The Mind Reader (1933)

Film Review


Release Date: 1 April, 1933

Studio: First National Pictures

Directors: Roy Del Ruth

Starring: Warren William, Constance Cummings, Alan Jenkins

Related Discussion Topic: The Hays Code

Learn about the Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, in the Discussion Topics section.


A small time carnival charlatan's latest con is mind reading. People write their questions on a slip of paper, and the papers are surreptitiously passed from the con artist (played by Warren William) to his assistant (Jenkins), who reads a question to him. William pretends to see the question in his crystal ball, and he answers it. A pretty young woman (Cummings) believes that he can read minds, and she accompanies him as his secretary. They fall in love and marry. When she learns that his act is phony, she threatens to leave him. To keep her, he attempts to succeed with an honest job, selling brushes. They are living in poverty when he runs into Jenkins, now the chauffer of a rich couple. Both of Jenkins' employers have lovers, and he proposes that William assume the identity of a clairvoyant and consult with the wife. He reads his crystal ball, and she pays him hundreds of dollars for the information about the activities of her husband.

Soon, the con man is billing himself as the psychic Dr. Minor, who consults with rich wives and reveals the adulteries of their husbands. Jenkins pays the chauffeurs of these people to tell him about their activities. One day, Cummings goes to see Dr. Minor on behalf of a friend; she gets to his office just as an irate husband breaks in on William, who pulls a gun. They wrestle over the gun, and the husband is accidentally shot. William, not realizing his wife is present, flees. Some time later, William, hiding out in Mexico, sees newspaper articles about Cummings. She has been arrested as an accessory to the killing. To save her, he returns and confesses. Cummings still loves him and tells him that she will wait. Before William goes to jail, Jenkins comes to say goodbye and wish him well. As he is led away, Jenkins comments that it’s a heck of a time to have to go to jail, now that beer is coming back.


Although it has a complex plot, the film is fast-paced and contains lots of clever Pre-Code dialogue. Warren William was a forceful actor who excelled at portraying seedy, devious characters. Alan Jenkins has one of the best roles of his career. His dialogue, well delivered and acerbic, fits him perfectly.