You Never Can Tell (1951)


You Never Can Tell Storyline

An ex-police/army dog (German Shepherd), named King inherits a fortune from an eccentric millionaire. But someone poisons him for his fortune, and he gets to go back to earth as a human detective to bring his killer to justice, and protect the girl who used to look after him.—Kathy Li

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You Never Can Tell Movie Reviews

Amusing ‘screwball comedy’ which will appeal to dog lovers

‘Woof woof!’, that’s what I say. This is a film (variously called YOU NEVER CAN TELL and YOU NEVER KNOW) in which a deceased dog, a German shepherd, is given permission to return to earth for a limited time as a human detective to solve his own murder and to clear the nice woman, his former mistress, blamed for the crime. Dick Powell, in his most congenial mode, plays the returned dog, posing as a private investigator named Rex Shepherd who sits around munching on dog biscuits when he is not looking for clues. Yes, it all sounds ridiculous, but it is done with such a light touch and such good humour that it is a most enjoyable film. And it is of special appeal to those of us who believe that dogs are in many ways superior to humans anyway. The reason why everyone is so excited about the murder of the dog is that his original owner died and left his six million dollar fortune to the dog, and as usual there are some wicked humans scheming for that stuff, which is useless to dogs, called money. This was the only feature film directed by Lou Breslow (1900-1987), who was better known as a film writer. Not only did he write this film, but he wrote 78 others, including in this very same year, both BEDTIME FOR BONZO, starring Ronald Reagan, and MY FAVORITE SPY starring Bob Hope and Hedy Lamarr. Breslow must have felt very strongly about dogs to push himself forward as director for this film. There are some very amusing scenes in Animal Heaven (doubtless located at the Dog Star, though this secret is not revealed), and the whole film is not only most enjoyable but often hilarious. However, humourless people need not apply. If you don’t know how to laugh (and it is amazing how many people don’t, especially these days when dour humourlessness is on the rise), then go watch a war movie or something instead of enjoying this light-hearted romp. But the rest of us can sit back and have a good time watching Dog Justice being done and Dog Ethics triumphing over human greed. (If only we could set the dogs on today’s psychopathic bankers, now wouldn’t that be a good idea!) The actress Peggy Dow, who only appeared in films between 1949 and 1951, unexpectedly retiring ‘for domestic reasons’ just as she was really getting going, is charming as Ellen, whom ‘Rex Shepherd’ wishes to clear of his murder. What a loss to the screen that she dropped out like that. So sit back, munch your dog biscuits, and enjoy seeing how dogs can handle things when human affairs need straightening out.


I first saw this movie as a teenager on AMC during a lazy afternoon and it was an unexpected pleasure. When I read the brief summary of the movie, which read something like: “A murdered dog comes back to life as a man to hunt his killer,” I actually expected a somewhat hard-boiled detective movie, despite the obviously outrageous premise. And I had no idea who Dick Powell was. The movie turned out to be very light-hearted and I was thoroughly entertained. Many light-hearted comedies of that era (early 1950s) make the mistake of just throwing in a lot of cute scenes and dialog and, though this movie does feature such scenes, it also has a lot of quite clever humor that keeps even the more cynical viewer satisfied. Even the murder mystery plot has intriguing aspects. The movie has a kind of fantasy atmosphere throughout that I really enjoy, and Dick Powell was never more likable than he is here. This role was perfect for him (unlike his earlier role in “Murder My Sweet”–see my review). I highly recommend it for good family fun.

One of the Most Entertaining and Likable Fantasy-Comedies Ever Made

Imaginative fantasies for-the-sake-of-an-idea are rare in Hollywood. It is much easier to impute massive powers to a watch or show a watch that can stop time, without regard for the meaning, ethics or development of such ideas. “You Never Can Tell” is beyond any doubt one of the most delightful and unexpected fantasy films ever. It begins with a visit to Beastatory, where good animals go, a heaven for non-humans courtesy of David S. Hursely and the optical department; the animals are shown on a negative image with glowing eyes, speaking English. The film was directed by Louis Breslow and written along with David Chandler. It tells the story of an Army canine who is murdered. He comes back to protect his mistress, daughter of a wealthy man played by Albert Sharpe, in the person of beautiful Peggy Dow. he is in human form, calling himself “Rex Shepherd”, and his partner for the mission of mystery-detection and help to her is Golden Harvest, a palomino filly now in human form as Goldie, his assistant. The villain of the piece is ably played by Charles Drake, who is romancing Dow. While Rex munches kibble and Goldie outruns buses and visits her psychologically troubled horse friends at the track, they somehow manage to save Dow’s life and expose the reason behind Rex’s killing and the threat to her. Of course, Rex falls in love with Dow, she with him, and he remains on Earth and watches as Goldie gallops off toward Beastatory’s alternate heaven, turning into a palomino again as she disappears into the skies. Please don’t miss this delightful film; it is one of Powell’s best, and a genuine comedy-fantasy rarity.