Humphrey Campbell
Created by Geoffrey Homes (pseud. of Daniel Mainwaring; 1902-1977)

HUMPHREY CAMPBELL's a decidedly soft-boiled dick who works for the Morgan Missing Persons Bureau in Los Angeles. His boss is 65 year-old Oscar Morgan -- fat, lazy, not above a little corruption. Humphrey himself is on the chubby side himself, and is prone to white suits and playing the accordion. And he never drinks anything stronger than milk.

But Humphrey's no weenie. If he has to, he'll fight. And he carries a .38 in a shoulder holster that he knows how to use. Homes' other series character, newsman/P.I. Robin Bishop teams up with Humphrey in the first book of the series, Then There Were Three (1938).

Two of the Campbell novels were brought to the silver screen. No Hands on the Clock (1941) was filmed under that title, and it's a mess; an inadvertently hilarious train wreck that only occasionally strays close to its source material. It starred Chester Morris as our man Humphrey, while 1944's Crime by Night features Jerome Cowan as "Sam" Campbell. I guess Humphrey wasn't tough enough sounding, or something. Hadn't they ever heard of Bogart? In that one, "Sam" and his secretary (Jane Wyman, who evidently has a way with a cigarette) go on vacation and end up solving a murder.

Homes was actually Daniel Mainwaring. He was born in California, and attended Fresno University. He held various jobs, including migrant fruit picker, private investigator and reporter, before turning to writing under the Homes pen name in the thirties. Sometimes using his real name, he worked as a screenwriter, first for Warner Bros. and later for Paramount, including such classic crime and film noirs as Out of the Past (1946) (based on a novel of his, and later remade as 1984's Against All Odds), They Made Me a Killer (1946), The Big Steal (1949) and Roadblock (1951). He wrote the screenplays for over forty films, including a ton of gangster flicks and westerns. Perhaps his biggest success was the screenplay for Invasion of the Body-Snatchers (1956).

UNDER OATH

  • "Late in this rather dull mystery, Miss Wyman offers her co-star a Chesterfield, then proceeds to prop one in her mouth and light it. No visible exhales, but Miss Wyman, who sports a fetching 40s-style hairdo and hats throughout, looks stunning as she dangles, inhales and holds. Did I mention her killer black gloves? She smokes again soon after in a hotel lobby. A real heart-stopper, if you're into real old-style Hollywood glamour."
    -- Female Celebrity Smoking List takes a look at Crime by Night (and people think THIS site is peculiar?)
    .
  • "I have not read the novel it's based on so I can't say how it compares, but I have seen Crime By Night. It was on TCM a month or so ago. It was better than I expected. Murder among the well-to-do in a small town (with a corrupt sheriff) and investigated by a PI who can take a punch, and often does. One of my favorite character actors, Jerome Cowan, plays the rather sleazy P.I.. Jane Wyman is his assistant and gets star billing. It would have been better without her... It has the bloodiest murder scene I've ever seen in a movie from that era, and a fair number of fist fights and beatings. I don't recall the PI drinking milk, however. Oh well, can't have everything."
    -- Mark McGlone, from Rara-Avis

NOVELS

FILMS

  • NO HANDS ON THE CLOCK
    (1941, Paramount)
    76 minutes, black & white
    Based on the novel by Geoffrey Homes
    Screenplay by Maxwell Shane
    Directed by Frank McDonald
    Produced by William H. Pine, William C. Thomas
    Starring Chester Morris as HUMPHREY CAMPBELL
    Also starring
    Jean Parker, Rose Hobart, Dick Purcell, Astrid Allwyn, Rod Cameron, Lorin Raker, Billie Seward, George Watts, James Kirkwood, Robert Middlemass, Ralph Sanford, Grant Withers, George J. Lewis, Keye Luke

  • CRIME BY NIGHT
    (1944, Warner Brothers)
    72 minutes, black & white
    Based on the novel "Forty Whacks" by Geoffrey Homes
    Screenplay by Joel Malone and Richard Weil  
    Directed by William Clemens   
    Produced by William Jacobs
    Starring Jerome Cowan as SAM CAMPBELL
    Also starring
    Jane Wyman, Faye Emerson, Charles Lang, Eleanor Parker, Stuart Crawford, Cy Kendall, Charles C. Wilson, Roy Brent, Creighton Hale 

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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