Investigators constantly amaze me. Clearly years of experience account for their knowledge in how to detect and interpret clues, put them together and lead them to either a victim or a killer or both or neither. I pulled up this old 1956 black and white movie entitled Where is Jane Doe? on Youtube. Although the narrative is banal and detached like so many of those instructional old videos, it is the content in this one that captured me (pun). This one is about how to locate a Jane Doe and determine whether or not she is dead or alive before finding her. Where is Jane Doe begins with an investigator tracking a missing teen by starting with her parents. Her clothes have been discovered on a bridge in what appears to be a suicide by jumping off a bridge. Personally the first thing that would come into my mind is “what teenaged girl is going to take off all her clothes in public and dive naked into a cold lake?” Yes girls and boys drown themselves but I’d be surprised if they did it naked, especially the girls. It’s ironic given how revealing some teenagers dress but most aren’t likely to strip down nude with a view (pun) to being discovered dead by strangers.
However, the investigator asks the girl’s mother (we don’t know the girl’s name except for Jane Doe) if the found clothing belong to her daughter. He learns the home life wasn’t pretty: tense emotions, strict rules, poor grades. Her mother shows the detective the girl’s closet and he discovers her best suit and her jewellery is missing. An interesting tip I learned in this one is that people who plan suicides don’t bring anything with them. I read once that suicides usually give away precious possessions to people they like. Sad.
The High School
His next visit is to her high school. Now I discover that sometimes you can learn more about a teenager at school than anywhere else. A locker search reveals a textbook about modelling. It seems odd since the missing girl is a plain Jane (pun) until he talks to her best friend who shows the detective a secret makeup case Jane stashed at her house so she could practice being a model. The D is certain that JD didn’t kill herself but instead ran away to try her luck as a model somewhere. The suicide was a hoax and was meant to throw off pursuit. Cool.
New York City
The D visits many modelling schools and agencies hoping to find more clues. Runaways usually head to the place where they hope to fulfill their dreams. Next he has a really fun job. He has to sift through hundreds of glamour shots of women and hope to find his JD. She might not be as easy to spot because she will likely have changed her hairdo and be wearing makeup. The D’s biggest concern is to find JD before she visits a sleazy “agency” where she will end up in over her head (porn). Finally an epiphany: he realizes photographers can do a lot to glamorize plain women. He brings a glamorous picture to a police sketch artist and gets him to do the opposite: de-glamorize her by removing all the makeup and hairdo down to the bare bones. The artist seems to sketch a pretty woman into JD, although how likely that is I’ll never know (but it’s a cool idea).
The D tracks the photographer to a dreadful neighbourhood. The mechanical-sounding narrator offers up a bit of unexpected sarcasm, “if this is where the girl lives then she can’t be getting many calls to pose as a cover girl or elicit her services as an advertising siren.” JD has moved into a nasty, old hotel and the D finds her motionless on a bed in a small, drab room. She was broke, too ashamed to go home, and tried committing suicide for real this time. Of course Inspector Clouseau saves her and the narrator states that after discovering that her dream was just an illusion, she will never leave home again .That’s the saddest part of the story for the family. She will never leave home again. The mother looks too happy in the end to give any thought to that. Jane has the potential now to end up like the many 30-somethings who move back to mommy’s house when they can’t hack it in the real world and can’t hold down a job. By then, Jane’s mother will happily send her back to her seedy hotel and false hopes of becoming a cover model, sleeping pills or not. The End.