Cast & Crew
Through an influential relative, P. Cadwallader Jones, a recent Harvard Law graduate, lands a job in the office of District Attorney Winton. Already resented by the other staff members, Jones incurs their wrath when he interferes in another attorney's case and ends up causing a mistrial, setting mobster Monk free. Unable to fire Jones because of his family connections, Winton assigns him a hopeless case no one else wants, that of Hyde, a corrupt politician who disappeared four years earlier after stealing hundreds of thousands of public fund dollars. After marked fifty- dollar bills connected with the Hyde case turn up at a local racetrack, Winton takes the case away from Jones and gives it to more experienced investigators in the department. In particular, Winton hopes to implicate society lawyer Barrett, a former associate of Hyde, because Barrett is attempting to force him out of office. Jones, meanwhile, meets a pretty newspaper reporter, Terry Parker, and together they investigate a seemingly unrelated charge of assault brought against bank clerk Herman Winkle by his tough-talking girl friend, showgirl Betty Paradise. Jones and Terry learn that Winkle had been giving Betty money, which she then gambled at the racetrack. When Betty won thousands of dollars, she refused to share her winnings with Winkle, leading to a bitter argument. Although Betty ends up dropping the charges, Jones feels there is something odd about the pair, and he books Winkle. Jones and Terry discover that Winkle has been stealing money from a safety deposit box at the bank in which he works, and, after re-interviewing Betty, they surmise that the suspicious bills which turned up at the racetrack had been passed by her. In the meantime, Winkle is bailed out by a mysterious man who turns out to be none other than Hyde. Hyde reveals to Winkle that the safety deposit box from which he was stealing was one that Hyde held under an alias. Hyde murders Winkle, then tracks down Betty and shoots her. Jones and Terry hatch a plan to frame Hyde and Barrett, but Barrett is tipped off and sends a hired gun, Monk, to a prearranged meeting with Jones. When Monk recognizes Jones as the man who secured his mistrial, however he refuses to kill him. With the net closing in on them, Barrett offers Hyde money to escape on a boat, then attempts to manipulate Mrs. Hyde into killing him. Mrs. Hyde, humiliated by her husband's abandonment, ends up shooting Hyde at the dock. Terry, who has been hiding in the trunk of a car, is sure that Barrett has shot Hyde and is thrilled that she now has evidence to support the story she wrote suggesting that Barrett was involved in the Hyde case. Barrett presents a sobbing and hysterical Mrs. Hyde, who confesses to the murder. Jones and Terry are fired from their jobs, but, acting on a hunch, they stake out the bank and witness Barrett taking the stolen money from Hyde's safety deposit drawer. After a fight and daring chase during which Jones and Terry commandeer a police car, Barrett and his gang are arrested. Jones and Terry now have each other, as well as new and better jobs.
Malcolm Stuart Boylan
John Victor Mackay
Although the film was not viewed, onscreen credits were obtained from a negative print. Hollywood Reporter news items dated December 5, 1940 and January 10, 1941 indicate that F. Hugh Herbert contributed dialogue and Eve Greene did a final "polish" of the script; however, they are not credited onscreen, in reviews or in Screen Achievements Bulletin, and the extent of their contribution to the finished film has not been determined. Hollywood Reporter news items published during production add Tommy Cook, Billy Benedict, Vince Barnett and Eddie Acuff to the cast, but their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. Correspondence dated December 3, 1940 contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that the Hays Office was concerned about suggestions in the script that the character of "Betty Paradise" is a prostitute. Many eliminations and changes were requested, among them a scene in which "Jones" concludes that Betty must be engaged in prostitution because she burns incense in her apartment.
Hollywood Reporter reported on February 25, 1941 that Republic Chairman Herbert J. Yates had decided to add $50,000 to the picture's budget after seeing the rushes and determining that the film could be marketed as a "special." Mr. District Attorney was the first film in a series based on Phillips H. Lord's radio program. A Hollywood Reporter news item dated March 25, 1941 announced that the principal actors would reappear in a second Mr. District Attorney film and stated that Republic was planning to produce four additional features per year for a proposed series. The second film, Mr. District Attorney in the Carter Case, was released in December 1941 but featured an entirely new cast . In December 1942, Republic released Secrets of the Underground (see below). The third entry in the series featured the same characters played by yet another cast of principals. However, Republic removed the source credit from that film and it was neither publicized nor reviewed as a "Mr. District Attorney" feature. In 1947, Columbia Pictures released another film, also entitled Mr. District Attorney (see below), which was also based on Lord's radio program, but featured a different set of principal characters. Republic's first "Mr. District Attorney," Dennis O'Keefe, appeared in the lead role of the Columbia film, along with Adolphe Menjou. For information on the television adaptation of Lord's radio series, for Columbia's Mr. District Attorney.