Larceny, Inc. (1942)


Lloyd Bacon

Three ex-cons buy a luggage shop to tunnel into the bank vault next door. But despite all they can do, the shop prospers…


16 August 2000 | by Mario Bergeron (Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Canada) ā€“ See all my reviews

The Warner bros, was my favorite studio from the Hollywood system between 1930-45. They make social films, gangster movies, romantic melodramas, musical comedies, and sometimes robust comedies like this one. Here, the great E.G. Robinson makes funs of his bad guys role, like he will do a few years later in Brother Orchid. Dialogues are very funny and the situations, very simples, are hilarious. Good laughs!


Inept Crooks

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
9 May 2002

S. J. Perelman, on whose play this is based, would sometimes use the nom de plume Sidney Namelrep, a silly, devil-may-care joke that is perfectly in tune with his sense of humor. He wrote some of the most outrageously funny pieces ever to appear in the New Yorker. His comedy is filled with whimsy, non sequiturs, twisted cliches, notions that seem to emerge recklessly from nowhere, scarcely masked libidinous allusions, ridiculously transparent self justifications — the kind of humor associated with the Marx Brothers. And in fact he wrote some of their best lines in (if I remember correctly) “Monkey Business” — “Hurry, my dear, my regiment leaves at dawn.” His wit still can be seen through the screen of the more strict narrative line seen in this movie but because the characters need to seem reasonably sane, their range is a bit restricted. (“Mmm. Did you concoct these little tidbits?”) The story itself, fortunately, is so absurd that it rolls right along, in the same league as Warners’ “All Through The Night.” It’s a pretty ancient tale. Thieves getting into a store next to a bank in order to break through the wall into the vault. The first time I remember coming across it was in a Sherlock Holmes tale, “The Red Headed League,” and I doubt it was original with Conan-Doyle. This is the earliest movie about such a caper that I’m aware of. But later there was “Big Deal on Madonna Street” and most recently Woody Allan’s “Small Time Crooks,” which duplicated some of the incidents as well as the general idea.


(The thieves break open a water pipe while digging the tunnel; the original plan fizzles out when the phony business upstairs becomes an economic bonanza.) It’s a well-done and highly entertaining comedy with the usual roster of Warners’ stalwarts at their best. The kind of movie about which you can truly say, “They don’t make ’em like that anymore.” I don’t know how long it took to shoot. Not long, I imagine. New York City is nothing more than a street on the back lot and a handful of interiors. Loyd Bacon, whom no one ever proclaimed a genius, knows how to shoot a film efficienctly, the way a good car mechanic knows his business, moving the bodies around with careless ease. There isn’t a wasted motion. Every step, every opening of a door, every snarl and stutter, serves a purpose. Robinson breezes through the whole business. Jane Wyman looks cute. Broderick Crawford is dumb beyond belief. And every item of luggage in the store is “Nine seventy-five.” It’s all pretty amusing.


There’s a little larceny in their hearts…

Author: Stormy_Autumn from the Pacific Northwest
7 July 2007

Last night I had a good time with a ginger ale and a movie recommended by a brilliant poster, our own misspaddylee. It was worth the watch…Oh uh, what was it? Why “Larceny Inc.” (1942) of course. A great little comedy of crime with humor that moved fast and furious.

2 crooks, J. Chalmers ‘Pressure’ Maxwell (Edward G. Robinson) and Jug Martin (Broderick Crawford), are released from prison. They enter the Warden’s office for their ‘stay out of trouble’ pep talk and the Warden (Joseph Crehan) loses his suit to ‘Pressure’. (Ya gotta see it to believe it. He is one smooth talker.) They are greeted, on the outside, by Maxwell’s niece (and the apple of Jug’s eye) Denny (Jane Wyman). On their lips are promises to go straight…it’s too bad it’s NOT written on their hearts.


Oh yes, they do purchase a Luggage Shop from Horace Bigelow (Harry Davenport). That looks to be a positive move even if the shop is located next door to a bank with a full vault.

Meanwhile Denny and new boyfriend Jeff (Jack Carson) get the real business moving by using Jeff’s promotional know-how. This is to help the ‘good guys’ out. That’s when real bad guy Leo Dexter (Anthony Quinn) escapes from jail, shows up at the shop and moves in for the take…from the bank not the luggage shop. From there the humor moves faster and more furiously. The crooks play off of each other. The dialog keeps you laughing.

Seeing Jack Carson in a romantic lead seemed strange. Seeing Jack Carson in a romantic lead with Jane Wyman as the girl he adored seemed even stranger. But it added to the humor.

And there are many other memorable roles, too. For example these played by Edward Brophy as Weepy Davis the gang member turned luggage salesman. John Qualen is Sam Bachrach a nosy shop owner. Barbara Jo Allen plays Mademoiselle Gloria who develops an instant interest in J. Chalmers Maxwell. Grant Mitchell as Mr. Aspinwall, the vault owner, ah I mean banker next door. And a certain Jackie Gleason does a short, memorable part as Hobart the lunch counter man. You have got to see those facial expressions…each and every facial expression.


very funny, with Edward G. Robinson heading a great cast

Author: blanche-2 from United States
10 January 2008

“Larceny, Inc.” is a 1942 film starring Edward G. Robinson, Broderick Crawford, Jane Wyman, Anthony Quinn, Jack Carson, Ed Brophy, Jackie Gleason and Henry Davenport. The idea behind this film consciously or subconsciously may have inspired Woody Allen’s “Small Time Crooks.” Gangsters buy a luggage shop situated next to a bank in order to break through the wall into the bank vault; instead, they find themselves dragged kicking and screaming into legitimacy.


Edward G. Robinson is “Pressure,” an ex-con who at first tries to keep customers out of the store (“if a customer comes in, blow him off”) – but when he tells the young woman like a daughter to him (Wyman) that he’s sincere, she starts working with a luggage salesman (Carson) on big promotions. Soon the store is jumping with customers. The merchants on the street ask for Pressure’s support – the street is being torn up, and it’s right before Christmas; he becomes their hero. However, when an ex con comes into the store to borrow money, he realizes the store is a front for a bank robbery and goes back and tells a scary prisoner, Leo (Quinn) who escapes and decides to do the job himself.


The funniest scene is the aggravated Robinson wrapping a suitcase when a customer asks for gift-wrapping. Robinson is hilarious – he could be doing Little Ceasar, he takes it so seriously, and he’s all the funnier for it. Broderick Crawford did some comedy before “All the King’s Men” – he’s excellent as a dumb associate of Pressure’s who’s digging the hole to the bank. Jackie Gleason plays a soda jerk – and makes the most of it. Wyman and Carson don’t have much to do, alas. The rest of the cast is uniformly delightful.

This is a real gem – “Small Time Crooks” takes the basic plot and goes in another direction with it – both are wonderful films. Try and catch this one on TCM.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s