Cast & Crew
Suffering from a fatal gunshot wound, Dr. Lloyd Craig struggles to Margot Shelby's apartment and shoots her before dying himself. While she is dying, Margot recounts for police detective Joe Portugal the events that led to her shooting: After Margot's boyfriend, Frankie Olins, hides the $400,000 he stole in a bank robbery, he is arrested. Because a guard was killed during the robbery, Olins is sentenced to die in the gas chamber. Margot pretends love for gangster Jim Vincent and promises to share the stolen money with him if he helps remove Olins' body from the gas chamber immediately after the execution. She then seduces Craig, the prison doctor, and persuades him to bring Olins back to life by administering an antidote for cyanide gas poisoning. When Olins is revived, he gives Margot half of a map showing the location of the stolen money and keeps the other half for himself. Later, encouraged by Margot, a jealous Vincent shoots Olins and takes his half of the map. Because his doctor's license plates will enable them to pass through the police roadblocks, Margot and Vincent force Craig to drive them to the hiding place. Vincent plans to kill Craig, but before he can do so, Margot, who wants all the money for herself, tricks him into fixing a flat tire and runs him over with the car. She then forces Craig to dig up the treasure, and after he does, shoots him. Having finished her story, Margot dies. Portugal then opens the box and finds only a single dollar bill inside, along with a note from Olins stating that he did not intend to leave any money to a double-crosser.
Phil Van Zandt
Betty Lou Head
Edward J. Kay
L. W. O'connell
Decoy - DECOY - A Rarely Seen 1946 Film Noir Gem on DVD
The rest of Decoy lives up to this terrifically compelling opening sequence. In flashback, told to cop Joe Portugal (Sheldon Leonard) by Margot Shelby (Jean Gillie), the woman in that hotel room, we are treated to a lurid story of greed, double-crossing and wanton murder. Margot's boyfriend Frank Olins (Robert Armstrong, of King Kong  fame) is about to be sent to the gas chamber, but the $400,000 he stole is still buried somewhere and only he knows where. Margot has an only-in-the-movies plan, however. If she can get Frank's body to a crooked doctor within an hour of the execution, a special drug can be administered which will revive him; then Frank can retrieve the money. While the drug-induced revival works out, in a "mad-doctor" sequence which even has the revived Frank exclaiming "I'm alive! I'm alive!", the ensuing drama gets a bit more complicated and way more violent. Suffice it to say that Margot will not let anyone get in her way to recover the loot: not Frank, not the doctor, not Frank's henchman Jim Vincent (Frank Norris), not cop Joe Portugal.
Decoy is unified in its delightfully cheap, pulpy, Monogram style, though in truth it looks pretty good for a poverty row studio like Monogram. Sheldon Leonard is probably the most recognizable face here, and while it's fun to watch him slap people around and take Jean Gillie's breathtaking final putdown, Decoy is far and away Gillie's baby.
A British actress who was married to Decoy's director Jack Bernhard at the time, Gillie had appeared in a number of British films but had yet to conquer Hollywood. She and Bernhard broke up soon after making this film, and her career never went anywhere despite good notices. She acted in one more picture and a good one at that, The Macomber Affair (1947), before dying of pneumonia in 1949 at only 33 years of age. Had she lived, she would very likely have developed a significant career, for in Decoy she is absolutely sensational. In black gloves, a low-cut tight-fitting dress, and glittering diamonds around her neck, Gillie is the epitome of a femme fatale, beautiful and mean literally to her dying breath. Watching her play - and eliminate - man after man on her quest to get the money is a sight to behold.
Like Margot, Decoy is lean and mean, a tough little obscurity which can now be discovered by movie lovers thanks to Warner Home Entertainment, which has included it in the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 4. The only flaw on the DVD is the fact that the nastiest moment in the movie is missing. Margot kills a man in one scene by running him over, and in the original release, she drives over his body a second and third time. That sequence was purportedly seen at American Cinematheque screenings in the early 2000s but is missing from this transfer; film historian and reviewer Glenn Erickson, on his commentary track, speculates that the sequence must have been edited out for television airings in the 1950s and 60s and that one of those prints was used for the DVD.
In the commentary Erickson interviews Stanley Rubin, who is credited with Decoy's story. Rubin was interested in how far greed could take a person and originally wrote Decoy as a radio piece, later selling it to Monogram. (Writer/actor Nedrick Young wrote the finished screenplay.) It's an excellent conversation, fun to listen to and full of compelling information about the movie, those associated with it, and other elements of Rubin's career. (Rubin also did a commentary track in 2006 for the DVD of Macao  which is more interesting than that film itself!) Rubin says that Jean Gillie raised the level of Decoy by the force of her own talent, which seems true, and Erickson clearly knows his stuff. He also pops up in the 5-minute featurette on the making of Decoy, which is the only other extra. Other talking heads in this well-edited piece include Rubin, Molly Haskell and even Dick Cavett.
2007 is the fourth year in a row that Warner Brothers has released a multi-disc set of classic film noir, and this time around they have packaged ten titles instead of the usual five. A pair of movies can be found on each disc, and DVDs are available individually or in the complete set. Decoy shares a disc with Andre de Toth's first-rate Crime Wave (1954) and is one of the best reasons to pick up this entire collection. Very highly recommended!
For more information about Decoy, visit Warner Video. To order Decoy, go to TCM Shopping.
by Jeremy Arnold
Decoy - DECOY - A Rarely Seen 1946 Film Noir Gem on DVD
The following snipe was stapled and pasted on all of the printed material sent to the exhibitors that booked this film: IMPORTANT! The Motion Picture Association's Advisory Council has urgently requested that there be no mention of specific poisons in publicizing "DECOY." Please eliminate all names of poisons (such as cyanide or methylene blue) from the publicity, exploitation and advertising on this picture.
Jean Gillie, an English actress, was married to director Jack Bernhard. This film marked her U.S. motion picture debut. According to a November 14, 1946 Hollywood Reporter article, the film's advertising campaign drew unfavorable attention from the advertising code administration of the MPAA. The MPAA objected to the words "She's an Outlaw," because Howard Hughes had already been prohibited from using a similar ad campaign for his 1943 release The Outlaw . The MPAA also rejected an ad that showed a picture of Gillie seated on a bed, with one leg exposed above the knee, a cigarette in one hand and a gun in the other. Monogram executives claimed that the image had been submitted for approval before its use, but the MPAA countered that the bared leg and the gun had been added later. Monogram agreed to discontinue the campaign.