GenreCrime, Drama, Film-Noir ScreenplayLillie Hayward CountryUnited States
Release dateSeptember 29, 1949 (1949-09-29) (premiere-New York City)
November 5, 1949 (1949-11-05) (US) WriterLillie Hayward (screenplay), J.H. Wallis (based on a story by) CastJeffrey Lynn (Sam Wilson), Martha Scott (Georgia Wilson), Michael Chapin (Roddy Wilson), Harry Morgan (Lt. Richard Webb), Walter Sande (Sgt. Cord), Henry O'Neill (Timothy Hearne) Similar moviesTaken 3, North by Northwest, Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Web, Out of Bounds, Project A Part 2
Tagline$10,000 if you make my suicide look like Murder!
Strange Bargain is a 1949 American crime film noir directed by Will Price, and starring Martha Scott, Jeffrey Lynn and Harry Morgan.
It is the story of a bookkeeper in need of money who agrees against his own better judgement to help a wealthy man carry out an elaborate suicide plan.
Because the firm is bankrupt, bookkeeper Sam Wilson learns from his boss, Malcolm Jarvis, that he is losing his job. Jarvis then makes a strange proposition, saying he intends to commit suicide, but wants Sam to make it look like a murder, in order for wife Edna and son Sydney to inherit Jarvis's life insurance.
Sam declines, but when he goes to see Jarvis and finds his dead body, he reluctantly goes along with the scheme. He finds an envelope with $10,000 that Jarvis has left behind for him, which he hides from Georgia, his wife. He disposes of the weapon as well, so Jarvis's fingerprints from the suicide won't be found.
Lt. Webb of the police is suspicious of Jarvis's business partner, Timothy Hearne. In the meantime, Sam's conscience gets the better of him. When he goes to see Edna Jarvis to confess his role in her husband's death, Edna reveals she's the one who committed the murder, Jarvis having changed his mind about the fake suicide. Edna is about to kill Sam as well when Webb shows up in the nick of time.
Martha Scott as Georgia Wilson
Jeffrey Lynn as Sam Wilson
Harry Morgan as Lt. Richard Webb
Katherine Emery as Edna Jarvis
Richard Gaines as Malcolm Jarvis
Henry O'Neill as Timothy Hearne
Walter Sande as Sgt. Cord
Michael Chapin as Roddy Wilson
Arlene Gray as Hilda Wilson
Raymond Roe as Sydney Jarvis
Robert Bray as Det. McTay
A.H. Weiler, the film critic for the New York Times penned a fairly positive review. He wrote, "As a modest entry from Hollywood, Strange Bargain, which began a stand yesterday as the associate attraction to the Palace's vaudeville bill, is surprisingly diverting fare. Obviously not intended to set a cinematic landmark, it is, nevertheless, a melodrama that presents an extraordinary situation fairly suspensefully and, for the most part, through intelligent dialogue and direction. And, while it follows a familiar outline as a crime and punishment adventure, it does so neatly and with competent characterizations."
Film critic Dennis Schwartz called the film "[a] well-conceived mystery B-film, but strictly second feature material." He also noted in his review that "Strange Bargain showed up in a 1987 episode of TV's Murder, She Wrote. By removing the original happy ending, the TV installment allowed Angela Lansbury to solve the mystery of the boss' murder--and to exonerate the long-imprisoned bookkeeper, played again by Jeffrey Lynn. Also appearing on this Murder She Wrote were Lynn's Strange Bargain costars Martha Scott and Harry Morgan."