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Producer: Larry Darmour, Rudolph Flothow
Director: James Hogan
A Desperate Chance for Ellery Queen - filmposterScreenplay: Eric Taylor

Cast Includes
EQ: William Gargan
Inspector Queen: Charley Grapewin
Nikki Porter: Margaret Lindsay
Sgt. Velie: James Burke
Norman Hadley: John Litel
Adele Belden: Lilian Bond
Ray Stafford: Morgan Conway
Mrs. Norman Hadley (Irene Evington): Charlotte Wynters
Tommy Hold: Jack LaRue

Source: EQ Radio play "The Good Samaritan" 06-09-40
Working Title: "Ellery Queen and the Living Corpse"
70 min,  Black & White
Nat'l Release: May 7. 1942

Harrison's Reports May 16. 1942

"If this latest of the 'Ellery Queen' program mystery melodramas is an example of what to expect of the subsequent pictures, the producer would do well to discontinue the series. Not only is the story familiar, but there is an overabundance of dialogue, which naturally slows up the action. The plot is incoherent, and the performances unconvincing. But the performers are not to blame; they have been given poor material. Discriminating audiences will certainly find it tiresome. Mark it for the lower half of a mid-week double bill:—

William Gargan is visited by Charlotte Wynters, wife of John Litel, prominent banker, believed dead; he had disappeared at the time there had been an embezzlement at his bank. Miss Wynters informs Gargan that her husband, in her belief, is alive and in San Francisco. He agrees to search for him. Concurrently, Noel Madison, a shady character, and Lillian Bond, a burlesque queen, fly to San Francisco. Madison had in his possession "hot" money. One of the bills he had passed had come to the attention of Police Inspector Charley Grapewin, Gargan's father, who identifies it as money stolen from Litel's bank. In San Francisco, Gargan succeeds in finding Litel by installing Margaret Lindsay, his secretary, in a hotel under the name of Litel's wife, publicizing her arrival. Litel tells Gargan he is innocent, but before finishing his story they are interrupted by the arrival of Grapewin. Gargan hides Litel in a bedroom, but Litel leaves through the fire escape. Gargan learns from his father that the police suspected Litel and Madison of the embezzlement, and that he had flown West to trail them. Returning to his apartment, Litel finds Madison murdered. Gargan learns from Litel that Madison, a former teller in his bank, knew that Litel once had served a prison term. Madison had stolen money from the bank, blackmailing Litel to replace it. Litel had fled to escape the vicious practice. Gargan notifies the police of the murder, but hides Litel in Miss Lindsay's apartment. Gargan learns that Miss Bond, Madison's "widow," is employed at a night club whose proprietor, Morgan Conway, had offered to pass the "hot" money. Meanwhile Litel had been caught by the police and charged with Madison's murder. Gargan succeeds in overpowering and obtaining the money from Conway, then forces Miss Bond to confess as the slayer. Litel is free to return to his family. ....

Unsuitable for children owing to the murder."

A Desperate Chance for Ellery Queen - half-sheet posterA Desperate Chance for Ellery Queen - lobbycard
A Desperate Chance for Ellery Queen - lobbycardA Desperate Chance for Ellery Queen - lobbycard
A Desperate Chance for Ellery Queen - lobbycardA Desperate Chance for Ellery Queen - lobbycard
A Desperate Chance for Ellery Queen - lobbycardA Desperate Chance for Ellery Queen - lobbycard
Above: full set of eight lobby cards
Gargan's second shot as Queen is no better than the first. This entry in the series  follows Queen as he investigates the case of a woman's missing husband, a banker. Together with Nikki, Ellery travels to San Francisco to check out the man, thought dead, who is seen alive. Before long, someone is dead, and that's about as surprising as this film gets. Lilian Bond as a burlesque queen is the only lively thing in this entry. 
Cover "Silver Screen" edition of May 1942 with a fictionalized version of "A Desperate Chance for Ellery Queen".Desperate chance for Ellery Queen was at best a routine picture. For pretty much the same reason as Nikki was introduced in the Queen-series it also featured Margaret Lindsay. This venture did become a success, but Lindsay's contract came up for renewal and it was decided to drop her.
Before this movie could enter production, Larry Darmour died. His widow, Alice Darmour, announced that she intended to carry the two Ellery Queen films scheduled that year. At the time Dannay and Lee were quiet pleased with the series and even wanted the number of entries to be increased  from three to four. Columbia balked at this demand and, following the two entries still to be filmed in 1942, closed down production altogether replacing the series with The Crime Doctor. Reportedly Darmour had intended Ellery Queen's Greek Coffin Mystery and Ellery Queen and the Woman in Black (The Lady in Black) as seventh and eighth entries in the popular series. Alas it wasn't to be.

Above right: Cover Silver Screen edition of May 1942 with a fictionalized version of A Desperate Chance for Ellery Queen.

Ray Stafford (Morgan Conway) shows his upstairs, private gambling casinot to Ellery Queen (William Gargan). Later Conway played Dick Tracy in two movies.
Lindsay, Gargan and Jack LaRue.Gargan with Lilian Bond and Jack LaRue.
Film Bulletin, by Denley - September 7. 1942

"Below Average for Series

The confusing plot with its profusion of suspicious characters puts 'A Desperate Chance For Ellery Queen' slightly below- average for the series. The film opens in New York but soon switches to a San Francisco locale where Ellery Queen and his meddling girl friend, Nikki Porter, get themselves involved in a wild web of mystery and crime. The comedy relief is weaker than usual, due to the few scenes allotted to the irascible old Inspector Queen and his dim-witted assistant, Sergeant Velie. However, Director James Hogan has managed to conceal the identity of the murderer until the end and the numerous patrons with sleuthing proclivities will find it a moderately enjoyable mystery. The cast and series title will carry it to fair returns as a supporting dualler.

Ellery Queen (William Gargan) gets started on a new case at the request of a wealthy woman who asks him to help find her husband who she believes is alive in San Francisco despite reports of his death. In the coast city, Queen persuades his secretary (Margaret Lindsay) to pose as the widow and the resultant newspaper publicity brings the missing man out of hiding to see his wife. The disappearance, Queen learns, was due to a blackmail and embezzlement plot. After another murder takes place, Queen and his secretary turn up at a night club where the blackmailers hide out. Although the San Francisco police suspect Queen of the crime, he makes the real killer confess and thus clears himself.

William Gargan, as the super-sleuth, and Margaret Lindsay, as his crime-hunting secretary, once again give a light and amusing touch to their familiar roles. Charles Grapewin is excellent in his few short scenes and John Litel does outstanding work as the banker in hiding. Charlotte Winters and Jack LaRue also play serious roles effectively."

"If I hadn't just come from church, I'd call her a dirty name!"
"Oh! I'd call her one anyway and pray twice as hard next time I go!"
(Source YouTube Scott Lord Mystery)

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