The early Paramount talkie The Dummy represented a collaboration of sorts between screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who adapted the play on which the film was based, and Mankiewicz' brother Joseph, who wrote the subtitles for the film's silent version. The title character is office-boy Barney, played by Mickey Bennett. Pretending to be a deaf-mute, Barney tries to trump his detective boss Walter Babbing (John Cromwell) by tracking down the person who kidnapped Peggy Meredith (Vondell Darr), the daughter of wealthy Agnes and Trumbull Meredith (Ruth Chatterton, Frederic March). The guilty party turns out to be Rose Gleason, played by ZaSu Pitts in a rare non-comic role. Previously filmed as a silent picture with Jack Pickford (Mary's brother) in the lead, The Dummy suffered from substandard sound reproduction, but like most 1929 "talkers" it was a big success. John Cromwell, the actor who plays "The Dummy's" boss, is better known for his directorial achievements; his son, James Cromwell, would earn an Oscar nomination for his performance in the 1995 fantasy Babe.
by Hal Erickson synopsis