Cast & Crew
When he is not operating his small boat shop on San Francisco's waterfront, Dennis O'Brien supplements his income by working as a private detective. One day, he is approached by wrestling referee Mushy Cavelli, who hires him to pick up an envelope of cash at Nick's Arena that evening. Dennis attends the wrestling match between Ape Danowski and Willie Klingle, and is surprised to see Ape attacking his opponent with genuine ferocity. Willie is thrown from the ring at one point and lands on Dennis' lap. Willie asks Dennis to tell his wife that "the boys" gave him the switch, then collapses and dies of a heart attack. Dennis goes to the appointed meeting place and asks his contact, arena manager Nick Garrison, for the envelope. Nick instead pulls a gun and demands to know what Willie told him. Dennis overpowers Nick, then goes with the envelope to Mushy's apartment, where Ape and a woman are waiting. Ape takes the envelope and knocks Dennis out. When Dennis comes to, his nemesis on the police force, Lt. Bruger, is waiting to question him about Mushy, whose dead body is in the bedroom. Bruger scoffs at Dennis' explanation and makes it clear that he suspects him. Dennis goes to the bar where his roommate, alcoholic former college teacher Prof. Shicker, spends his evenings and asks him to investigate Ape and Nick. He then visits Nifty, an insurance agent, who says that Willie had a bad heart and should not have been allowed to wrestle. Dennis calls on the state athletic inspector, Dr. Earl J. Tompkins, who explains that he assumed that Willie would be safe because the match was fixed. Just then, shots are fired into the office and Tompkins is killed, and Bruger soon walks in and accuses Dennis of the murder. Dennis goes to see Willie's widow Flo, and recognizes her as the woman who robbed him in Mushy's apartment. Dennis demands the $1,000 in the envelope in exchange for a report he found in Tompkins' office stating that Willie's license should have been revoked because of his heart condition. At that moment, a call comes in from Shicker, who reports that Willie secretly owned fifty-one percent of Nick's Arena, that Nick is deeply in debt and that Ape is in love with Flo, who applied for a marriage license the day before the fatal match. Nick then walks in, and he and Flo take Dennis to a pier at gunpoint. Before Nick can shoot Dennis, however, they are approached by Ape. When Dennis tells Ape that Flo is double-crossing him, he breaks Nick's neck and attacks Flo. Before dying, the badly wounded Nick shoots Ape. Later, Dennis tells Shicker that Flo confessed to Bruger that she had Ape kill her husband for his share of the arena. They muse that the scheme might have worked if Ape had not really cared for Flo.
The next day, Dennis is visited by Father Donovan, who asks him to intercept a man named Joe Harmon, who is going to escape from Alcatraz that night, before he kills someone or is shot by the police. Late that night, Dennis goes to Pier 23 as instructed, and Joe agrees to see Donovan if they first stop at a hotel on Geary Street to see Joe's sister Ann. In the hotel room, Joe knocks Dennis out, and when he comes to, he finds Joe stabbed to death. Dennis calls Donovan with the news, and after he casually mentions the dead man's height, the priest tells him it cannot be Joe, who is taller. As Dennis prepares to leave, he is intercepted by Bruger, who suspects him of the murder, and informs him that the real Joe shot and killed a policeman an hour earlier at the Nubian Club. Dennis drops by the bar and asks the inebriated Shicker to pull Joe's newspaper clippings. He then goes to the ritzy Nubian Club and questions the cigarette girl, who tells him the club belongs to Charles Giffen. She adds that Giffen used to make book with Joe until Joe was incarcerated, and that Ann used to work at the club. Dennis finds Ann in Giffen's office, and she tells him her sister Norma was in the hotel room after she left and has disappeared with Joe's money. Giffen comes in and orders Dennis at gunpoint to leave the club. Dennis goes to police headquarters, and Bruger tells him that the dead man, Mike Greely, was a friend of Joe's. When Dennis returns to his home, he finds Norma waiting for him with a gun. She tells Dennis that someone informed the police that Joe was at the club and begs him to find her brother. Shicker calls to report that Giffen owed Joe $5,000, and that Joe has been found dead. Dennis breaks the news to Norma, who admits she told Donovan about Joe's planned prison escape. Dennis leaves a message for Donovan to meet him at Norma's apartment, then stops by the police department and asks Bruger to accompany him. At Norma's apartment, they find Ann and Giffen searching for Joe's money. Giffen tries to shoot Bruger, but his gun has no bullets, and as Bruger arrests him, Ann admits she unloaded the gun and offers to testify against him for the murder of Greely and Joe. Norma reproaches her sister for setting Joe up, and reveals that the doctor said that Ann has only six months to live. With the case wrapped up, Father Donovan arrives to console the sisters.
J. Francis Murphy
F. Paul Sylos
The working title of this film was Man for Hire. The opening credits contain the following description of the film: "An adventure presented in two parts-each a complete story." Voice-over narration spoken by Hugh Beaumont as "Dennis O'Brien" is heard intermittently throughout the picture. Actor Johnny Indrisano's name was misspelled as "Indrasano" in the opening credits. Portions of the film were shot on location in San Francisco, CA.
Pier 23 was the third of three "Dennis O'Brien" films, all of which featured Beaumont as the amateur detective. Each film consisted of two separate stories intended for broadcast as television episodes after the theatrical release. For more information on the series, consult the Series Index and see the entry above for Danger Zone.