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Who Done It? (1942)

Approved | | Comedy, Mystery | 6 November 1942 (USA)
Two dumb soda jerks dream of writing radio mysteries. When they try to pitch an idea at a radio station, they end up in the middle of a real murder when the station owner is killed during a broadcast.


Erle C. Kenton


Stanley Roberts (story), Stanley Roberts (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

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1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview:
Bud Abbott ... Chick Larkin / Voice of Himself on Radio
Lou Costello ... Mervin Q. Milgrim / Voice of Himself on Radio
Patric Knowles ... Jimmy Turner
William Gargan ... Police Lt. Lou Moran
Louise Allbritton ... Jane Little
Thomas Gomez ... Col. J.R. Andrews
William Bendix ... Detective Brannigan
Don Porter ... Art Fraser
Jerome Cowan ... Marco Heller
Mary Wickes ... Juliet Collins
Ludwig Stössel ... Dr. Anton Marek


Two dumb soda jerks dream of writing radio mysteries. When they try to pitch an idea at a radio station, they end up in the middle of a real murder when the station owner is killed during a broadcast.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Mystery


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

6 November 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Deux nigauds détectives See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono | Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


During the scene in which Lou Costello is "interrogating" the radio show cast, he blurts out the question, "Where were you on the night of January 16th?" This is reference to the famous Broadway play of the same name by Ayn Rand, the Russian-born novelist and philosopher who wrote "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged." The Night of January 16th (1941) was also made into a movie. See more »


Costello running in fright in the radio station crashes through a glass partition, leaving a hole in his shape in the glass. Abbott, following, breaks away part of the glass to get through. Later, we see the hole in the partition in its original form. See more »


Mervin Q. Milgrim: Operator! Give me Alexander two two, two two!
Telephone operator: The line is busy!
See more »

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User Reviews

Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer
13 December 2006 | by lugonianSee all my reviews

WHO DONE IT? (Universal, 1942), directed by Erle C. Kenton, is a perfect example of how good a comedy can and should be, a fast-paced story with murder mystery combined. The result: 77 minutes of non-stop fun. Starring the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, this is prime Abbott and Costello, and the first to actually showcase them to best advantage, having the movie all to themselves, much to the delight of their fans.

Plot summary: Chick Larkin (Bud Abbott) and Marvin Q. Milgrim (Lou Costello) are a couple of soda jerks (no pun intended) at the Radio Center drug store where they hope to interest somebody in using their "Muck and Myer" script to land them jobs as mystery writers for GBS radio. Jimmy Turner (Patric Knowles), a former English college professor, is hired as a new staff writer for the "Murder at Midnight" program, thanks to Jane Little (Louise Allbritton), his former sweetheart and the show's producer. This does not fare well with its Marco Heller (Jerome Cowan), who fears of losing his job as top writer. While Chick and Marvin attend the broadcast of "Murder at Midnight," Colonel J.R. Andrews (Thomas Gomez), executive director and producer, about to make an important announcement, suddenly dies. His physician, Dr. Merek (Ludwig Stossell) diagnoses it as his failing heart but Jimmy discovers the victim was electrocuted and calls it murder. Chick and Marvin take the opportunity to act as detectives to solve the mystery themselves, even when Moran (William Gargan) and Brannigan (William Bendix), take over as investigators and wanting to place the two phoneys under arrest. Later, Marek is found murdered and a mysterious figure is seen roaming about the building. Juliet Collins (Mary Wickes), the script girl and executive secretary to the late Colonel Andrews, assists Chick and Mervin, in spite the fact that Mervin, who she has become interested, is using her to break into the radio business. Juliet even keeps the two from the clutches of the detectives. While doing a little detecting of his own, Jimmy finds a secret panel in Andrews' office consisting of coded messages, learning that a spy had been using the network to relay information over the air. Feeling he has discovered a motive, Jimmy, with the help of Jane, decides to re-enact the "Murder at Midnight" broadcast in order to trap the real killer. Easier said than done with Chick and Marvin around.

With plenty of gags, inside humor and classic A&C routines expertly worked into the plot, WHO DONE IT? has everything going for it, highlighted by atmospheric scenery, a wild roof top chase resembling that of a silent Harold Lloyd comedy (with Costello hanging onto a extended flag pole way above the city streets), and a well-kept secret to the killer's identity, which is enough to categorize this as a top-notch mystery-comedy. Aside from the question of "Who done it?," memorable stunts include Lou's involvement with an obnoxious elevator boy who tricks him into giving him five drinks of lemonade for the price of one; getting duped out of tickets to a broadcast; and by getting short-changed ("give me two dimes for a nickel"). For the record, the obnoxious elevator boy is wonderfully played by Walter Tetley, not by Bud Abbott Jr.

Other key A&C scenes include: "Limberger cheese" (where Lou serves the ultra smelling item to a customer while wearing a gas mask); Lou's facial expressions in fright; the Bud and Lou exchanges of "Votes and Volts," reminiscent to their classic "baseball" routine that's also worked into the plot without them enacting it. See how that's done. The big topper of them all is Lou meeting his match, tricking a dopey detective (William Bendix) into getting himself handcuffed. (This handcuff routine was reworked with Costello and Charles Laughton in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET CAPTAIN KIDD (1952)). Let's not forget Costello's finest solo routine set in a drug store phone booth across the street from the radio station as he attempts to get through to "Alexander 2222" to claim his $10,000 prize from the "Wheel of Fortune" contest. Never able to get through becomes nerve racking, especially when everyone else is able to make their calls successfully. Character actress Gladys Blake takes part of this priceless bit as the perky operator with the nasal reply of either "The line is busy," or "Number, please?" Although musical interludes could have easily been worked into the script, being set at a radio station and all, and having the popular Andrews Sisters supplying a song or two as part of the radio hour, it wasn't for the benefit not slowing down the pace. With a fine assortment of character actors, Mary Wickes, in a Joan Davis-type performance, is an excellent foil for Costello. Sadly, their second and final collaboration, DANCE WITH ME, HENRY (1956), was far from being the best effort for both.

While not as notable today as ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948), WHO DONE IT is highly recommended viewing. Aside from availability on video cassette and DVD, it's cable TV history consisted of the Comedy Channel during the late 1980s, and American Movie Classics circa 2001. (***1/2)

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