Strange Bargain

Strange Bargain is a 1949 American crime film noir directed by Will Price and starring Martha Scott, Jeffrey Lynn and Harry Morgan.[2]

Strange Bargain
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWill Price
Produced bySid Rogell
Screenplay byLillie Hayward
Story byJ.H. Wallis
StarringMartha Scott
Jeffrey Lynn
Harry Morgan
Music byFriedrich Hollaender
CinematographyHarry J. Wild
Edited byFrederic Knudtson
Release date
  • September 29, 1949 (1949-09-29) (premiere-New York City)[1]
  • November 5, 1949 (1949-11-05) (US)[1]
Running time
68 minutes
CountryUnited States

It is the story of a bookkeeper in need of money who agrees against his own better judgement to help a wealthy man carry out an elaborate suicide plan.


Because the firm is bankrupt, bookkeeper Sam Wilson learns from his boss, Malcolm Jarvis, that he is losing his job. Jarvis then makes a strange proposition, saying he intends to commit suicide, but wants Sam to make it look like a murder, in order for wife Edna and son Sydney to inherit Jarvis's life insurance.

Sam declines, but when he goes to see Jarvis and finds his dead body, he reluctantly goes along with the scheme. He finds an envelope with $10,000 that Jarvis has left behind for him, which he hides from Georgia, his wife. He disposes of the weapon as well, so Jarvis's fingerprints from the suicide won't be found.

Lt. Webb of the police is suspicious of Jarvis's business partner, Timothy Hearne. In the meantime, Sam's conscience gets the better of him. When he goes to see Edna Jarvis to confess his role in her husband's death, Edna reveals she's the one who committed the murder, Jarvis having changed his mind about the fake suicide. Edna is about to kill Sam as well when Webb shows up in the nick of time.


Murder, She Wrote

In 1987, the television series Murder, She Wrote broadcast an episode that served as a sequel to Strange Bargain. This discounted the original ending of the film, instead seeing Jessica Fletcher being recruited to attempt to prove Sam Wilson's innocence following his 30 year prison sentence. The episode, The Days Dwindle Down, saw the stars of the film, Martha Scott, Jeffrey Lynn and Harry Morgan, reprising their original roles.[3]


Critical response

A.H. Weiler, the film critic for the New York Times penned a fairly positive review. He wrote, "As a modest entry from Hollywood, Strange Bargain, which began a stand yesterday as the associate attraction to the Palace's vaudeville bill, is surprisingly diverting fare. Obviously not intended to set a cinematic landmark, it is, nevertheless, a melodrama that presents an extraordinary situation fairly suspensefully and, for the most part, through intelligent dialogue and direction. And, while it follows a familiar outline as a crime and punishment adventure, it does so neatly and with competent characterizations."[4]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz called the film "[a] well-conceived mystery B-film, but strictly second feature material." He also noted in his review that "Strange Bargain showed up in a 1987 episode of TV's Murder, She Wrote. By removing the original happy ending, the TV installment allowed Angela Lansbury to solve the mystery of the boss' murder--and to exonerate the long-imprisoned bookkeeper, played again by Jeffrey Lynn. Also appearing on this Murder She Wrote were Lynn's Strange Bargain costars Martha Scott and Harry Morgan."[5]


  1. "Strange Bargain: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  2. Strange Bargain at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  3. "The Days Dwindle Down". IMDB. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  4. Weiler, A.H. The New York Times, film review, September 30, 1949. Accessed: July 31, 2013.
  5. Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, April 17, 2001. Accessed: July 31, 2013.
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