64 user 25 critic

Mystery Street (1950)

A small-town policeman is assisted by a Harvard professor after the discovery of a human skeleton on a Massachusetts beach.


John Sturges


Sydney Boehm (screenplay), Richard Brooks (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Ricardo Montalban ... Peter Moralas
Sally Forrest ... Grace Shanway
Bruce Bennett ... Dr. McAdoo
Elsa Lanchester ... Mrs. Smerrling
Marshall Thompson ... Henry Shanway
Jan Sterling ... Vivian Heldon
Edmon Ryan ... James Joshua Harkley
Betsy Blair ... Jackie Elcott
Wally Maher Wally Maher ... Tim Sharkey
Ralph Dumke ... A Tattooist
Willard Waterman ... A Mortician
Walter Burke ... An Ornithologist
Don Shelton Don Shelton ... A District Attorney


Vivian, a B-girl working at "The Grass Skirt," is being brushed off by her rich, married boyfriend. To confront him, she hijacks drunken customer Henry Shanway and his car from Boston to Cape Cod, where she strands Henry...and is never seen again. Months later, a skeleton is found (sans clothes or clues) on a lonely Cape Cod beach. Using the macabre expertise of Harvard forensic specialist Dr. McAdoo, Lt. Pete Morales must work back from bones to the victim's identity, history, and killer. Will he succeed in time to save an innocent suspect? Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Anything can happen !


Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The concept of a forensic procedural is common in the 21st century, but was brand new when this movie was made. To cap it off, the hero was played by a Hispanic actor, Ricardo Montalban, who was a big star in Mexico, but who had been mostly cast in Hollywood flicks as a Latin lover before this picture. See more »


When Vivian is talking on the phone early in the movie, initially she has a thin band ring on her finger. During the same conversation she has on a different ring with a large stone on it. See more »


Detective Tim Sharkey: Ha-ha, lieutenant, you're not young enough to start on this case.
Lieutenant Peter Morales: Maybe, but I'm dumb enough.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Although it was filmed almost entirely in and around Boston, the end title still carries the traditional "Made in Hollywood, USA" tag. See more »


Referenced in Leverage: The Frame-Up Job (2012) See more »


The Johnson Rag
Music by Guy R. Hall & Henry Kleinkauf (uncredited)
Played on the jukebox at the Dunes Diner on Cape Cod
See more »

User Reviews

Great locations, some terrific acting, interesting plot...worth a casual look!
18 August 2010 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

Mystery Street (1950)

There are so many charming and sharply seen moments in this movie, and a plot that's strong and curious, you wonder why it doesn't quite pull together and zoom. Director John Sturges is neither a legend nor as slouch, one of those really competent directors who made some pretty famous films. "Mystery Street" might be revealing as to what makes a Sturges film what it is.

I mean, there's the Mexican-American lead male, Ricardo Montalban, who is far more believable than, say, Humphrey Bogart. But we prefer Bogart? Maybe because Montalban is so everyday, not a star, just wonderfully convincing as one of us. (He has a great line, probably added just for him, about being fully an American even though his family has only been in the country for less than a hundred years.) The story starts with a real bang, and with the crisp, edgy acting of Jan Sterling, and a couple of fast twists. It never gets dull, even if it levels out (it makes a potential mistake by letting us know fairly early on who the killer is, and then doesn't make this killer much of the plot until the very end). And there are other great roles, particularly the landlady, played by the incomparable Elsa Lanchester.

And check out the locale--not L.A., not even New York, but Boston area location shooting. And some great field work on Cape Cod. The whole feel of the movie is just outside the usual stuff, you know, the escape to the Mexican border or up into the California mountains, it makes it worth watching just for that. The photography is not extroverted, but it's really smart, tightly seen stuff, by John Alton, a Hollywood Veteran who later did the "Big Combo" and "Lonelyhearts."

Most of us don't watch films for all the insider stuff, or even just to salivate over the photography, as I tend to do, so we are back to the functional if not quite riveting story, held up by a handful of great performances. Better than CSI.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 64 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.






Release Date:

11 August 1950 (Canada) See more »

Also Known As:

Murder at Harvard See more »


Box Office


$730,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed