When gangster kingpin Nate Girard gets off the hook at his trial for murder, his high-priced shyster lawyer throws a party to celebrate...and the guests are the reporters and news photographers who covered the trial. What a bunch...cigar chewers, bumbling shutter clickers and wise alecks. Yeah, and Kent Murdoch (Lew Ayres) was there, ace photographer always with an angle and a wise crack, fast with his words, especially "Now listen, baby..." when he's with a good-looking dame. He's a decent guy. There's I. B. McGoogin (Paul Stewart), fast- talking, wisecracking news reporter who always winds up one step behind Murdock. But one guest doesn't fit in...a beautiful raven-haired dame named Meg Archer (Gail Patrick). She comes across as so aristocratic that we can't be sure if it's ice water in her veins or just the slow syrup of delayed gratification.
And wouldn't you know it, murder shows up, too. Right in the middle of the party, when the flashbulbs are popping, a guy also gets popped. Not Nate, but his lawyer. And who immediately disappears? Yep, Meg vanishes even faster than a pair of straight dice at a crap game. She winds up at Kent's apartment with a story and a plea for help. It's not long before someone realizes that a picture Kent took at the party just might show the murderer, that Kent's former girlfriend wants some money, that Nate Girard is willing to pay big for what he says he has to have, that the cops think Nate is in the middle, that Meg has some sort of side deal, that Kent will go all out to help Meg, that...a lot keeps moving around in this mystery played with a light touch. Murder with Pictures is just what it is, a 69-minute programmer with a few good points, a plot that gets too complicated for its own good, and a production that never received the studio love that might have made it better.
Among those good points is seeing Lew Ayres, who played the naive, sincere gun fodder in All Quiet on the Western Front, turn in a wise guy performance by channeling Chester Morris. He handles the role with some style. Ayres was a reliable, likable lead actor whose strong suit was decency. He became a pacifist after making All Quiet. With the Doctor Kildare series that started in 1938, Lew Ayres found himself a matinée idol. When Pearl Harbor was attacked and Ayres was drafted, he declared himself a conscientious objector. He was crucified in the press and his career vanished. He finally was granted his earlier request to join the Army Medical Corps. He served under fire in the Pacific and in New Guinea. After the war, when it became known he had served as a combat medic, he gradually began to get film offers but for seldom more than character roles. Ayres received an Oscar nomination for best actor for the doctor in Johnny Belinda. Just like Dr. Kildare, Ayres was a decent guy with the backbone to stand firm for his beliefs.