Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Like MGM's Whistling in the Dark, Warner Bros.' The Smiling Ghost was inspired by the success of Paramount's comedy-mystery The Ghost Breakers--even unto the casting of Ghost Breakers' Willie Best in a similar role. During a gloriously oversized thunderstorm, hapless hero Lucky Downing (Wayne Morris) arrives at the mansion of his fiancee, heiress Eleanor B. Fairchild. Lucky hopes to break the jinx that seems to hang over Eleanor, whose last three boyfriends all met with mysterious deaths ("Anyone can be bitten by a snake." "On the fourteenth floor of a New York Hotel?") To do this, he tries to solve the triple mystery himself, aided and abetted by troublesome girl reporter Lil Bastow (Brenda Marshall) and timorous black manservant Clarence (Best). After a night of terror, replete with clutching hands and sliding panels, the murderer is revealed-after which Clarence participates in a closing gag which single-handedly sets race relations back 50 years. The Smiling Ghost was cowritten by Stuart Palmer, the creator of spinster sleuth Hildegarde Withers and a past master of locked-room mysteries with a comic touch.
black-widow [human], con/scam, heir, investigation, investigator, journalism, murder, reporter