Jess Arno (No Place for a Lady)

Created by Eric Taylor

The film, No Place for a Lady (1943) starts with a scam worthy of the World War II era: a load of brand new rubber tires en route to an Los Angeles warehouse is swapped for a bunch of worthless used ones, the idea being to set them on fire before the switcheroo is discovered.

Meanwhile, San Francisco private detective JESS ARNO (William Gargan) is driving his rich client (Phyllis Brooks), recently cleared of a murder charge, to his beach house, where he hopes to hide her from the press. But when they arrive, they discover the corpse of a woman. Arno drives to a nearby club to call the cops, but of course when the police arrive, the corpse has taken a powder. You can see where this is going–the police think Arno’s up to something. Meanwhile, Arno’s girlfriend (Margaret Lindsay), a real estate agent who’s insanely jealous (par for the course for detective’s girlfriends of the era), suspects that Arno may be playing hanky-panky with his client.

Naturally, the two subplots, thanks to a string of eyeball-rolling coincidences, mush together (more or less), and soon enough Arno is hot on the trail of the killer.

It’s not a bad little flick, if you don’t mind a few plot holes and some comedy “bits” apparently left over from a Three Stooges project–the production values are decent, and the cast is top-loaded with solid B-flick regulars, such as James Burke, Thomas Jackson, Dick Purcell, Jerome Cowan and Edward Norris. But don’t waste your time trying to figure it out. Seriously.

I still can’t figure it out, and yet, I kinda enjoyed it. It’s a fun ride– so just strap yourself in, and watch them all chew the scenery.

Eric Taylor was something of a B-flick regular himself–he also did the screenplays for Lady in the Morgue, the Crime Doctor series, a couple of Dick Tracy films, Jim Hanvey, Detective and numerous Ellery Queen flicks, including the three that William Gargan starred in.

As for “Jess Arno,” Taylor must have really liked that name. He first appeared in “Murder to Music,” a short story in Black Mask in 1936, which was eventually adapted for film in 1946 as Mysterious Intruder. By then, however, No Place for a Lady had appeared, so in the latter film Arno is called Don Gale. But that wasn’t the end. In 1949, Jess Arno appeared once more in the Taylor-scripted film The Devil’s Henchmen.


  • “Murder to Music” (May 1936, Black Mask)


    (1943, Columbia)
    Black & white
    66 minutes
    Story by Eric Taylor
    Screenplay by Eric Taylor
    Directed by James Hogan
    Starring William Gargan as JESS ARNO
    Also starring Margaret Lindsay, Phyllis Brooks, Dick Purcell, Jerome Cowan, Edward Norris, James Burke, Frank M. Thomas, Thomas E. Jackson, Tom Dugan
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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