when the network director is mysteriously murdered on the air, they jump at the chance to solve the case and prove their smarts. Needless to say, this impromptu sleuthing annoys the real police, and Chick and Mervin are soon on the run.

Just about a year into their 16-year run, "Who Done It" finds Abbott and Costello bursting with energy, utilizing the confines of a radio station as background for their trademark pratfalls and patter. Even when the dialogue is less than stellar, it works at sustaining the energy and proving there was nothing too illogical for Abbott and Costello.

"Why wasn't this murder reported yesterday," Mervin demands as he shows up seconds after the murder, playing a cop.

Because it didn't happen yet, is the answer.

"Why wait until the last minute...You're going to get the electric chair, and two years besides!"

Before you can register enough to groan about that one, Chick is educating Mervin on watts and volts. "What's volts?" "Exactly, watts are volts." "That's what I'm trying to find out...Next thing you'll tell me watts is on second!"

Then you get one of the best bits Abbott and Costello ever did on film, the Alexander 2222 routine, where Mervin tries to call the radio station from a drug store across the street and can't get through, even as a bevy of bizarre characters step into the same phone booth to call places like Nome, Alaska and Moscow. "Long distance, get me Brazil. Hello, Brazil. Is this Joe? Hi Joe! How's the coffee business?" There's lots of great silliness here, my favorite being when Lou for no reason bursts into opera.

As theowinthrop notes in his review, this is an interesting Abbott & Costello film for its focus on radio, which broke them as a national phenomenon and where they continued to work throughout their film career. There's a nice bit where Chick and Mervin, behind the counter of their drug store, act out their radio script with ice-cream scoopers ("'The Midget Gets The Chair,' or 'Small Fry'") and clever use of the tools of radio, like recordings that are activated at the wrong moment, and a prop door Mervin mistakes for the real thing. Walk through one door, and you are in a dark office where a murderer lurks, walk through another and you are in the middle of an acrobatic act.

Why is there an acrobatic act being performed at a radio station? Why are Chick and Mervin entrusted with the one piece of evidence by someone who knows they aren't cops? How does Mervin manage to climb up the side of a building after taking a flagpole in the crotch? Watching an Abbott and Costello movie, you have to ignore stuff like that.

But what you get in "Who Done It" is worth the sacrifice. You get a first-rate supporting cast including the memorable Mary Wilkes, Patric Knowles from "The Adventures of Robin Hood," Edmund MacDonald from "Flying Tigers," and most effectively, William Bendix as a dopey detective who actually manages to get himself tricked by Lou. There's also a great finale on the roof of a building that combines laughs and suspense as effectively as anything in the more-heralded "Meets Frankenstein."

Later on, the films got weaker as Lou pushed Bud to the side and showcased himself more as cuddly man-child. But here the pair was still hungry for laughs and experienced enough to understand what worked. They gave the public what they wanted with "Who Done It," and its a tribute to their lasting genius such a light endeavor still holds up today.

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Release Date:

6 November 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Who Done It? See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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