The Arsenal Stadium Mystery

The Arsenal Stadium Mystery is a 1939 British mystery film and one of the first feature films wherein football is a central element in the plot. The film was directed by Thorold Dickinson, and shot at Denham Film Studios and on location at the original Arsenal Stadium in Highbury. It was written by Dickinson, Donald Bull, and Alan Hyman, adapted from a 1939 novel by Leonard Gribble.[1][2]

The Arsenal Stadium Mystery
Arsenal Stadium Mystery.jpg
Arsenal manager George Allison gives a tactical team-talk to his players
Directed byThorold Dickinson
Written byThorold Dickinson
Donald Bull
Patrick Kirwan
Alan Hyman
Based onThe Arsenal Stadium Mystery by Leonard Gribble.[1][2]
Produced byJosef Somlo
StarringLeslie Banks
Greta Gynt
Ian McLean
Liane Linden
Anthony Bushell
Esmond Knight
CinematographyDesmond Dickinson
Edited bySidney Stone
Music byMiklós Rózsa
Greenspan & Seligman (G&S Films)
Denham Studios
Distributed byGeneral Film Distributors
Release date
  • November 1939 (1939-11)
Running time
84 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


The film is a murder mystery set, as the title suggests, at the original Arsenal Stadium, Gillespie Road, Highbury, London, the then home of Arsenal Football Club, who were at the time one of the dominant teams in English football. The backdrop is a friendly match between Arsenal and The Trojans, a fictitious amateur side. One of the Trojans' players drops dead during the match and when it is revealed he has been poisoned, suspicion falls on his teammates as well as his former mistress. Detective Inspector Slade (Leslie Banks) is called in to solve the crime.[1]

The victim has been poisoned by a powerful digitalis-based chemical. There is evidence that he was being blackmailed.

The investigation gets complicated when the girlfriend (a prime suspect) is also murdered by the same method.

The police set a trap by putting a chemical on top of the poison which turns the skin black after a few hours. The player responsible is then spotted whilst playing.



The film stars several Arsenal players and members of staff such as Cliff Bastin and Eddie Hapgood, although only manager George Allison has a speaking part. The Trojans' body doubles on the pitch were players from Brentford, filmed during the First Division fixture between the two sides on 6 May 1939; this was the last match of the 1938–39 season and Arsenal's last official league fixture before the outbreak of the Second World War. Brentford’s players wore white shirts for the match because their first choice red and white stripes would have clashed with Arsenal's red and white jerseys. The Trojans’ players therefore wore similar white shirts in close up sequences which were then cut in with the match action.[1]

Dickinson planned a follow-up, The Denham Studio Mystery, which was intended to incorporate footage from the abortive film I Claudius, but this fell through.[4][1]


  1. ^ a b c d e "50. The Arsenal Stadium Mystery".
  2. ^ a b "The Arsenal Stadium Mystery, by Leonard Gribble".
  3. ^ "The Arsenal Stadium Mystery". Radio
  4. ^ Horne, Philip (5 August 2005). "He was a premier-league director". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 January 2010.

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