The Lie Detectors
The Lie Detectors Paperback Cover


This film clip provides the first moving picture of the modern lie detector “in action.” It comes from Officer 444, shot in 1926 on location in Berkeley, California, and written and directed by Francis Ford, the brother of John Ford. This ten-part silent movie serial starred popular screen idols Ben Wilson and Neva Gerber. In it, Vollmer played himself—“one of the world’s leading criminologists”—calmly marshaling his scientific police against a master-mind criminal who seeks to exploit science for his evil purposes. In this scene near the finale, the police extract the truth from the captured master-mind by using the “‘lieing machine’—a modern marvel of criminology, which records a crook’s guilt even while he is denying it.”

Leonarde Keeler played himself in the classic noir movie, Call Northside 777 (1948), starring James Stewart and based on the real-life efforts of Chicago Times reporter James McGuire to exonerate Joe Majczek, a Chicago man who had spent eleven years in Joliet for the murder of a police officer during a delicatessen hold-up. The film was one of the first of its type to be shot in actual urban neighborhoods and the pivotal lie detector scene shows Keeler, a bit worn, but still masterful, calmly assessing the Majczek’s honesty.

In this clip we can see the pivotal lie detection scene, with Keeler playing himself.