Bunco Squad (1950)

67 mins | Drama | 1 September 1950

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HISTORY

According to a LADN news item, this film is based on a book by Reginald Taviner entitled Fortuneer , and on the film Crime Ring , a 1938 RKO release for which Taviner wrote a screen story. (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.0872). All other sources, however, list Taviner's story for Bunco Squad as "unpublished." It is not known if Taviner wrote additional material specifically for Bunco Squad . The LADN item also noted that the film incorporated "material from recent files of a Los Angeles bunco squad." Bunco Squad was the first theatrical film that Herbert I. Leeds directed after a two-year stint as a television director. Dante was a famous real-life magician. The 1938 film Crime Ring was directed by Leslie Goodwins and starred Allan Lane and Frances ... More Less

According to a LADN news item, this film is based on a book by Reginald Taviner entitled Fortuneer , and on the film Crime Ring , a 1938 RKO release for which Taviner wrote a screen story. (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.0872). All other sources, however, list Taviner's story for Bunco Squad as "unpublished." It is not known if Taviner wrote additional material specifically for Bunco Squad . The LADN item also noted that the film incorporated "material from recent files of a Los Angeles bunco squad." Bunco Squad was the first theatrical film that Herbert I. Leeds directed after a two-year stint as a television director. Dante was a famous real-life magician. The 1938 film Crime Ring was directed by Leslie Goodwins and starred Allan Lane and Frances Mercer. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
19 Aug 1950.
---
Daily Variety
9 Aug 50
p. 3.
Film Daily
11 Aug 50
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jan 50
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 50
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 50
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Aug 50
p. 3.
Los Angeles Daily News
2 Dec 1949.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
19 Aug 50
p. 442.
Variety
16 Aug 50
p. 11.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Suggested by a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
MUSIC
Mus dir
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Scr supv
DETAILS
Release Date:
1 September 1950
Production Date:
18295
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
2 August 1950
Copyright Number:
LP275
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
67
Length(in feet):
6,042
Country:
United States
PCA No:
14422
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Sgt. Steve Johnson and his partner, Sgt. McManus, of the Los Angeles bunco squad, are assigned to investigate the possibility that all of the local charlatans are working for a single boss. While Steve and McManus question fortune-tellers, numerologists and tarot card readers, confidence man Anthony Wells ingratiates himself with wealthy widow Jessica Royce and her attractive secretary, Barbara Madison. After Tony learns that Jessica has been seeing Dr. Largo, a "consulting psychologist," he visits his former partner, crystal ball reader Liane Hill, and suggests that she plot with him to bilk Jessica. Liane, "graphologist" Annie Cobb and "swami" Drake, all of whom are known to Steve and McManus, join Tony and his cohort, Frederick Reed, to form the Rama Society. Tony declares Liane the group's leader and himself its silent partner, then instructs his workers to find out everything they can about Jessica's dead son Philip. After a number of anecdotes about Philip have been collected from various unsuspecting people associated with Jessica, Tony sends Reed to talk with Largo. Reed threatens to expose Largo, who he knows was once convicted of fraud under another name, unless he "advises" Jessica to visit the Rama Society. As instructed, Jessica attends a séance at the Society and is stunned to hear "Philip" talking to her, calling her by her pet name. Anxious to speak with Philip again, Jessica arranges for a private sitting the next day. Steve, meanwhile, learns that Liane, Annie and Drake have left their jobs and eventually tracks them to the Society building. After a fruitless discussion with Liane, Steve starts to leave and notices Jessica arriving for her ... +


Sgt. Steve Johnson and his partner, Sgt. McManus, of the Los Angeles bunco squad, are assigned to investigate the possibility that all of the local charlatans are working for a single boss. While Steve and McManus question fortune-tellers, numerologists and tarot card readers, confidence man Anthony Wells ingratiates himself with wealthy widow Jessica Royce and her attractive secretary, Barbara Madison. After Tony learns that Jessica has been seeing Dr. Largo, a "consulting psychologist," he visits his former partner, crystal ball reader Liane Hill, and suggests that she plot with him to bilk Jessica. Liane, "graphologist" Annie Cobb and "swami" Drake, all of whom are known to Steve and McManus, join Tony and his cohort, Frederick Reed, to form the Rama Society. Tony declares Liane the group's leader and himself its silent partner, then instructs his workers to find out everything they can about Jessica's dead son Philip. After a number of anecdotes about Philip have been collected from various unsuspecting people associated with Jessica, Tony sends Reed to talk with Largo. Reed threatens to expose Largo, who he knows was once convicted of fraud under another name, unless he "advises" Jessica to visit the Rama Society. As instructed, Jessica attends a séance at the Society and is stunned to hear "Philip" talking to her, calling her by her pet name. Anxious to speak with Philip again, Jessica arranges for a private sitting the next day. Steve, meanwhile, learns that Liane, Annie and Drake have left their jobs and eventually tracks them to the Society building. After a fruitless discussion with Liane, Steve starts to leave and notices Jessica arriving for her sitting. Steve takes down Jessica's license plate number and, upon discovering her identity, goes to talk with her. To his surprise, Jessica dismisses Steve's warnings and remains firm in her support of the Society. While Steve and Jessica talk, Reed, who has followed Steve there, tampers with his brakes, causing Steve to crash as he is driving away from Jessica's house. With the sergeant momentarily out of the way, Tony orders the group to pressure Jessica to name the Society in her will as her sole beneficiary. A recuperated Steve, meanwhile, is told about Reed and Liane's past associations with Tony, and concludes that Tony is the ring leader. To trap Tony, Steve convinces his girl friend, aspiring movie actress Grace Bradshaw, to impersonate a medium and sends her to Dante, a retired magician, to be trained. Steve then travels to Kansas City to speak with Philip's best friend, Danny Bowman. Danny shows Steve the last letter Philip wrote to his mother before his wartime death, which Danny never mailed. Back in Los Angeles, after Liane convinces Jessica to change her will, a distressed Barbara tries to contact Steve. Unable to reach the sergeant, Barbara unwittingly confides in Tony her fears about the Society. Later, Barbara is killed when her car crashes, and Steve suspects murder. After Steve coerces Largo into advising Jessica to visit Grace, who is acting under the name Madame Bradshaw, Jessica is thrilled to learn about Philip's letter. Tony soon gets wind of Grace's operation and sends Drake to intimidate her. Instead, McManus and Dante beat up Drake, who rushes back to the Society and is followed by Steve. Before Steve can question them, Tony and Reed slip away and head for Dante's house. There they deduce that Grace is part of an undercover operation and take Jessica, who is having second thoughts about her will, at gunpoint, intending to kill her with another phony car accident. Steve, however, shoots Reed as he is fleeing Dante's and frees Jessica. Tony manages to jump into Jessica's car but, while being chased by Steve, loses control of the brakeless vehicle and crashes. With Tony's death, Steve is promoted to lieutenant and almost convinces Grace to marry him. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.