14 user 6 critic

Strange Bargain (1949)

Sam Wilson is having a hard time making ends meet. When he asks his boss for a raise, he finds out that the company is closing down and he'll be out of a job. His boss decides to commit ... See full summary »


Will Price


Lillie Hayward (screenplay), J.H. Wallis (based on a story by)


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Complete credited cast:
Martha Scott ... Georgia Wilson
Jeffrey Lynn ... Sam Wilson
Harry Morgan ... Lt. Richard Webb (as Henry Morgan)
Katherine Emery ... Edna Jarvis
Richard Gaines ... Malcolm Jarvis
Henry O'Neill ... Timothy Hearne
Walter Sande ... Sgt. Cord
Michael Chapin ... Roddy Wilson
Arlene Gray ... Hilda Wilson
Raymond Roe ... Sydney Jarvis
Robert Bray ... Det. McTay


Sam Wilson is having a hard time making ends meet. When he asks his boss for a raise, he finds out that the company is closing down and he'll be out of a job. His boss decides to commit suicide so that his family can benefit from his insurance. He asks Sam to help make it look like murder. Sam thinks he has convinced the boss not to commit suicide. But the boss does it anyway, so Sam follows the instructions the boss had given him, to make it look like murder. Written by Daniel Bubbeo <dbubbeo@cmp.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


"$10,000 If You Make My Suicide Look Like MURDER!"


Crime | Drama | Film-Noir


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Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

5 November 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Compromisso de Honra See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The episode Murder, She Wrote: The Days Dwindle Down (1987) was done as a direct sequel to this movie, with Jessica Fletcher trying to figure out if Malcolm Jarvis' death was suicide or murder. In the episode, Jeffrey Lynn, Martha Scott, and Harry Morgan reprised their roles from the earlier film, and original footage from the film was used as flashbacks to tell the story. See more »


References Dick Tracy (1937) See more »

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User Reviews

Humanizing a Stereotype
18 September 2014 | by dougdoepkeSee all my reviews

RKO,1949, a peak year for noir, at least that's what I was expecting. But that turns out not to be the case. Instead, the production's more like TV's Father Knows Best, except this suburban dad (Lynn) has one foot in deep trouble. It's a clever, non-clichéd plot device. Dad's pulled into a suicide-to-look-like-murder insurance scheme because he needs money. In short, his job's not paying enough, plus he may be looking at unemployment. At his nice post-war home, there're two cute kids plus a loving Jane Wyatt type wife. In brief, he's living the life GI's fought for a few years earlier. And though he wavers, he can't let the American Dream slip away, even if it does involve a crime.

At first, I missed what I thought was needed noirish atmospherics. But now I figure that would have been all wrong. Noir would have pulled in the metaphysics of fate, doom, et al. And that would have detracted from the middle-class morality tale that the film is really about. It's not fate that moves Sam; it's ordinary desires for a happy home, circa 1950. In short, it's the financial underside of 50's sit-coms, where family problems go beyond a late trash pick-up or a cranky neighbor. Plus, it's filmed in that same straightforward manner.

Lynn's perfect as the low-key Dad; he's got "solid citizen" written all over him. Ditto Scott as wife and mom. And what a marvelously versatile actor Henry Morgan was. Here his limping detective commands respect despite the disability. Actually, I should have known something was up when Katherine Emery was cast as schemer Jarvis's (Gaines) wife. A favorite of horror-meister Val Lewton's, she was adept at the sinister.

I could have done with a less pat ending, but them's the hazards of the Code enforced period. All in all, it's a smoothly done 70-minutes, perhaps too low-key for its own good. Still, the crime drama shrewdly humanizes a familiar 50's stereotype, and in an appealing way.

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