THE ARSENAL STADIUM MYSTERY
On May 6, 1939, Arsenal entertained Brentford, in what was to be the last league game at Highbury before the outbreak of World War Two. It was also the tie which provided the real-match footage for cult movie The Arsenal Stadium Mystery.
For the purposes of the film, Brentford were asked to don
unfamiliar white shirts, as they assumed the role of The Trojans, a
fictitious amateur team, Arsenal's
Directed by Thorold Dickenson, the plot of the movie centred around the murder of a young footballer, Jack Dyce who drops dead during a match.
Leslie Banks, a leading movie star of the day, played the Scotland Yard sleuth sent in to solve the crime, while Swedish starlet Greta Gynt provided the romantic interest. A number of the players were given small parts, and even manager George Allison, and trainer Tom Whittaker agreed to cameo appearances.
Rookie centre-half, Alf Fields, who was to remain on the Club's backroom staff until the 1970s, was among the Arsenal extras selected to take part in the film.
"Bernard Joy was the first choice centre-half, but he was injured," recalls Fields. "The next choice would have been Leslie Compton, but he was off playing cricket. So I was chosen - and they even gave me a few lines to say. At the studios they were filming Thief of Baghdad on one side of us, and a war film on the other - so the place was full of harem girls and soldiers!"
Many fans at Highbury for the Brentford match would already have been familiar with this "brisk little mystery", as the novel had recently been serialised in the Daily Express. 13 years later, however, its serialisation in the foreign press was to cause a major embarrassment. On October 27, 1952, a Spanish newspaper headline announced: "Arsenal player murdered during a match. Scotland Yard investigates!"
The story that followed told readers, in all earnest, that "An English footballer of the Arsenal has been killed during a football match played at Highbury. Scotland Yard has opened an inquiry. The players who took part in the match have been questioned, as well as the referee, who would appear to be the murderer."
It turned out that the French newspaper L'Equipe had recently bought the serialisation rights to the Arsenal Stadium Mystery. Someone sent a French press release publicising the forthcoming serialisation to a Spanish editorial office, and they, were somehow hoodwinked into believing that story was genuine news.