The Murder Man

The Murder Man is a 1935 American crime-drama film starring Spencer Tracy, Virginia Bruce, and Lionel Atwill, and directed by Tim Whelan. The picture was Tracy's first film in what would be a twenty-year career with MGM. Tracy plays an investigative reporter who specializes in murder cases. The film is notable as the feature film debut of James Stewart (who had previously appeared in a Shemp Howard comedy short called Art Trouble). Stewart has sixth billing as a reporter named Shorty.

The Murder Man
Directed byTim Whelan
Produced byHarry Rapf
Written byScreenplay:
Tim Whelan
John C. Higgins
Tim Whelan
Guy Bolton
StarringSpencer Tracy
Virginia Bruce
Lionel Atwill
Harvey Stephens
Robert Barrat
James Stewart
Music byWilliam Axt
CinematographyLester White
Edited byJames E. Newcom
Release date
  • July 12, 1935 (1935-07-12) (U.S.)
Running time
70 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$546,000[1]


Steve Grey (Spencer Tracy) is a hotshot New York newspaper reporter specializing in murder. When a crooked businessman named Halford is murdered, Steve pins the blame on the dead man's associate, Henry Mander (Harvey Stephens), theorizing that Halford was killed by a rifle from a shooting gallery across the street.

Mander is arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Steve visits his father, who is depressed because his business has been ruined. The hard-working, hard-drinking Steve is urged by Mary (Virginia Bruce), a gossip columnist who loves him, to take some time off.

Another colleague, Shorty (James Stewart), arrives to tell Steve that their editor wants an exclusive interview with Mander in prison. He goes to Sing Sing to conduct the interview.

Driven by guilt, Steve shocks everyone by confessing to having committed the murder himself, as revenge for Halford and Mander having ruined his father. Steve's last act is to tell his editor that he's got his biggest story ever.



Writing for The Spectator, Graham Greene praised Tracy's acting, describing his portrayal of Steve Grey as "as certain as a mathematical formula" and noting that the scene of confrontation between Grey and Henry Mander (portrayed by Harvey Stephens) gave Tracy the chance "of showing the reserve of power behind the ease".[2]

Box office

According to MGM records the film earned $344,000 in the US and Canada and $202,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $184,000.[1]


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Greene, Graham (23 August 1935). "Where's George?/The Great God Gold/Boys Will Be Boys/The Murder Man". The Spectator. (reprinted in: Taylor, John Russell, ed. (1980). The Pleasure Dome. p. 16. ISBN 0192812866.)

See also

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