Mystery in Swing

16mm motion picture film of Mystery in Swing

Directed by
Dreifuss, Arthur, American, 1908 - 1993
Written by
Hoerl, Arthur, American, 1891 - 1968
Subject of
Hawley, Monte, American, 1901 - 1950
16mm Film (a): acetate film;
16mm Film (b): acetate film
Duration: 75 Minutes
Length (Film Reel 1): 900 Feet
Length (Film Reel 2): 1000 Feet
motion pictures (information artifacts)
Place depicted
Harlem, New York City, New York County, New York, United States, North and Central America
Place filmed
United States, North and Central America
A local detective investigates the murder of a Harlem band-leader, Prince Ellis, and along the way, develops a lengthy list of suspects as he learns of Ellis' unpopularity.
2015.167.16.1ab: 16mm black and white films.
Prince Ellis, a noted trumpet player, signs a Hollywood contract, and reporter Biff Boyd is assigned to interview him at the Penguin Club. Biff's girl friend, Linda Carroll, a newspaper secretary, joins him. Linda's younger sister Mae is in love with Prince, and their father, John Carroll, writes music for him. Although John and Linda advise Mae that Prince is a lothario who is not worthy of her, she refuses to believe them. While Mae adores her autographed photo of Prince, Prince's wife Cleo smashes hers. At the Penguin, Biff and Linda notice that Prince is giving Maxine Ray the runaround. Maxine was hired as a lead singer at the club by Chet Wallace, whom she spurned in favor of Prince. Instead of getting the interview, Biff and Linda ask Prince and Maxine to join them as they get drunk, and Biff and Prince get into a fight. The next day, Prince is visited by Mae, for whom he promises to send as soon as his divorce comes through; Cleo, who demands her alimony; and John, who warns Prince that he will kill him if he continues to see Mae. When Maxine arrives, Prince puts his trumpet to his mouth to play, but suddenly collapses and dies. A knife then passes before Maxine's face with a note attached, which warns her not to reveal the killer. Biff and Linda arrive at the apartment in time to find the body and see Maxine leaving. She is picked up for questioning after Biff telephones Captain Hall. It is soon determined that Prince died from poison placed on the mouthpiece of his trumpet. Biff gathers all the suspects at the Penguin, where Maxine collapses at the end of a song from a knife wound and dies. Biff discovers a clue when he learns that the sister of Buck Bedford, Prince's servant, killed herself following a love affair with Prince. Biff finds Buck unconscious in his apartment, but Buck escapes when the foolish Sergeant Slim, who was supposed to guard him, falls asleep during a card game. When Biff, Linda and the police enter Prince's apartment, they are shot at, and the culprit escapes, leaving a song sheet signed that day by John. Hall is ready to charge John, but Biff, who does not believe that John is the murderer, is given forty-eight hours to prove his innocence. After learning that Prince left no will, Biff assembles the suspects once again and has Lawyer Jones read a fake will in which one possession is left to each of his friends. Chet, who inherits Prince's trumpet, gives himself away as the murderer when he refuses to play it because of the poison. Chet then admits that he killed Maxine too because she threatened to expose him. The mystery solved, Biff and Linda plan to marry."
Source: AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Accessed on August 11, 2016 (
African American
Race films
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Randall and Sam Nieman
Object number
Restrictions & Rights
Unknown - Restrictions Possible
See more items in
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Collection title
Nieman Film Collection
Media Arts-Film and Video
Data Source
National Museum of African American History and Culture

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