powered by AFI
DVDs from TCM Shop
In Los Angeles, on Saturday, April 9th, around four o'clock, gangster Max Troy and one of his "employees," Miller Starkie, walk through a field of flowers. Another of Troy's men, Chester Davitt, approaches and fires four times at Starkie with a sawed-off, double-barreled shotgun. At 7:29 p.m., in the old city jail, Los Angeles Police Department Sergeant Joe Friday and his partner, Officer Frank Smith, meet with Capt. Hamilton and fellow members of the Intelligence Division to discuss the case of ex-convict Starkie's murder. The only clues to what appears to be a gangland slaying are four empty shells, impressions of a footprint and an airplane ticket with the phone number of a hoodlum hangout, the Red Spot Grill, written on the back. After teaming with the Homicide Division, the policemen round up suspects based on criminal records and mob connections, including Troy and several men connected to him, and bring them to a hotel room for questioning. Davitt, who is a prime suspect, cannot be found, so his wife Belle is questioned, but she is hostile and uninformative. For three hours, Smith and Friday interrogate the ulcer-suffering Troy, who claims to have been at the Red Spot at the time of the murder, then release him for further questioning to the assistant district attorney, Adolph "Alex" Alexander. Friday and Smith then interview a witness, Jesse Quinn, who saw Davitt leave the field at approximately 4:00 p.m. carrying a pipe-like item, possibly a gun. On Sunday, April 10th at 11:30 a.m., Friday and Smith question the staff of the Red Spot. Although the policemen learn little from the visit, they suspect that more can be discovered through surreptitious observation and send policewoman Grace Downey, who is equipped with a purse-sized recording device, to pose as a customer. Meanwhile, a team of policemen searches the murder site for evidence using a metal detector, but find only a toy space gun. By Tuesday, the efforts of the police have not yielded results and Alex is forced to release Troy and the other suspects for lack of evidence. Friday and Smith learn from a friendly jazz musician that Starkie appeared to have been beaten severely approximately one month before his death, so they visit Starkie's one-legged, alcoholic widow, who insists that Troy killed her husband. She hands over a book containing names and addresses used by Starkie to collect gambling debts for Troy. At first the names seem not to provide useful information for the police. However, one name on the list is theatrical agent Fabian Gerard, who claims that he paid Starkie for a gambling debt owed Troy, but later, he was nearly killed by a different man sent by Troy. By showing a bank slip, Fabian says, he convinced the thug that he had already paid Starkie. This information suggests to Friday and Smith that Starkie was killed for keeping for himself the money he collected. Grace reports in, and turns over recordings of conversations made at the grill, including an order from Troy to the bartender to throw away a package from the glove compartment of his car. When Davitt is found, he is taken into custody and booked on suspicion of violating penal code 187, the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Although Davitt claims innocence, his shoes are found to match the plaster imprints of the footprints at the scene of the crime. Believing they have enough evidence for conviction, the police move forward with the case, but then Quinn refuses to identify Davitt before the grand jury, and Troy's subpoenaed men plead the Fifth Amendment. Unable to get an indictment, Hamilton assigns his men to follow Troy's gang, and Friday and Smith are assigned to hound Troy relentlessly day and night. They detain and frisk him at frequent intervals, making him aware that his every move is watched. When they follow Troy to a poker game, a disrespectful participant starts a brawl with them that is soon joined by others, and Friday and Smith fight back, beating them unconscious. Meanwhile, Hamilton plants a recording device in the back room of the Red Spot, and through it learns that Troy and his men are suspicious of Grace. With the assistance of two other officers, Friday and Smith rescue her, and outside she shows them the alley garbage can, where the bartender disposed of the package from Troy's glove compartment. The package is retrieved, and inside it the police find shells matching those that killed Starkie. For the next four days, policemen take turns staking out the Red Grill from a room across the alley, listening to back room conversations picked up by the "bug." Finally, Friday and Smith hear the bartender say that Davitt was killed in Cleveland, and take the recording to Davitt's wife. Upon hearing it, she hands over the shotgun Davitt used to kill Starkie and promises to testify in court against Troy. After looking over the new evidence, Alex says they have enough to indict Troy, so Friday and Smith proceed to the hospital, where Troy is being treated for stomach problems. When they arrive at the hospital, they learn from Troy's doctor that he has died on the operating table, of gastric cancer, and the case is closed.