Mystery Street

Mystery Street is a 1950 black-and-white film noir directed by John Sturges with cinematography by cinematographer John Alton. The film features Ricardo Montalban, Sally Forrest, Bruce Bennett, Elsa Lanchester, and Marshall Thompson.[3]

Mystery Street
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Sturges
Produced byFrank E. Taylor
Screenplay bySydney Boehm
Richard Brooks
Story byLeonard Spigelgass
StarringRicardo Montalban
Sally Forrest
Bruce Bennett
Elsa Lanchester
Marshall Thompson
Music byRudolph G. Kopp
CinematographyJohn Alton
Edited byFerris Webster
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • July 28, 1950 (1950-07-28) (United States)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$775,000[1]

The MGM film was shot on location in Boston and Cape Cod; according to one critic, it was "the first commercial feature to be predominantly shot" on location in Boston.[4] Also featured are Harvard Medical School in Roxbury, Massachusetts and Harvard University in nearby Cambridge. The film's story earned Leonard Spigelgass a nomination as Best Story for the 23rd Academy Awards.


Blonde B-girl Vivian (played by Jan Sterling) is pregnant and tries to contact the father to seek financial help. He refuses to meet and stops taking her calls. She goes to "The Grass Skirt" bar in Boston where she works and picks up a drunk (Marshall Thompson) so she can use his car to drive to Cape Cod, where she can confront the father face to face.

Vivian drives with the car's owner drunk by her side. When the man realizes he's miles from Boston, he demands to be taken back. Instead, she ditches him and steals the car. But the father of the child, James Harkley, kills Vivian rather than pay up or risk exposure of the affair to his wife and family. He buries Vivian's body and sinks the car in a pond.

A day later, the drunk reports the car stolen to his insurance but neglects to mention the blonde, not wanting to get in trouble with his wife (Sally Forrest), who had been hospitalized suffering from the loss of a pregnancy. Months later, the B-girl's skeleton is found half-buried on a beach. State Police Lt. Peter Morales (Montalban), assigned to the District Attorney's Office in Barnstable, teams up with Boston police and uses forensics with the help of Dr. McAdoo, a Harvard doctor (Bennett), to figure out who the woman is.

Morales wants to know how she died. Vivian's nosy landlady (Lanchester) attempts to blackmail Harkley, the man Vivian had been calling from her boarding house, going so far as to visit the wealthy married man and steal his gun. Morales tracks down the stolen car from police records and questions Henry Shanway, the drunk Vivian was with the night she disappeared. Morales eventually finds Shanway's car and he's identified in a police lineup. The innocent man is arrested and charged with the murder.

Dr. McAdoo discovers a bullet stuck in the car. Morales then finds that the landlady has the gun, but not before she tries to blackmail Harkley for $20,000, has been knocked over the head and died. Morales chases but loses the killer. He comes across a hidden baggage check in the landlady's bird cage, which sends Morales racing to catch the killer before the murder weapon can be disposed of. At the train station, he apprehends Harkley and takes him into custody. Shanway gets to be set free.



According to MGM records the film earned $429,000 domestically and $346,000 foreign, resulting in a loss of $284,000.[1]

Critical response

Time magazine called it a "low-budget melodrama without box-office stars or advance ballyhoo [that] does not pretend to do much more than tell a straightaway, logical story of scientific crime detection" but notes that "within such modest limits, Director John Sturges and Scripters Sydney Boehm and Richard Brooks have treated the picture with such taste and craftsmanship that it is just about perfect."[5] The New York Times called it "an adventure which, despite a low budget, is not low in taste or its attention to technical detail, backgrounds and plausibility" with a performance by Montalban that is "natural and unassuming."[6]



  • Academy Awards: Best Writing, Motion Picture Story, Leonard Spigelgass; 1951.


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Glenn Lovell, Escape Artist: The Life and Films of John Sturges, University of Wisconsin Press, 2008 p55.
  3. Mystery Street at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  4. Book excerpt: Sherman, Paul. 'Mystery Street', book excerpt, March 30, 2008. Accessed: August 17, 2013.
  5. "The New Pictures". Time. August 7, 1950. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
  6. "New Metro Study of Crime Detection". The New York Times. July 28, 1950. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
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