Alibi (1929): Early Sound, Oscar-Nominated Crime-Gangster, Starring Chester Morris

The first films to benefit from the new technology of sound in the late 1920s were musicals and crime-gangster, such as “Thunderbolt.”

One of the best talkie crime pictures was “Alibi,” written and directed by producer Roland West, which tells the story of a policeman’s daughter (Eleanor Griffith) who falls in love with a gangster (Chester Morris).







The police plant Danny McGann, an undercover agent, in Chick’s gang, but he is discovered, and get killed by Chick.

The police corner Chick in his own home, but he flips the light switch, and escapes during the chaotic darkness.  Trying to jump off to another building, he stumbles and falls to his death.

Due to the rapid changes in the industry, United Artist ordered the film to be reshot with sound after production had been completed.  Indeed, at the time, the movie was praised for its sound recording and interior decoration.








Several great crime gangster films would be released in the following two years: The Public Enemy with Jimmy Cagney and Scarface with Paul Muni.

Running time: 90 Minutes

Release date: April 20, 1929








Actor Alert

The film made a star out of Chester Morris, who played the gunman. A child actor, Morris had appeared in several silent pictures and on Broadway. Unfortunately, most of his subsequent movies were of the B-kind. He’s best known for the “Boston Blackie” movie series.

Oscar Alert

Oscar Nominations: 3

Production, Roland West
Actor: Chester Morris
Interior Decoration: William Cameron Menzies

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context

The winners in these categories were “Broadway Melody” as Best Picture, Warner Baxter as Best Actor for the Western “In Old Arizona,” and Cedric Gibbons for his Art Direction in “The Bridge of San Luis Rey.”

Chester Morris as Chick Williams
Harry Stubbs as Buck Bachman
Mae Busch as Daisy Thomas
Eleanor Griffith as Joan Manning Williams
Regis Toomey as Danny McGann
Purnell Pratt as Police Sgt. Pete Manning
Irma Harrison as Toots