PRIVATE DETECTIVE. Warner Brothers, 1939. Jane Wyman (Myrna “Jinx” Winslow), Dick Foran, Gloria Dickson, Maxie Rosenbloom, John Ridgely, Morgan Conway, John Eldredge. Based on the short story “Invitation to Murder” by Kay Krausse in Pocket Detective Magazine, May 1937. Directed by Noel M. Smith. Available for viewing online at

   In my recent review of the 1947 film Exposed, I suggested that private detective Belinda Prentice (played quite capably by Adele Mara) may have been the first female PI to have the leading role in an American movie. Not so, as David Vineyard remarked in the comment he left soon after that post appeared:

   â€œWorth seeing Mara in anything, but I don’t think she’s the first female eye, that would be Jane Wyman as Myrna “Jynx” Winslow in 1939’s Private Detective where she works against her police boyfriend Dick Foran to solve a case.”

   True, true, true. In particular, Jinx works for the Nation-Wide Detective Agency, and the case she’s working on is that of a battle in court between a married couple over custody of their young son. When the husband is found murdered, the stakes immediately go a lot higher, with Jinx still on the case with the fellow she is engaged to marry (Dick Foran) being the police detective assigned to it.

   As it turns out, the boy is the heir to a sizable fortune, and it’s no wonder that there are several suspects for the murder who are worth investigating.

   The pace is quick, Jane Wyman bright, witty and appropriately sassy, and the story largely logical, with a bit of humor as well, the latter provided largely by the lovable lunk du jour Maxie Rosenblum as Foran’s assistant on the force. The story is based on a story from a detective pulp magazine, which is clearly the glue that holds everything together as well as it does, making the film one I can easily recommend. This one’s a good one.