Who killed Jenny Wren? An added undercurrent of excitement accompanied this atmospheric mystery's arrival at movie houses. A multi-episode radio version had preceded the release of the film, and listeners were invited to vie for prizes by submitting their ideas on how the broadcast's cliffhanger ending should resolve. Would one of those submittals end up on the screen? Fans would have to see the movie to find out!
Karen Morley portrays unfortunate Jenny, who plans to blackmail her rich and powerful paramours at a posh soiree. Instead, she is murdered. A career criminal (Ricardo Cortez) at the gathering, knowing he must act before police arrive and accuse him, takes it upon himself to sift through the clues to discover the Maltese of the whodunit.
Gary Curtis, aka Farnsbarns (Richardo Cortez), is really a former hoodlum hired to retrieve some compromising letters from gold digger Jenny Wren (Karen Morley). She, in turn, announces her retirement, but not before cajoling noted banker Priem Andes (H. B. Warner) into hosting a farewell party at his estate near Crestwood, "El Casa Andes." Also invited are three additional former "clients" of Jenny's: William Jones (Gavin Gordon), Senator Herbert Walcott (Robert McWade) and Eddie Mack (Richard "Skeets" Gallagher), all of whom are unaware of the purpose of the party and are therefore blithely bringing wives and girlfriends along. Also present at the Andes retreat are Jenny's kid sister Esther (Anita Louise),her boyfriend Frank (Matty Kemp, who just happens to be Andes' nephew, Jenny's wry maid Carter (Hilda Vaughn), and the banker's disdainful sister Faith (Pauline Frederick). The retiring gold digger's real purpose is revealed after she regales her former sugar-daddies with the tragic story of how her latest conquest, penniless, young Tom Herrick (Tom Douglas), threw himself off a cliff in the Adirondacks after she turned down his proposal of marriage. Victory, however, proves all too brief and the blackmailing gold digger is soon confronted with what appears to be the unfortunate young suitor's ghost. Soon, darts are flying everywhere, bodies fall, and trapdoors reveal hidden passageways. But Curtis, who arrives in the nick of time accompanied by assorted hoodlum friends, is never fooled by the fake Phantom of Crestwood and can reveal the real murderer shortly before the law arrives. THE PHANTOM OF CRESTWOOD was based on the popular NBC "Hollywood-on-the-Air" radio program and the denouement of the film was the winning entry in a country-wide contest.
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