CRIME BY NIGHT is an entertaining Warner Bros. "B" mystery, one of those little movies many people have never heard of which provides 72 minutes of enjoyable entertainment.
Detective Sam Campbell (Jerome Cowan) and his spunky Gal Friday Robbie (Jane Wyman) arrive in a small town to work on a divorce case, but almost instantly they're drawn into solving a murder instead...if Sam isn't murdered himself first.
Sam is a unique character, a congenial, low-key type whose concern about being paid before he goes to work calls to mind a gumshoe of a few decades later, Jim Rockford. Sam has his vices; he's almost always seen with a cigarette or bourbon in his hand, and though devoted to Robbie (whom he incessantly calls "Candy Lamb"), he also romances talent agent Ann (Faye Emerson) and flirts with a pretty hotel switchboard operator (Juanita Stark). Despite these distractions, he's also a sharp and observant detective. It's enjoyable having the opportunity to see Cowan (perhaps best-known as Miles Archer in THE MALTESE FALCON) playing a lead role.
Jane Wyman plays Robbie with verve; she accepts Sam as he is and embarks on solving the mystery with gusto. It's a shame she and Cowan didn't make a series of detective movies, as Sam and Robbie's interplay is fun. It would have been nice to have the chance to see their relationship further developed.
The young Eleanor Parker appears as the murder victim's daughter. Shortly thereafter Parker would have two fine roles in THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944), which costarred Faye Emerson, and PRIDE OF THE MARINES (1945).
This black and white film was directed by William Clemens.
Another review of this film can be found at The Stop Button.
CRIME BY NIGHT is not available on DVD or video, but it can be viewed on cable as part of the library at Turner Classic Movies. (It should be noted that the TCM synopsis is in error saying the lead characters are married.) The trailer can be seen at TCM's site here.