The Return of Dr. X (1939)

60 mins | Mystery | 2 December 1939

Director:

Vincent Sherman

Writer:

Lee Katz

Cinematographer:

Sid Hickox

Editor:

Thomas Pratt

Production Designer:

Esdras Hartley

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

Although characters in the film address Wayne Morris's character as Walter Garrett, the onscreen credits and reviews list his name as Walter Barnett. Similarly, although onscreen credits list Cliff Saum as "Detective Sergeant Moran," reviews credit Jack Mower with the role. According to news items in HR, Boris Karloff was originally slated for the lead in the film, but when his work on Enemy Agent prevented him from appearing, Warners began negotiations with Bela Lugosi for the lead. James Stephenson was then assigned to the role, but when he left to appear in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Humphrey Bogart stepped in. Another item in HR adds that George Amy was originally scheduled to direct.
       The Return of Dr. X marked the directorial debut of former actor, screen writer and dialogue director Vincent Sherman (1906--2006). Sherman went on to direct dozens of films for Warner Bros., among them Old Acquaintance (1943, see entry) and The Hasty Heart (1949, see entry), as well as many television programs for that studio and others until his retirement in the 1980s. ...

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Although characters in the film address Wayne Morris's character as Walter Garrett, the onscreen credits and reviews list his name as Walter Barnett. Similarly, although onscreen credits list Cliff Saum as "Detective Sergeant Moran," reviews credit Jack Mower with the role. According to news items in HR, Boris Karloff was originally slated for the lead in the film, but when his work on Enemy Agent prevented him from appearing, Warners began negotiations with Bela Lugosi for the lead. James Stephenson was then assigned to the role, but when he left to appear in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Humphrey Bogart stepped in. Another item in HR adds that George Amy was originally scheduled to direct.
       The Return of Dr. X marked the directorial debut of former actor, screen writer and dialogue director Vincent Sherman (1906--2006). Sherman went on to direct dozens of films for Warner Bros., among them Old Acquaintance (1943, see entry) and The Hasty Heart (1949, see entry), as well as many television programs for that studio and others until his retirement in the 1980s.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
22 Nov 1939
p. 3
Film Daily
28 Nov 1939
p. 12
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 1939
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 1939
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
17 May 1939
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
20 May 1939
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
25 May 1939
p. 5
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 1939
pp. 6-7
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 1939
p. 3
Motion Picture Daily
28 Nov 1939
p. 8
Motion Picture Herald
8 Jul 1939
p. 41
Motion Picture Herald
2 Dec 1939
p. 44
New York Times
23 Nov 1939
p. 38
Variety
29 Nov 1939
p. 14
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
SOUND
Charles Lang
Sd
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Unit mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "The Doctor's Secret" by William J. Makin in Detective Fiction Weekly (30 Jul 1938).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
2 December 1939
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 23 Nov 1939
Production Date:
began 24 May 1939
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc.
3 December 1939
LP9261
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
60
Length(in reels):
7
Country:
United States
PCA No:
5541
SYNOPSIS

When reporter Walter Garrett finds the dead body of actress Angela Merrova in her hotel room, he immediately phones the police. By the time the authorities arrive, however, the body is missing, and the next day, the actress appears at Walt's newspaper office and announces that she is suing the paper for printing the story of her death. Puzzled, Walt visits his friend, Dr. Michael Rhodes, for an explanation, and Rhodes refers the case to his associate, Dr. Francis Flegg, who insists that Walt must have been hallucinating. Rhodes's interest is piqued when he is called in to identify the body of Rodgers, one of his patients, and Walt insists that the circumstances surrounding Rodgers' murder are identical to those he found at Merrova's apartment. That night, Rhodes visits Flegg with a blood sample for him to examine, and while he is at the house, he meets Flegg's sinister assistant Marshall Quesne. On the trail of the story, Walt follows Rhodes to the doctor's house, and when he later sees Merrova enter the building, he convinces Rhodes to visit Merrova with him. The next day, they both call on the actress at her apartment, where she confirms Walt's story and promises to elaborate the following day. She mysteriously dies, however, before she can explain. While digging through some newspaper files, Walt comes across a picture of Quesne that identifies him as Dr. Xavier, a killer executed for murder. When Walt and Rhodes discover Xavier's empty grave, they confront Flegg, who confesses that he brought Xavier back to life as an experiment, and now Xavier has turned into a monster, killing for the rare blood ...

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When reporter Walter Garrett finds the dead body of actress Angela Merrova in her hotel room, he immediately phones the police. By the time the authorities arrive, however, the body is missing, and the next day, the actress appears at Walt's newspaper office and announces that she is suing the paper for printing the story of her death. Puzzled, Walt visits his friend, Dr. Michael Rhodes, for an explanation, and Rhodes refers the case to his associate, Dr. Francis Flegg, who insists that Walt must have been hallucinating. Rhodes's interest is piqued when he is called in to identify the body of Rodgers, one of his patients, and Walt insists that the circumstances surrounding Rodgers' murder are identical to those he found at Merrova's apartment. That night, Rhodes visits Flegg with a blood sample for him to examine, and while he is at the house, he meets Flegg's sinister assistant Marshall Quesne. On the trail of the story, Walt follows Rhodes to the doctor's house, and when he later sees Merrova enter the building, he convinces Rhodes to visit Merrova with him. The next day, they both call on the actress at her apartment, where she confirms Walt's story and promises to elaborate the following day. She mysteriously dies, however, before she can explain. While digging through some newspaper files, Walt comes across a picture of Quesne that identifies him as Dr. Xavier, a killer executed for murder. When Walt and Rhodes discover Xavier's empty grave, they confront Flegg, who confesses that he brought Xavier back to life as an experiment, and now Xavier has turned into a monster, killing for the rare blood he needs to remain alive. After they leave, Xavier appears and shoots Flegg for his blood donor book. He then kidnaps Joan Vance, a nurse who has the rare blood type he needs, and takes her to his lab. Walt, Rhodes and the police follow, arriving just in time to shoot Xavier and save Joan from the fate of Merrova and his other victims.

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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.