The Phantom of Crestwood

The Phantom of Crestwood is a 1932 American pre-Code murder mystery film released by RKO Radio Pictures, directed by J. Walter Ruben, and starring Ricardo Cortez, Karen Morley, Richard "Skeets" Gallagher, Anita Louise, H. B. Warner, and Pauline Frederick. Morley plays Jenny Wren, who plans to extort money from various wealthy ex-lovers, after she lures them to an estate called Crestwood.

The Phantom of Crestwood
Original theatrical poster
Directed byJ. Walter Ruben
Written byStory:
Bartlett Cormack
J. Walter Ruben
Bartlett Cormack
StarringRicardo Cortez
Karen Morley
Richard "Skeets" Gallagher
Anita Louise
H. B. Warner
Pauline Frederick
CinematographyHenry W. Gerrard
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • October 14, 1932 (1932-10-14)
Running time
76 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$436,000[1]

The film was based on a radio serial, which was heard on NBC Radio's Hollywood on the Air for six weeks (Fridays at 10:30 P.M. Eastern Time) from August 26 through September 30, 1932, and a contest was held where listeners sent in suggestions for the film's ending. The film features what Leonard Maltin referred to as an "eye-popping" flashback technique.[2]

According to RKO records the film made a profit of $100,000.[1]


Ingenue Jenny Wren has four rich and powerful former lovers: Priam Andes, William Jones, Eddie Mack, and Herbert Walcott. Wren's latest lover, poverty-stricken college student Tom Herrick, committed suicide when she jilted him. Remorseful, Jenny intends to leave the country. She gathers the four (and their wives and fiancees) at the Crestwood estate for a weekend party. Andes brings his sister Faith, his son Frank, and Jenny's sister Esther (Frank's fiancee).

Jenny tells each of the four men to give her $100,000 or she'll expose their past affairs. That first night, Jenny sees what she thinks is Tom's ghost in the woods outside her window. Later in the evening, Pete Harris and his gang of burglars enter Crestwood to rob it. So does shady New York City private detective Gary Curtis, who is attempting to steal a client's love letters (which Jenny has in her possession). Curtis and Harris discover Jenny dead on the living room floor.

The storm having trapped the party-goers at the mansion, Curtis investigates and discovers Jenny was killed with a dart. An attempt is made on Esther's life, but Curtis intervenes in time. Curtis discovers that one of the guests is actually Tom Herrick's father. He used his son's death mask to scare Jenny. Herrick dies of a heart attack. When Esther says she remembers something about her attacker, the lights go out and she is stabbed. Curtis and Harris suspect Jenny's maid of the crime. Discovering secret passages in the mansion, they hunt for her but only find the maid's body. Curtis realizes the murderer is Faith Andes, who disapproved of Frank's engagement. She mistook Jenny for Esther and killed her. Fearing the maid had figured out the crime, she killed the maid as well before trying to kill Esther. Confronted with her crimes, the now-insane Faith leaps from a cliff into the storm-tossed ocean below.


(cast list as per AFI database)[3]


  1. Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p39
  2. The American Film Institute Catalog Feature Films: 1931-40 by The American Film Institute, c.1993
  3. "The Phantom of Crestwood: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
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