Tell No Tales (1939)

Michael Cassidy (Melvyn Douglas) is celebrating the 75th anniversary of his newspaper when he gets horrifying news from the paper’s owner, Matt Cooper: the paper is to stop publication immediately.

tell no tales film poster
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

When anger brews over the suddenness of the announcement and combines with Michael’s pride for the paper, he hatches a plan to solve a kidnapping case, get the scoop, and prove that the paper’s good work should continue.

Tell No Tales was directed by Leslie Fenton. The screenplay was written by Lionel Houser from a story by Pauline London and Alfred Taylor.

This film has several elements that easily won me over: a decent plot of mystery, Melvyn Douglas as the leading man, and a newspaper/newsroom setting. Douglas stars as a man on a mission to save his paper after it’s forced to cease publication. In the process, he takes on several fun identities including a lawyer and financial investigator.

In his adventures, he brings some spirited and humorous moments to the film, contrasting the more suspenseful moments. There’s also some wonderfully snarky dialogue to be enjoyed: “Get back in your cage, you moth-eaten old rabbit!”

I would have liked to see more collaboration and team-based sleuthing between Douglas’ character of Michael and Ellen Frazier, portrayed by Louise Platt. She’s fearful (understandably, as key witness to a sensational kidnapping) but there seems to be some spunk hidden within her! (A different actress probably would have done wonders for this crime-solving pair; Platt’s performance is pretty forgettable, despite the potential I saw in her character.)

tell no tales film still
(Image via Pinterest)

On the supporting side, Theresa Harris gives a brief but impactful performance as a widow, and Zeffie Tilbury is a delight as the zesty, 50-year newspaper vet, Mrs. Anderson.

Tell No Tales is a fine mystery/crime drama, nothing more and nothing less. It’s particularly worthwhile if you’re a fan of Melvin Douglas, but an okay time-passer otherwise.

5 thoughts on “Tell No Tales (1939)

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I find that I don’t have much of substance to add when it comes to the super well-known classics (they’ve been discussed to death!), so I enjoy discovering lesser-knowns and shining a bit of light on them. Discovering new films/lesser-known stars is my favorite part of being a classic film fanatic! There are so many gems hiding around.


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