The Pay Off


1h 14m 1943

Brief Synopsis

Special prosecutor Lloyd Pearson (Ian Keith) has been murdered and there is strong evidence that gambler Moroni (John Maxwell) committed the crime, but he has an air-tight alibi, spending the evening with Brad McKay (Lee Tracy), star reporter of the Chronicle. Norris (Robert Middlemass), the publisher, send Brad and his son, Guy Norris (Tom Brown), to cover the story. Brad learns that Moroni did commit the murder, but has no way to prove it. Moroni tells Brad that the murdered prosecutor was getting a payoff, and was killed by his assistant Hugh Walker (Forrest Taylor) following a quarrel. John Angus (Jack La Rue), proprietor of the Hi Lo Club, tells Moroni that Brad suspects him. Phyllis Walker (Tina Thayer) tells Brad that her father is in danger from Moroni. Hugh Walker has given her a key to the public locker where some money is hidden. That night, Brad finds Moroni dead. He realizes there is a higher-up that had Moroni kill Pearson, and then has had Moroni killed. He learns that Walker has been kidnapped, but secures the money from the locker and hides it in his apartment. He meets Alma Dorne (Evelyn Brent)at the night club, and, while attracted to her, he suspects she is an accomplice of the gang. He surprises her while she is searching his apartment for the money, and agrees to help him. Norris summons Brad to his home for Brad to show him what evidence he has collected so far. Norris, at the point of a gun, tells Brad he has collected too much. Brad gets the upper hand by telling Norris that his son Guy is walking into a death trap. Norris rushes to save his son from the trap he himself had set for Brad.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Payoff
Genre
Mystery
Release Date
Jan 21, 1943
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
PRC Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Producers Releasing Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 14m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,475ft

Synopsis

As prosecutor Lloyd Pearson completes his final report on a major crime ring, he is shot and killed by an unknown gunman. Later, crack newspaper reporter Brad McKay refuses to interrupt his poker game to respond to his publisher Lester Norris' calls until he learns of Pearson's murder. Brad, who has been following Pearson's work, immediately goes to the scene of the crime and gets a full report from police inspector Thomas. Thomas is convinced that gangster Vince Moroni is involved, although he knows that Moroni had been playing poker with Brad all night. As Brad leaves the building, a hunchbacked beggar tells him that he saw Moroni enter the building before the murder. When Brad later questions Moroni, Moroni mentions that Pearson's assistant, Hugh Walker, was disbarred for bribery after he took the rap for Pearson in exchange for a $100,000 pay off. When Moroni's boss, gambling joint owner John Angus, learns that the beggar identified Moroni to Brad, he kills the beggar and goes after Brad. Just as Moroni enters Brad's apartment through a window, Hugh's daughter Phyllis arrives, having been sent by her father. When Phyllis sees Moroni, she hides in a closet, where Brad finds her after discovering Moroni's dead body in his bedroom. Phyllis, who has no idea who killed Moroni, explains that her father, who fears for his life, asked her to give Brad a key to a locker which contains $100,000 in marked bills. Norris' son Guy, who has been assisting Brad, then arrives and the three go to Hugh's apartment. Hugh is missing, however, and his apartment has been ransacked. Phyllis gives Brad the key to the locker, and explains that after his disbarment, her father continued to work undercover for Pearson at Angus' nightclub. After escaping a near-kidnap by Angus' thugs, Brad speculates that the same person who ordered Pearson's death murdered Moroni. Brad retrieves Hugh's money and uses one of the marked bills at Angus' roulette table, where he meets Alma Dorn, a "shady lady" whom Brad finds irresistibly attractive. Brad is nevertheless suspicious of Alma, and secretly watches her go into Angus' office. Later that night, Brad finds Alma in his apartment looking for the money. After Alma fires a gun at him, Brad pretends to be dying, and tricks her into admitting that Angus sent her. Brad then reveals he is unharmed, and Alma agrees to work with him. True to her word, Alma later calls Brad with news that Hugh is being held hostage at a warehouse. Brad extracts Alma's bullet from the apartment wall and discovers that it is nicked in the same manner as the bullet that killed Pearson. Brad is then called to see Norris, and discovers that Norris is the head of the racketeers. Norris becomes alarmed when he learns that his son Guy is accompanying Phyllis to the warehouse, as he has ordered his thugs to shoot the first people who arrive. As Norris calls Angus for help, Angus is shot by police raiding his club. Norris then rushes to the warehouse with Brad, and is killed by his own men. Guy and Phyllis arrive shortly after with the police, and the remaining criminals are arrested. In order to shield Guy from his father's criminal past, Brad prints a story in which he claims that Norris gave his life in the pursuit of justice. While Hugh recuperates, Phyllis consoles Guy, and Brad proposes to Alma.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Payoff
Genre
Mystery
Release Date
Jan 21, 1943
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
PRC Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Producers Releasing Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 14m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,475ft

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Hollywood Reporter news items noted that this film was Lee Tracy's last before he reported for the Army Corps Military Police. Although another Tracy film, Power of the Press, was also released in January 1943, he did not return to the screen until 1945, when he starred in RKO's film Betrayal from the East. An October 1942 Daily Variety production chart lists Tracy as co-producer of The Pay Off; however, Tracy's participation as co-producer cannot be confirmed. A modern source includes Eddie Borden in the cast.