Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Decoy (1946)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Decoy (1946)

Director Jack Bernhard's little-known cult B-film noir from Monogram featured one of the most ruthless, greedy, mean and hard-hearted, deceitful and manipulative femmes fatales in noir history. Social-climbing seductress Margot Shelby (British actress Jean Gillie) was capable of using whatever means necessary to reach her selfish and devious ends. It trumpeted sensational taglines:

  • She Treats Men the Way They've Been Treating Women for Years!
  • The Story of a Two Timing, Double-Crossing Temptress!

This little-known, low-budget, cult B-film noir opened with betrayed and seriously-wounded Dr. Lloyd Craig (Herbert Rudley) in a disheveled suit washing his soiled and bloody hands and face in a grimy washroom sink (with broken mirror) at a gas station. After hitchhiking to San Francisco 75 miles away, he proceeded, zombie- or Frankenstein-like, to the 6th floor posh suite apartment of the glamorous Margot Shelby (who was preparing to flee town). There, he vengefully shot her and then dropped dead.

Dr. Craig in Dirty Washroom (Reflected in Broken Mirror)
Dr. Craig Dropping Dead, Witnessed by Sgt. Portugal
Margot Regarding the Box: "Give it to me."

Hard-nosed, tough-guy, and snappily-dressed detective Sgt. Joseph "Jo Jo" Portugal (Sheldon Leonard) had been following a related robbery-case, but arrived too late at Margot's apartment, just as Dr. Craig collapsed in front of him. He found Margot seriously wounded and dying, and carried her over to the sofa. She frantically begged for a money chest dropped on the floor to be brought to her: ("Give it to me. I want it...It's mine. It's all mine now").

She explained that the money chest held the $400,000 proceeds from her boyfriend Frankie Olins' bank robbery. She described what had happened in a lengthy flashback, beginning with:

I wanted money. Frankie Olins had it. He took it from a shiny red bank truck two days before Christmas. $400,000 dollars. Only, before he could take it, he had to kill the driver. Frankie was in jail now. The people of the state of California said he had to die. But only Frankie knew where the money was hidden.

At the Watchaprague State Prison, ex-gun moll Margot visited convicted robber Frankie Olins (Robert Armstrong). He told her why he had stolen the money - it was for his own possessive reasons related to her alone: ("You're the only thing I care about. That's all that money means to me, you! Clothes for you, pretty things for you. That's why I did it, that's why I took the chance, even on a murder rap, because I want you to be beautiful for me. For me. Not for anybody else, just me").But he also asserted that he wouldn't reveal the location of the $400,000 until someone broke him out of jail ("The secret of where that money is doesn't walk out of here unless I walk out with it").

Margot systematically schemed, seduced and cooperated with two individuals (both of whom were romantically interested in her) to somehow get their hands on the cash - she called it a "long-shot" plan:

  • Jim Vincent (Edward Norris), her tough gangster boyfriend-pal; Vincent had already provided a total of $45,000 for Olins' lawyers seeking an appeal (a reprieve that failed)
  • Dr. Lloyd Craig, an idealistic physician who worked two days a week at the state prison (Margot described his idealism: "Ideals that have sent him into the slums to heal the poor. Ideals so strong they've become a shield against his poverty, his bitter loneliness. I had to smash that shield")

Her scheme was to have the prison doctor inject Frankie's fresh corpse (after he had expired in the prison's gas chamber from hydrocyanic gas) with Methylene Blue as an antidote within one hour and revive him, in order to learn the treasure's whereabouts.

Methylene Blue - Antidote to Gas Chamber Execution
Frankie Revived in Dr. Craig's Office
Frankie: "Oh my God, I'm alive!"
Map to Treasure
Frankie Shot Dead From Behind
Vincent Kissing Margot After He Shot Frankie Dead

To carry out the plan, Dr. Craig declined a customary autopsy at the prison and injected Frankie's fresh corpse with Methylene Blue before it was loaded into a coffin bound for the morgue (and cremation). The morgue truck was hijacked, and one of Vincent's nasty gunmen Tommy (Philip Van Zandt) killed the paid-off morgue driver Pete (Kenneth Patterson) with a stiletto. The body was delivered to Dr. Craig's office where Olins was miraculously resurrected (Lazarus-like). After he was convinced that his rescuers needed the dough for expenses and for Olins' necessary cosmetic surgery (to create a new face), Frankie agreed to a deal, just in case he didn't pull through. He drew a map of the dough's location - he kept one-half of the crude map, and gave the other half to Margot ("I'll give Margot a map showing the place where I hid the dough").

When Olins tried to give Margot a "little welcome back kiss," revealing that he was still enamoured by her ("My little Margot, who doesn't have to worry anymore about what's going to happen to her after I die"), Vincent shot him dead from behind - and then kissed Margot. Their kiss was witnessed by Dr. Craig, who realized that he had been swindled, was implicated in the crime, and was professionally ruined. Margot reminded him of his complicity:

You're in the middle. Deep. Over your head. No matter what you do now, you're still part of everything that's happened. You're part of the grab for Frankie's money... You're as guilty as we are and you might as well face it.

Back at her apartment, Margot was confronted by suspicious detective Sgt. Portugal who was following clues in the case of the hijacked morgue truck (and Frankie's lack of an autopsy report) - he told her, in a classic line: "People who use pretty faces like you use yours don't live very long, anyway," to which she replied: "How do you think I should use my face...?" It was evident that Margot would soon be double-crossing her remaining male compatriots.

In the middle of the night, Margot ("I've got money singing in my brain") and Vincent (now with the two parts of the map) took Dr. Craig as their hostage. He was forced to drive his car to the treasure's location (a quarter of a mile off the State Highway, and ten feet from a eucalyptus tree). After they changed drivers, the unrepentant Margot deliberately ran over Vincent fixing their flat tire (the duplicitous female had deliberately let the air out). She then stole his gun and his half of the map. Sadistically, she then backed up and ran him over twice more to make sure he was dead. [Note: this sequence was often excised in various prints.]

She also calmly handed her pistol over to Dr. Craig who had told her about his desire to kill her, but he didn't have the nerve to shoot her. She then had Dr. Craig do the dirty work by digging up the treasure box in a eucalyptus grove (he again had the opportunity to strike her with a shovel, but lacked courage). After telling Dr Craig: "All our hopes, all our plans...," she exorted him with sexually-laced language: "Quickly, Lloyd, quickly! Dig for it! Deeper! Faster!", and explained how guilty they all were:

"They killed for it. They all killed for it. Frankie, Vincent, I killed for it. And you. You, too! You killed for it!"

Then, she gleefully shot him twice, laughing hysterically and maniacally as he lay on the ground. She ran off with the strong box in her arms, cackling: "It's mine. It's all mine now!"

The film ended with a return to the present where Dr. Craig had followed Margo to her apartment - and lethally shot her. She was still speaking the words: "Mine. It's all mine now." Margot asked Sgt. Portugal to lower himself down to her (for a kiss?): "Jo Jo, please, just this once, come down to my level," but as he bent down, she laughed in his face. Before she died, her last words were: "Simple arithmetic. That's all it was."

The treasure box was opened by Sgt. Portugal above her body after she expired on her apartment's couch - where it was revealed as a decoy - with only $1 and a note from Frankie. The $1 bill floated down onto her corpse:

"To you who double-crossed me, I leave this dollar for your trouble. The rest of the dough I leave to the worms."

Margot Shelby (Jean Gillie) Dying on Sofa - Start of Flashback

Margot Visiting Frankie in Prison Before His Execution

Margot Scheming with Jim Vincent

Margot Scheming with Dr. Craig

Margot Deliberately Running Over Vincent with the Vehicle

Dr. Craig with the Gun - But Unable to Shoot Margot

Dr. Craig Unable to Bash Margot with Shovel

Dr. Craig Feverishly Digging for Treasure Box (Margot: "Quickly, Lloyd, quickly! Dig for it! Deeper! Faster!")

Margot Seriously Wounding Dr. Craig With Two Shots After He Dug Up the Strongbox

End of Flashback: Dying Margot on Sofa

Margot Laughing in Sgt. Portugal's Face

Detective Portugal Opening the Strongbox Above Margot's Body

Margot's Death - with Only $1 and a Note


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