Johnny Eager (1941)

Director:

Mervyn LeRoy

Cinematography by

Harold Rosson
District Attorney’s daughter falls in love with a gangster the D.A. is trying to put in jail.
A good forties gangster film!

6 August 2003 | by Woody Martin (Vanright@hotmail.com) (Bklyn. New York) – See all my reviews

Robert Taylor was just great in this film, Van Heflin was great as well. Taylor as a likeable bad guy with class, you can’t help but root for him in the end, wishing for a happy ending, but knowing that this likeable gangster will go out in blaze of glory. I wish it were available on a DVD format, they don’t make them like this any more!

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Enchanting film-noir with endearing performances

7/10
Author:Jugu Abraham (jugu_abraham@yahoo.co.uk)from Trivandrum, Kerala, India
13 January 2003

Just as Sydney Greenstreet is unforgettable in “The Maltese Falcon”, Van Heflin’s role in Johnny Eager is memorable. Heflin won an Academy Award for this role that would be a dream role for any serious actor. The role provides superb lines, wide emotional range and an unusual character for a Forties movie. A weeping Heflin would be arresting to even a casual viewer. Several years later, Heflin played a somewhat similar but rugged and drunk Musketeer with a broken marriage in “The Three Musketeers.” The casting of “Johnny Eager” is the secret to its success.

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Robert Taylor made a name as the good looking good guy in the movies, but he is even better when he plays the bad guy in a handful of films. This is one such example. The strength of this role is his ability to transform from a likable good guy into a steely, gangster with an eye-brow movement and a subtle variation in his voice. Yet amongst the several negative roles (“Conspirator”, “Undercurrent”, “Ride, Vaqeuro”, “The Night Walker”), Taylor in “Johnny Eager” is able to present the versatile actor he was.

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The lovely Lana Turner is overshadowed by Taylor and Heflin, not just by the script but their individual performances. Usually Turner overshadows her male colleagues.

The film would never have stood out but for the script (Grant and Mahin) and the direction (LeRoy). The opening sequence and the ending sequence are well crafted and can stand alongside the best of film noir. I am surprised that this work gets often overlooked in discussions about the best examples of the genre. I found the film richly entertaining and well-made.

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T(aylor) +T(urner)=Dynamite!

Author:retro_gal
5 December 2003

“Johnny Eager” was the one and only movie film god and goddess Robert Taylor and Lana Turner made together, which is very puzzling–their single pairing raked in the dough at the box office, and the fact that they were both under long-term contract to the same studio, MGM, made it such that no pesky and expensive loan-outs from other studios would be necessary (in fact, Taylor has the distinction of being MGM’s longest contract star, with Turner not far behind) . But however lamentable that is, much consolation can be garnered from the fact that their lone film is a very memorable and excellent one, with a solid storyline, good direction, great casting and flawless performances by all.

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In a marvelously inspired decision, Robert Taylor was cast in the title role as Johnny Eager, Gangster–quite a departure, to say the least, from his previously romantic matinee idol roles which established him as a star. At first glance the perfectly handsome, gentlemanly Taylor would seem woefully miscast, but proves otherwise–he holds his perfect features with such an air of menace and calculation and acts every inch the tough guy, both of which are completely convincing. One never gets the sense that he is “trying” to be a heavy, he simply is. In fact, “Johnny Eager” would be the start of a new phase in Taylor’s career where, like actors such as Dick Powell and fellow MGM star Robert Montgomery, he would cut loose from his light, “nice guy” leading man roles and emerge with a much darker, harder-edged “flawed hero” if not “bad man” persona. In this film he does so terrifically as the cynical, selfish, big time recently parolled hood who’s only priorities are money and avoiding a return to the big house.

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He faces problems with each when he is unable to get a license from any judge to open up his greyhound racing racket, and when the daughter of the prosecutor who sent him away falls for him. But the cunning and ruthless Johnny Eager sees how he can use the girl and her father to meet his own ends and cleverly concocts a devious, heartless scheme to do so–but things don’t turn out as expected when the unexpected happens and he genuinely falls for her.

And how could any man not? Lana Turner plays the part of the prosecutor-judge’s daughter, sociology student Lisbeth Bard, who has the power to make any bad man rue his rotten ways–she is captivating with her luscious, luxe blond beauty (which in her physical prime was such that she often is considered by “critics,” whoever they may be, as one of cinema’s greatest beauties, and justifiably so. In fact, in the relatively recent “Femme Fatale,” Rebecca Romijn-Stamos was made up to look like Lana) and warm sensuality blended with a slightly cool sultriness.

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She simply shimmers and sparkles, glitters and gleams like a white diamond. Her rapport and sexual chemistry with Taylor is so palpable and electrifying that I consider him one of her best leading men, alongiside only John Garfield in “The Postman Always Rings Twice”. In fact, during filming the two had an affair and their powerful attraction translates onto film. Though Turner was, with good reason, known more for her riveting looks, glamorous sex appeal and strong screen presence rather than her acting ability, in this film she turns in a truly depthful, sincere, multi-faceted performance, running the gamut from cool, assessing fascination to frantic, desperate angst, which probably had a lot to do with the fact that she was directed by Mervyn LeRoy, her trusted mentor back from her starlet days at Warner Bros., who “brought” her with him when he moved over to MGM.

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The dynamic Edward Arnold is good as usual as Lisbeth’s lawyer father, who is alternately sinister and sympathetic because of his willingness to do anything to protect his beloved daughter, whether it be from Johnny Eager or from jail time, even if it means forsaking his honesty and breaking the law which he has promised to uphold. Despite the sterling performances of these actors, it is Van Heflin who steals the show (and won the AA for Best Supporting Actor) in his star turn as Johnny’s best and only friend Jeff Hartnett, and a strange one at that–a maudlin, conscious-ridden, cerebral alcoholic, the type who seems like he would be the last person fit for the criminal world. But despite this, he sticks with Johnny, and the viewer (or at least I did) truly gets the sense that there is a homoerotic bond, at least on Heflin’s part.

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This is good stuff and I highly recommend it. If you are into film noirs, then this is a must see.

p.s. Someone flippantly dismissed Turner as a sort of 2nd rate Veronica Lake–that is definitely not true, for it can be argued that Turner became a star around or even before Lake did and despite their sultry, stunning blond looks and charisma, the two had distinct personas of their own and were not “interchangeable.” Although one could never go so far as to say Lake was mysterious, she was somewhat inscrutable and “cool-er”, something Turner was not. And while Lake definitely did have sufficient star quality, Lana had much more of it, and what’s more, she also had a strong audience rapport–something that enabled her to remain a star even when her looks started to fade and despite the shock over the Stompanato Scandal. Lake was a star mostly on the basis of her hairdo, and when it went out of vogue or she changed it, interest in her waned. I say this as a fan of both of these marvelous ladies.

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don’t doubt Robert Taylor

2 January 2007 | by RanchoTuVu (Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico) – See all my reviews

A parolee masquerades as a cabby while running a dog racing track on the side. As the film opens, he has an interview with his parole officer, and then goes to the track, which is under an injunction from the D. A. who had sent him to prison in the first place and who’s step-daughter (Lana Turner) he later falls in love with, enters the exterior of his office, puts on one of his expensive sport coats, and becomes the head of a rather extensive gambling racket. For doubters of Robert Taylor, this could make them believers as he rises well above this fantasy like story that wants to be a tough crime drama but refuses to be gritty enough to sink into a convenient gutter. Nonetheless, Taylor puts a lot of punch into his part, outshining the film’s Oscar winner Van Heflin, who plays his heavy drinking philosophizing associate.

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Van Heflin shines in this MGM gangster film

10/10
Author:reelguy2from Boulder, Colorado
17 November 2004

MGM produced this well-written, well-produced gangster saga, a type of film that was very unusual for the studio.

As the alcoholic, self-loathing, philosophizing buddy of Johnny Eager (Robert Taylor), Heflin steals the show. He plays his role with great intensity and complexity, making his performance one of the most deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscars in the history of the Academy Awards. His crying scenes are enough to choke a person up, and his possible suggestion of a homoerotic attraction to Eager is unique in a film of this era.

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It’s unfortunate that Heflin’s subsequent roles and performances were generally dull. This actor needed roles that put him emotionally on the edge and exploited his intensity. But at least in Johnny Eager, Heflin set a standard for screen acting that remains a role model to this day.

Robert Taylor plays his scenes with Heflin with some dramatic tension and a hint of subtext, while still remaining comfortably within the confines of a handsome Hollywood leading man. Turner delivers her lines very artificially, coming across as insincere, and her face seems incapable of expressing emotion. Beautiful she is, but given the taut script, the director had the potential of eliciting less formulaic playing from her. Luckily, the rest of the cast is excellent -especially Edward Arnold and Robert Sterling.

Watch this one and you won’t be disappointed. Heflin’s performance is worth it all.

 

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A sesquipedalian Heflin!

Author: sandra small (sandi_small@muchomail.com) from gateshead, tyne and wear, england, uk
20 December 2008

The celebrated German philosopher Immanual Kant’s premise of theory was that there is no originality, because we are influenced by what we experience. In that case Johnny Eager (1942)is a clichéd gangster film. But the clichéd roles give way to nuanced characters, which have originality within their various slants of their respective stereotypes. Director Leroy achieves this by adding to the clichés of sharp suited mobsters and their dolls anomalies as in the emotional, erudite gangster with ethics.

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A classic stereotype, (well observed and researched by the production team) is that of Lana Turner’s character; Lizbeth Bard. She is the clichéd sociology student. That is she is a middle class naive ingénue, whose fascination with her subject matter gets her in too deep. This role gave Turner credibility as an actor! Likewise, the film gave Taylor the credibility he deserved as an actor of dimensions. His caricature of the solipsistic gangster gave him an edge which usurped his ‘pretty boy’ image.

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Nevertheless Taylor’s Johnny Eager seems to have a sense of his beauty that has the women running to him. One example is the scene when the women run to serve him at the desk near the start of the film. This begs the question of was Johnny Eager’s looks that had the women eating out of his hand? or was it his ‘gangster’ image that attracted them? Could Eager have had the women falling for him with just looks alone? His character wouldn’t be half as sexy in the role of Bard’s other love interest, that of the sweet, well intentioned good -guy as in Robert Sterling’s character; Jimmy Courtney.

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The other stand out performance (deserved of his Oscar) is that of Van Heflin playing the complex ,sesquipedalian and polymath, Jeff Hartnett. He is the cerebral side kick of Eager. Like the women, he has got in too deep with Eager because of his homo erotic attraction to the latter.

Mention should also go to the excellent turns by Edward Arnald as the over protective Dad, who has come from nothing,making it as a respectable lawyer, with ambitions for his daughter to marry a wealthy socialite with a good name. His over protectiveness as Bard’s Dad gives way to a subtext of incest. This has Hartnett (Heflin) mention the famous psychologist Freud.

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Also outstanding in this film is the clever script, which is evidently well researched, as in the example of the naive sociology student. The direction of the film is a credit to Mervyn LeRoy who portrays the clichéd caricatures of the characters to almost perfection. . The film takes allot of twists and turns, which defines it as ‘film noir’.

This was the film that altered the career of Robert Taylor, transforming him from a ‘pretty boy’ film star to a credible actor. It definitely is worth seeing.

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Cabbie by day, gangster by night, and hunk – always!

8/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
15 August 2006

Robert Taylor is a reformed gangster on parole at the beginning of “Johnny Eager.” After meeting with his parole officer and two sociology students – one of whom is the gorgeous Lana Turner – Johnny transforms himself into the gangster he has remained. It’s in this identity that he runs into Turner again at a nightclub. The gangster interests her more than the cabbie. Little does he know, her father is the prosecutor who has an injunction to keep a dog track from opening in which Johnny has a financial stake.

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According to Lana Turner, she and Taylor flirted and made out, and Taylor told Stanwyck he wanted a divorce. Turner didn’t want to break up the marriage and told Taylor it was no go. Stanwyck, however, never spoke to Turner again. Turner and Taylor make a beautiful couple and they sizzle on screen.

Both turn in excellent performances. Turner plays a love-struck, vulnerable young woman who will do anything to protect her man – she’s great. Taylor, sporting a mustache, is terrific as Johnny – a goody two shoes around his parole officer, a mean, selfish tough guy around everyone else. He has no idea how to love or to be loved.

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Van Heflin won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as Johnny’s friend Jeff, an alcoholic philosopher and Johnny’s conscience. Heflin plays up the sensitivity of Jeff and his love for Johnny, giving the role gay overtones. He is fantastic.

If you’re under the impression that Taylor and Turner were just two of Hollywood’s non-acting pretty people, think again. During their careers, both played many worthwhile roles and played them well. If the critics dismissed them because of their looks, or in Turner’s case, the headlines she garnered in her private life, too bad, but the audience always got their money’s worth with these two pros.

Wonderful film!

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Badge 711

7/10
Author: sol from Brooklyn NY USA
24 January 2005

(Some Spoilers) Davilishly handsome Robert Taylor as paroled crime bigwig Johnny Eager with the eye-popping gorgeous 21 year-old Lana Turner as Lisbeth Brad. As well as Van Heflin who received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as Johnny’s sad sack drunk and scholarly pal Jeff Hartenett put on quite a show in the MGM glossy crime/drama “Johnny Eager”.

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Doing his parole as a taxi driver Johnny Eager is still secretly running his old crime organization with that cold and hard-fisted efficiency that he ran it before he was sent up the river to the state penitentiary. At his monthly parole board hearing Johnny meets two sociology students Lisbeth Bard and Judy Sanford, Lana Turner and Dana Lewis, and both fall, Judy outwardly and Lisbeth secretly, for the good-looking former hoodlum.

Later Johnny again meets Lisbeth at a nightclub that he was doing business with and learns that she’s the step-daughter of State DA and the man who put him behind bars John Benson Farrell, Edward Arnold. Johnny has all the top police and politicians paid off to allow him to go back to business as top city crime boss. Eeryone but the straight and honest DA Farrell who swore to do everything to put Johnny back in prison.

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With Lisbeth madly in love with Johnny he sees a chance to take advantage of her blind passion for him to his benefit. Getting Lisbeth up at his pad he has one of his hoods Julio, Paul Stewart, break in and get into a fight with him. As Julio has Johnny on the floor and is about to knife him Johnny screams to Lisbeth to shoot him with his gun and she does killing Julio saving Johnny’s life. Unknown to Lisbeth the gun had blanks and Julio was anything but dead but the thought on her part of killing someone drove Lisbeth into a deep depression.

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Johnny uses the fact of Lisbeth’s guilt to blackmail her step-father DA Farrell to stop hounding him. At the same time have him approve of Johnny opening the dog racetrack, run by his mob! Something which DA Farrell publicly avowed never to sanction.

Not realizing how much Lisbeth is in love with him this whole plan backfires on Johnny when she tells him that she’s willing to take the rap for him! This in order to keep Johnny out of prison for being at the scene of the crime. With Julio alive this would show not only Lisbeth, who Johnny didn’t really care that much for, but her step-father the State DA what a low-life louse he is and throw him back in the clink this time for good.

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Never really loving anyone Johnny’s attraction to Lisbeth and her selfless love for him turned out to be his downfall. Trying to tell Lisbeth that Julio was alive and that she has nothing to feel guilty about only makes Lisbeth fall more in love with Johnny. Lisbeth thinking that he’s trying to keep her from going to jail for saving his life by killing Julio. In desperation Johnny now sees that the only way he can get out of this dangerous situation is to make sure that Julio is really dead and this turns out to be a fatal mistake on Johnny’s part.

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Robert Taylor is darkly handsome and effective as the ruthless Johnny Eager as he finds out that his good looks and success with women turned out to be his Achilles Heel. There was a heart-breaking scene at the dog-track when one of Johnny Eager’s former girlfriends Mea, Glenda Farrell, tried to get him to use his influence to get her husband police officer Joe Agridowski, Byron Shores, back on his old beat. That way he can spend more time with her and their three kids. It takes officer Argidowski twice as long to go to work and back from where he’s assigned to now and it’s injuring his feet from walking the twice as long beat.

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Johnny coldly and unfeeling turns the desperate Mea down even though he could have easily helped her husband. Later there ironically turned out to be a bit of poetic justice for Mea and her husband Joe in the final scene of the movie at Johnny Eager’s expense.

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

Directed by Michael Curtiz
Cinematography Sol Polito

Angels with Dirty Faces is a 1938 American crime film directed by Michael Curtiz for Warner Brothers. It stars James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, The Dead End Kids, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, and George Bancroft. The screenplay was written by John Wexley and Warren Duff, and is based on the story by Rowland Brown. The film chronicles the rise and fall of the notorious gangster William “Rocky” Sullivan. After spending three years in prison for armed robbery, Rocky intends to collect $100,000 from his co-conspirator, Jim Frazier. All the while, Father Jerry Connolly tries to prevent a group of youths from falling under Rocky’s influence.

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Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and George Bancroft in Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

When Cagney was offered Angels with Dirty Faces, his agent was “convinced” that he would never agree to play the role of an “abject coward” being dragged to his execution. Cagney, however, was enthusiastic about the chance to play Rocky. He saw it as an opportunity to prove that he had a broad acting range that extended beyond “tough guy” roles. To play Rocky, Cagney drew on his memories of growing up in the Yorkville section of Manhattan, New York.

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His main inspiration was a drug-addicted pimp who stood on a street corner all day hitching his trousers, twitching his neck, and repeating: “Whadda ya hear! Whadda ya say!” Those mannerisms came back to haunt Cagney, who later wrote in his autobiography: “I did those gestures maybe six times in the picture. That was over thirty years ago – and the impressionists have been doing me doing him ever since.”Cagney’s other inspiration was his childhood friend, Peter “Bootah” Hessling, who was convicted of murder and “sent to the electric chair” on July 21, 1927. The night Bootah was executed, Cagney was “playing in a Broadway show” and “wept” upon hearing of his friend’s death.

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Pat O’Brien was cast as Father Jerry Connolly, Rocky’s childhood friend. O’Brien had been a “contract player” with Warner Bros. since 1933, and eventually left the studio in 1940 following a dispute over the terms of the renewal of his contract. He and Cagney first met in 1926 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. O’Brien was a “lonely, young” actor “playing in a stock company”. He heard that a stage play, Women Go on Forever by Mary Boland, was coming to Asbury Park on its way to Broadway. Wanting to meet the “star of the show”, he went backstage after a performance and met Cagney for the first time.  O’Brien and Cagney became great friends, and remained so until O’Brien’s death in 1983. (Cagney died in 1986).

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By May, 1938, the Dead End Kids had already starred in Samuel Goldwyn‘s Dead End; as well as Warner’s Crime School  (both with Humphrey Bogart). They had signed a two-year contract with Goldwyn in 1937, but he sold the contract to Warner Bros. the same year because of their behavior on the set of Dead End; in one instance, they “jumped” Bogart and “stole his pants” while in another they crashed a truck into a sound stage. Bogart portrays the crooked lawyer Jim Frazier in Angels With Dirty Faces. German scholar Winfried Fluck described Bogart’s character, Jim Frazier, as an “entirely negative” and “thoroughly bad figure”, in “contrast” with Cagney’s antihero.

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An absolute classic

8/10
Author: The_Void from Beverley Hills, England
3 January 2005

Michael Curtiz has made some great films, yet the only one that tends to be well received among film fans is his contender for the best movie ever made – obviously Casablanca (and Robin Hood, to a lesser extent). However, the man has a wealth of other influential classics under his belt that don’t tend to get the recognition that they deserve, and Angels With Dirty Faces is one of those films. To sum the film up easily, one would say that it is a crime drama. However; like the best crime dramas, this one has multiple themes that elevate it from being merely a film about crime, to being a character study, a portrait of what it is that makes a hero and a condemnation of criminals on the whole. The story follows Rocky Sullivan and Jerry Connolly; two young New York thugs, the former of which is caught by the police and sent to a reform school, where, ironically, he learns to be a criminal. The latter escapes punishment and goes on to become a priest. The story follows these two men as they meet up as adults and have an effect on the lives of the kids of their old neighbourhood.

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The focus of the film is always centred on the neighbourhood. This allows Curtiz to show us the effects that Rocky’s criminal endeavours have on the kids of the neighbourhood more effectively. This sort of narrative would be employed in later films, such as the critically acclaimed ‘City of God’, and works well here too. The way the film shows how impressionable young kids can be influenced by adults works brilliantly, and Curtiz is able to continue this theme up until the powerful ending. James Cagney would later go on to achieve major fame in the incredible ‘White Heat’, but here he shows us what the quintessential New York gangster would be like. His performance, in short, is incredible and easily ranks among the best gangster roles of all time. The rest of the cast do well in their roles, with distinct New York accents helping to firmly place the audience in the city that the film is taking place in. Furthermore, the film is economic in the way it’s plotted and it’s also very exciting, and therefore guaranteed to delight it’s audience.

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Angels With Dirty Faces is an absolute cinema classic and quite why it isn’t more famous is anyone’s guess. Although not quite as good as Casablanca, this is a major notch in Michael Curtiz’s filmography and I wouldn’t have any qualms with recommending this to film fans at all.

Golden-age film offers great gangster yarn and metaphysical struggle

10/10
Author: Sloke from Greenwich, CT, USA
18 March 2000

“Angels With Dirty Faces” has been called the gangster movie of the New Deal. Previously, with such early-30s films as “Little Caesar” and “Public Enemy,” gangster films at their best were engrossing actioners with charismatic but undeniably evil central figures. “Angels With Dirty Faces,” released in 1938, presents a more nuanced view of what makes the modern bad man tick. Is it a bad heart? Or is society to blame?

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Cagney is undeniably great in the role that made him a legend. His practiced patter never wears thin, and his screen presence is electric throughout. (Especially at the end, and I don’t mean that as a pun.) But the screenwriters never let us forget the good in the man. We see him come up against more ruthless elements of the underworld, people like Bogart (a real baddie here) who have no compunction about killing a man if it means avoiding payment of a heavy debt. We see him interact with a group of starry-eyed juveniles (The Dead End Kids) whose nickel-and-dime antics fill him with a poignant but heartily-amusing nostalgia. And we see him try to do right by his former partner in crime, now a priest played by Hugh O’Brien.

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But Cagney is trapped by the circumstances of his life. He can’t walk away from a life of crime, which has made him what he is and gives him the only life satisfaction he knows. He’s correctly on guard for double-crossers at every turn. When cornered, his cheery face becomes bug-eyed and menacing. We know he’s bad, but we like him, and that puts us in the company of the audience-surrougate figure, Father Connolly.

Director Curtiz was an auteur before his time, filling his canvas with images of downtrodden street life. This isn’t for mere effect, but to show us why Rocky is what he is and how come he finds little hope for his redemption. There are souls to be saved in this picture, but for Father Connolly, they are Laurie and the boys. He must take on his childhood chum, the same kid who saved Connolly from the perils of the Mean Streets and allowed him to become what he was.

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It is a choice between God and friendship, and while Connolly has little doubt which way to go, the audience may not be with him all the way. The ending points up this spiritual conflict in some of the most harrowing terms ever brought to screen at that time. When you really think about what’s going on behind Connolly’s face in that final scene, it’s a real tear-inducer.

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Was Rocky’s last scene a put-up job? I guess it can be argued back and forth, but the real question of value is whether, if it was faked, was it enough to perform a miracle even the good Father Connolly wouldn’t have quite believed in, the salvation of Rocky. The last image of the boys, desolately accepting the news of their hero’s fall, is at once triumphant and bittersweet. Nothing comes easy in this world of ours.

“Angels With Dirty Faces” may strike a falsely optimistic note to some, but it is optimism well-earned by the honesty of vision expressed. Add to that clever dialogue, great pacing, and one of cinema’s keystone performances by Cagney, and you have a real keeper here.

P.S. It also features one of the finest Cagney impersonations ever, by William Tracey as the young Rocky. Funny stuff.

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Cagney Heads Impressive Cast

8/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
29 October 2005

This film certainly has an attractive cast with three Hall-Of-Fame actors and the very pretty Ann Sheridan.

James Cagney, my favorite actor of classic films, once again steals most of the scenes. He just dominates the screen and gets you very involved with his character, especially at the end. Pat O’Brien plays his normal somewhat-liberal and likable priest role and Humphrey Bogart is convincing as the crooked lawyer. Bogart was the bad guy in most films until he became a big star a couple years after this film.

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The “Dead End Kids” are a pretty tough bunch. Seeing them play basketball is quite a sight – more like rugby. It must be one of the highlights of this entertaining film because I remember it so well….it was so different from any other basketball game I’ve ever seen!

The shootout-and-chase scene near the end was well-done with some great film-noir photography and the ending of the movie is quite memorable. Frankly, the first time I saw this I thought it was overrated but after the second viewing – and then seeing a nice transfer on DVD – I changed my mind. It is anything but overrated.

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‘G’ Men (1935)

Directed by William Keighley
Cinematography Sol Polito

It’s the early days of the F.B.I. – federal agents working for the Department of Justice. Though they’ve got limited powers – they don’t carry weapons and have to get local police approval for arrests – that doesn’t stop fresh Law School grad Eddie Buchanan from joining up, and he encourages his former roommate James “Brick” Davis (James Cagney) to do so as well. But Davis wants to be an honest lawyer, not a shyster, despite his ties to mobster boss McKay, and he’s intent on doing so, until Buchanan is gunned down trying to arrest career criminal Danny Leggett. Davis soon joins the “G-Men” as they hunt down Leggett (soon-to-be Public Enemy Number One) and his cronies Collins and Durfee, who are engaged in a crime and murder spree from New York to the midwest.

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Brick Davis is a street-wise New York City lawyer who decides to join the US Department of Justice and become a G-Man after his friend Eddie Buchanan, also a G-Man, is gunned down by mobsters. Davis’ schooling was actually paid by a friend, Mac McKay, a benevolent mobster who wanted to make sure that Brick didn’t end up on the wrong side of the law. He hasn’t been very successful as a lawyer so law enforcement seems to be the next best thing. When mobsters go on a spree of bank robberies in the US mid-west, Davis is assigned to the Chicago field office. As they arrest the mobsters one by one, Davis learns that the rest of the gang is hiding out at a hotel run by his onetime friend and mentor McKay. Things come to a head when the last remaining gunman kidnaps a fellow G-Man’s sister.

Trivia

In this film, which was made after one of the many “censorship” reforms, the gangsters are never seen using the common gangster weapon: the Thompson Sub-Machine Gun. In an effort to curb the violence in movies, the new “production codes” forbade the use of the weapon by gangsters on camera for fear that it would corrupt the youth of America (a fact explained in the Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) DVD documentary). This is especially evident during the lodge shootout. All of the cops and FBI agents have Tommy guns, 12-gauge pump shotguns and automatic pistols, while the gangsters only have revolvers and lever-action rifles.

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Puff Piece for the Federal Bureau of Investigation

28 May 2006 | by bkoganbing (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

When Machine Gun Kelly gave up, uttering that famous line, “Don’t Shoot G-Men”, he gave the Federal Bureau of Investigation members a moniker that has survived down to this day. He also entitled an upcoming film being made at Warner Brothers about the FBI.

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Though the FBI had been in existence since 1908, founded during the Theodore Roosevelt administration, it’s structure and mystique never took shape until Calvin Coolidge’s Attorney General Harlan Fiske Stone appointed a young civil servant named J. Edgar Hoover as it’s new head.

The place was known as dumping ground for political hacks up to that time and Hoover put an end to it. He brought in the laboratories and fingerprint data base. Folks who had law and accounting degrees saw the FBI as a good career now. Crime was now national and a national organization was needed to fight it.

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Probably if J. Edgar Hoover had put in his retirement at the end of World War II his historic reputation would be a lot higher today. The negative stuff about him only comes during the McCarthy Era and beyond until his death in 1972. And only after that.

If Hoover was nothing else, he was media conscious. One of filmdom’s most notorious gangster actors went on the side of law and order for G-Men. James Cagney is a young lawyer who’s not doing so good in private practice, wasting the education that an oldtime gangster helped finance. After his friend FBI agent Regis Toomey is killed, Cagney joins the FBI. His knowledge of the underworld is put to some good use though he has a lengthy time winning acceptance from his superior, Robert Armstrong.

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Lloyd Nolan makes his debut as an FBI agent here also. Later on during the Forties, Nolan played THE ideal conception of what J. Edgar Hoover had in mind for an agent in The House on 92nd Street and The Street With No Name.

A couple of incidents fresh in the mind of the public were recreated for G-Men, the famous Kansas City Massacre and a shootout at a rural motel that involved Baby Face Nelson who escaped as chief hood Barton MacLane does here. No doubt these scenes lent a certain documentary authenticity to the film.

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G-Men dates very badly, the FBI is still respected, but not revered as it once was. But Cagney and the cast do a fine job and G-Men is a relic of bygone years.

Cagney ‘s ‘Untouchables’

8/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
29 October 2005

Here’s an old-time (about 75 years old!) gangster movie that is fast-moving as all James Cagney crime films tend to be. In here, Cagney is the good guy, a “government man” out to get crooks, one of whom turns out to be his old pal. All the characters in here are pretty interesting, particularly Cagney’s boss played by Robert Armstrong.

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Watching this film, one discovers an interesting fact: government agents weren’t allowed to use guns in the early days. That didn’t change until things got totally out of control with too many defenseless lawmen getting killed.

Margaret Lindsay also stars in this movie, and that’s a good thing. The more I see of her, the more I like her. It would have been interesting to see what roles she’d play if she was a young actress in today’s films.

Finally, the action scenes in this film reminded me of the old television series, “The Untouchables” with the machine guns blazing out of those big, boxy 1930 automobiles.

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One of Cagney’s best

Author: MartynGryphon from Coventry, England
7 June 2004

I could go on record as saying that G-men is probably my favourite film of all time, but I won’t. Though it would certainly have no need to fight for a place in my top 5, as anyone who’s seen this movie could see why it would have a well earned place there.

Cagney plays the tough guy again, but this time firmly on the side of Uncle Sam, as a laywer turned Federal Agent to avenge the death of a friend. Cagneys performance is one of his best, and it’s not just cagney that shines, Robert Armstrong is brilliant as Cagney’s tough talking FBI boss. and Regis Toomey’s good but brief appearance as Cagney’s doomed friend is equally pleasing.

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I love everything about this Movie, the guns, the Cars, the suits, the music. The only thing I don’t like, is that every version you find of this great film these days has the annoying and rather pointless prologue added in 1949, showing a group of ‘FBI Men’ (or actors as I like to call them) having a training session where the instructor tells this fledgling officers that Gangsters are scum and and that law and order will prevail. WHY????????

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The 1930’s were Warner Bros’s glory days, and their gangster films were rightly regarded as the best crime movies ever (until supplanted by the brilliant Godfather movies). However, the new makes way for the old, and Pacino, De Niro, Brando, as good as they are, could NEVER replace the cockiness of Cagney, the ruthlessness of Raft,and the barbarity of Bogie(though sadly neither Bogart or Raft appear in this picture I’m afraid). Maybe that’s where the film could have been better with Barton McClanes lacklustre performance as Cagney’s gangster nemesis, being replaced by either George Raft or Humphrey Bogart. I’m not going to spoil the plot, as this movies a treat for all fans of B&W gangster films. this is a MUST SEE

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Margaret Livingston, I Presume!

8/10
Author: (bsmith5552@rogers.com) from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
9 September 2006

“G-Men” is one of the best of Warner Brothers gangster films. It casts James Cagney, known at that time for his gangster roles, on the right side of the law for a change.

Lawyer “Brick” Davis (Cagney) is a well educated lawyer with no clients. He is visited one day by an old friend Eddie Buchanan (Regis Toomey) who encourages Brick to join the Department of Justice Bureau of Investigation (soon to be named the Federal Bureau of Investigation).

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When Eddie is murdered by gangster Collins (Barton MacLane), Brick decides to apply to the Department of Justice. It should be noted that in the FBI’s early days they could only engage lawyers and accountants and were not permitted to carry firearms. Brick is assigned to tough laconic Jeff McCord (Robert Armstrong) who is of the opinion that Brick will never make an effective agent.

McCord and Bureau Director Bruce Gregory (Addison Richards) both believe that to be effective, the bureau needs to have national jurisdiction, be allowed to carry weapons and hire law enforcers and not lawyers.

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As it turns out Brick was rescued from the street by gangster Mac McKay (William Harrigan) who took him in and provided him with his education. Brick soon demonstrates his capabilities and quickly gains the confidence of his superiors. Along the way he meets McCord’s sister Kay (Margaret Lindsay) and the two fall in love. Bad girl Jean Morgan (Ann Dvorak) also has this thing for Brick.

When Collins’ gang disappears, Jean is brought in for questioning and we learn that she has married Collins after Mac closed his night club. She gives Brick the lead he needs and the Bureau takes action. Collins escapes the Bureau’s attack on his gang and…………………

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Director William Keighley gives us one of the classic gangster movies. It changes the focus on the hero from a gangster to a law enforcement officer, but at the same time offers one of the best shoot outs of the genre.

Cagney loses nothing in his switch from the wrong to the right side of the law. He remains his usual cocky fast talking self. Armstrong in a role that usually was played by Pat O’Brien, is effective as McCord. Of the female leads, Dvorak has the best role. Lindsay is merely around as Cagney’s good girl love interest. MacLane, Warners resident gangster, turns in his usual good performance as the brutish Collins.

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Others in the cast include Lloyd Nolan in an early role as Brick’s fellow agent, and Edward Pawley, Noel Madison, Harold Huber and Raymond Hatton as assorted gangsters.

In 1949, the film was re-released to help mark the FBI’s 25th anniversary. A prologue featuring David Brian showing the film to a group of new recruits was added.

A word about the DVD commentary by film historian Richard Jewell. For someone who should know better, he makes two glaring errors regarding the cast. He identifies David Brian as Brian David and Margaret Lindsay as Margaret Livingston. I wouldn’t have been surprised to have heard him call Cagney, James Pygmy or MacLane, Barton Fink. A little more thorough research Mr. Jewell.

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Bullets or Ballots (1936)

Director:

William Keighley

Cinematography by

Hal Mohr

Bullets or Ballots is a 1936 gangster film starring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Blondell, Barton MacLane and Humphrey Bogart. Robinson plays a police detective who infiltrates a crime gang. This is the first of several films featuring both Robinson and Bogart.

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Robinson Ties In With the Mugs!

12 September 2006 | by (bsmith5552@rogers.com) (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) – See all my reviews

“Bullets or Ballots” was affected by the new motion picture Production Code introduced in 1934. The Code stipulated, among other things, that gangsters could no longer be glorified in films as had been done with “Little Caesar” (1930) and “The Public Enemy” (1931). That meant that Warners resident gangsters Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney had to come over to the right side of the law.

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Cagney had done so in 1935 with “G-Men” but in 1936 was embroiled in a contract dispute with Warners and had left the lot. That left Robinson. You can just hear the brain trusts at Warners saying, “Let’s put Eddie Robinson in a new crime picture only this time we’ll have him go undercover so that he can ACT like a gangster while satisfying the Code by really working on the side of the law”. “Bullets or Ballots” was the result.

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Gangster Al Kruger (Barton MacLane) is a new order of corporate type gangster that shuns the old violent ways of the 20s. He is controlled by unseen bosses well placed in the business community. His second in command Nick “Bugs” Fenner is of the old school. When crusading newspaper reporter Ward Bryant (Henry O’Neill) is murdered by Fenner, it sets off a cry for justice. Police Captain McLaren is appointed Special Commissioner charged with cleaning up the rackets.

Detective Johnny Blake (Robinson) is a down on his luck policeman who has been exiled to an outer precinct. One day he learns that McLaren has fired him as part of his cleanup. But as we learn, Blake is really working undercover informing McLaren of the mob’s plans. Blake then joins up with Kruger and rises quickly through the ranks. Fenner, meanwhile doesn’t trust Blake and the two compete against each other.

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As the result of the crime crackdown, the mob’s earnings have dropped. Blake suggests that they move into the numbers racket which was being run successfully on a small scale by Blake’s girlfriend Lee Morgan (Joan Blondell) with the aid her pick-up man Herman (Frank McHugh) and Harlem contact Nellie (Louise Beavers).

With the success of the numbers game, Fenner sees that Kruger has gone soft and is neglecting the mob’s other businesses. Fenner murders Kruger and vies with Blake to take over. Blake succeeds and continues to inform McLaren of the mob’s intentions. Fenner decides on a showdown and…………….

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Robinson, who was a well educated and classically trained actor wanted to get away from gangster roles and did so whenever he could. But in spite of that, he will always be best remembered for these types of roles. Barton MacLane for once doesn’t play the brutish gangster. He plays Kruger as a businessman and not a thug. Bogey on the other hand, had just made his mark in “The Petrified Forest” (1936) and was typecast for the most part as a gangster for the next five years. Joan Blondell is wasted in her superficial role as Robinson’s love interest and McHugh is just along for comedy relief.

Still, “Bullets or Ballots” remains one of the all-time gangster classics.

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William Keighley directed the film with a firm and fresh efficiency…

7/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
12 April 2005

Following his brutal portrayal in “The Petrified Forest,” Bogart became a much more articulate and calculating killer in “Bullets or Ballots,” a gangster thriller starring Edward G. Robinson as a crusading crime-buster, modeled after true-life cop Johnny Broderick, known as “the toughest cop on Broadway,” who pretended to be thrown off the police force in order to infiltrate Bogart’s gang and get the evidence to bring him to justice…

Bogart revealed no emotion whatever as he goes about his gun-happy chores of shooting a respected newspaperman as well as his partner-in-crime, Barton MacLane, in his characteristic double-cross…

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The exciting finale found both Bogart and Robinson in a blazing showdown, an unusual ending for this period in film history, but one which Robinson had fought hard to retain…

William Keighley directed the film with a firm and fresh efficiency…

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Robinson Ties In With the Mugs!

7/10
Author: (bsmith5552@rogers.com) from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
12 September 2006

“Bullets or Ballots” was affected by the new motion picture Production Code introduced in 1934. The Code stipulated, among other things, that gangsters could no longer be glorified in films as had been done with “Little Caesar” (1930) and “The Public Enemy” (1931). That meant that Warners resident gangsters Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney had to come over to the right side of the law.

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Cagney had done so in 1935 with “G-Men” but in 1936 was embroiled in a contract dispute with Warners and had left the lot. That left Robinson. You can just hear the brain trusts at Warners saying, “Let’s put Eddie Robinson in a new crime picture only this time we’ll have him go undercover so that he can ACT like a gangster while satisfying the Code by really working on the side of the law”. “Bullets or Ballots” was the result.

Gangster Al Kruger (Barton MacLane) is a new order of corporate type gangster that shuns the old violent ways of the 20s. He is controlled by unseen bosses well placed in the business community. His second in command Nick “Bugs” Fenner is of the old school. When crusading newspaper reporter Ward Bryant (Henry O’Neill) is murdered by Fenner, it sets off a cry for justice. Police Captain McLaren is appointed Special Commissioner charged with cleaning up the rackets.

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Detective Johnny Blake (Robinson) is a down on his luck policeman who has been exiled to an outer precinct. One day he learns that McLaren has fired him as part of his cleanup. But as we learn, Blake is really working undercover informing McLaren of the mob’s plans. Blake then joins up with Kruger and rises quickly through the ranks. Fenner, meanwhile doesn’t trust Blake and the two compete against each other.

As the result of the crime crackdown, the mob’s earnings have dropped. Blake suggests that they move into the numbers racket which was being run successfully on a small scale by Blake’s girlfriend Lee Morgan (Joan Blondell) with the aid her pick-up man Herman (Frank McHugh) and Harlem contact Nellie (Louise Beavers).

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With the success of the numbers game, Fenner sees that Kruger has gone soft and is neglecting the mob’s other businesses. Fenner murders Kruger and vies with Blake to take over. Blake succeeds and continues to inform McLaren of the mob’s intentions. Fenner decides on a showdown and…………….

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Robinson, who was a well educated and classically trained actor wanted to get away from gangster roles and did so whenever he could. But in spite of that, he will always be best remembered for these types of roles. Barton MacLane for once doesn’t play the brutish gangster. He plays Kruger as a businessman and not a thug. Bogey on the other hand, had just made his mark in “The Petrified Forest” (1936) and was typecast for the most part as a gangster for the next five years. Joan Blondell is wasted in her superficial role as Robinson’s love interest and McHugh is just along for comedy relief.

Still, “Bullets or Ballots” remains one of the all-time gangster classics.

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BULLETS OR BALLOTS (William Keighley, 1936) ***

7/10
Author: MARIO GAUCI (marrod@melita.com) from Naxxar, Malta
14 April 2008

This is one of the few gangster classics from that genre’s golden era and featuring its iconic stars which was never available in my neck of the woods until it surfaced on DVD. It was also the first of five films teaming (or rather pitting one against the other) Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart; the former was the real star and he was already starting to branch out from gangster roles – the latter was still a supporting actor (having just had his big break with THE PETRIFIED FOREST [1936]) and five more years would pass till he achieved his long-deserved stardom (nevertheless, in spite of the lack of range offered by the scripts for these type of roles, Bogie always made an impression at it).

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By this time, the Hays Code had come down on Hollywood for their glorification of the gangster; Warners had pulled a clever switch with “G” MEN (1935), where these same crimes were presented from the viewpoint of law enforcement officers (that film had also been helmed by this film’s director, William Keighley, and starred another of the great genre actors, James Cagney). In this case, the narrative allowed Robinson as an undercover cop to still be involved in the criminal activity, and rise through the ranks as always, without taking active part in them: however, censorship of the time still dictated that his character had to die at the end (unless it was a way of showing the risk inherent in such police work).

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Interestingly, Keighley would return to a similar situation – this time revolving around the F.B.I. – many years later with the noir THE STREET WITH NO NAME (1948), which I’ve just watched as part of my ongoing tribute to Richard Widmark; having mentioned the noir, while I admire the vitality and raw power of the gangster films, their limited plot lines rather prevents them from having the same pull of the fatalistic thrillers often involving tortuous plots and where the protagonists – apart from the dark city streets – could be as much a private detective as the next man, but always gullible and at the mercy of a femme fatale…

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To go back to BULLETS OR BALLOTS, the film is typically fast-moving – it’s not just the action that crackles but the dialogue as well – and, while some of the edge of the very earliest gangster pictures, has been lost by way of repetition (and the standards of the Code), it’s still a satisfactory and highly entertaining entry. For the record, two of the very best efforts in this influential genre were still a couple of years away – namely ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938) and THE ROARING TWENTIES (1939), both with Cagney as an anti-hero and Bogie ever the irredeemable and duplicitous mobster. Here, alongside the two stars, are Joan Blondell as Robinson’s on-off girl on whom Bogart has his eyes as well (interestingly, she’s got her own particular racket going!), Barton MacLane as the big boss whom Bogart is forever trying to oust (again, a role he would often play) and Frank McHugh providing the comic relief (ditto).

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very satisfying Warner police drama

7/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
20 July 2006
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Okay, I’ll admit that MOST of the Warner Brothers films of the 1930s starring actors like Cagney, Bogart and Edward G. Robinson were predictable and formulaic. But, they were also very entertaining and the public loved them. I happen to be a real fan of the films but know that they aren’t exactly “high art” or always 100% believable! Well, this is such a film, as you really need to suspend disbelief and just sit back and enjoy–and boy, did I enjoy this dandy film.

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Robinson played a tough as nails detective who used to be a force to be reckoned with in the police department, but in recent years instead of smashing organized crime, he’s been reassigned to more mundane activities. And, he’s got REAL ATTITUDE, as when hoods see him on the street, he’s likely to slug them if they don’t show him “proper respect”. At the same time, the grand jury is outraged by the proliferation of organized crime, so they appoint a new Police Commissioner. However, unexpectedly, this new Commissioner unexpectedly fires Robinson instead of having him return to his old mob-fighting ways! Now at this point, considering who Robinson’s character was, it seemed obvious that his being fired was NOT “strictly on the level”. Where this goes and how the movie wraps everything up, I’ll leave to you.

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The acting is fun and exactly what you’d expect from an old gangster picture. The combination of Robinson, Barton MacLane and Bogart as the leads is exceptional and is sure to please, though I must admit that MacLane’s character, at times, seems a bit stupid and gullible–he wasn’t the best written character in the film.

Edward G. Robinson played GOOD & EVIL GUY!

10/10
Author: whpratt1 from United States
18 August 2004

Enjoyed viewing is great film directed by William Keighley, it has a great cast of Veteran Classic actors.

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Keighley produced another great film,”Street With No Name”,’48. Edward G. Robinson,(Detective John Blake),”The Red House,”’47, was trying to be a good cop and keep the city from being taken over by the hoods. Joan Blondell,(Lee Morgan),”Big Daddy,”’65 has a big crush on Blake and also has a Numbers Racket going on in town that the hoods become interested in obtaining. Barton MacLane (Al Kruger),”Captain Scarface”,’53 is one of the big shot gangsters and tries to get John Blake to change sides and join the bad guys. Humphrey Bogart,(Nick Bugs Fenner), “Dead End”,’37, looks very young and just starting out in his acting career, does not trust John Blake and is a trigger happy gangster who will stop at nothing to become the Number 1 HOOD! If you love old gangster films with great actors, this is the film for YOU!

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Beating Those Criminals to a Pulp

7/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
16 May 2006

Edward G. Robinson stars in yet another classic gangster film from the folks who did them best at Warner Brothers. This time his character of John Blake is based on real life NYPD detective John Broderick.

Back in the day you would not have given much chance for Broderick to grow old and die in bed. Yet in 1966 that’s what he did do. Back in the day too many of New York’s noted underworld figures felt his knuckles in various parts of the anatomy.

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Broderick was independent, fearless, and honest, the last being a rather rare commodity in the days of and just after Prohibition. Good thing he retired before the Miranda decision. He didn’t think that hoodlums had any civil rights.

Because Broderick was so open and known to all undercover work was impossible. But in Bullets or Ballots Robinson is kicked off the force for excessive brutality and joins the hoods he’s been beating on.

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But it’s all an act. It’s a deal worked out by Broderick and the Police Commissioner so he can go undercover and get the goods on the numbers racket. The ostensible heads, Barton MacLane and Humphrey Bogart and the respectable types they’re fronting for.

Though the ending is melodramatic, Bullets or Ballots holds up pretty well today. And who knows, Broderick’s real life might yet rate a good biographical picture today.

Key Largo (1948)

Key Largo is a 1948 film noir directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lauren Bacall. The supporting cast features Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor. The movie was adapted by Richard Brooks and Huston from Maxwell Anderson‘s 1939 play of the same name, which played on Broadway for 105 performances in 1939 and 1940.

The script was adapted from a 1939 play by Maxwell Anderson. In the play, the gangsters are Mexican bandidos, the war in question is the Spanish Civil War, and Frank is a disgraced deserter who dies at the end.

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Robinson had top billing over Bogart in their four previous films together: Bullets or Ballots (1936), Kid Galahad (1937), The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) and Brother Orchid (1940). For this movie, however, Robinson’s name appears to the right of Bogart’s, but placed a little higher on the posters, and also in the film’s opening credits, to indicate Robinson’s near-equal status. Robinson’s image was also markedly larger and centered on the original poster, with Bogart relegated to the background. In the film’s trailer, Bogart is repeatedly mentioned first but Robinson’s name is listed above Bogart’s in a cast list at the end.

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Exterior shots of the hurricane were taken from stock footage used in Night Unto Night, a Ronald Reagan melodrama which Warner Bros. also produced in 1948.

The boat used by Rocco’s gang to depart Key Largo, with Bogart’s character at the helm, is named the Santana, which was also the name of Bogart’s personal 55-foot (17 m) sailing yacht.

Phoenix: The Hero Reborn From His Ashes

29 June 2015 | by garthbarnes-83945 (United States) – See all my reviews

Spoilers Ahead:

The film is about Frank. He returns from the war disillusioned and depressed both from the horrors he has endured and the lies he was told. Remember why he is here, he has come to tell his best friends’ relatives how he died. If you do not understand Frank, his actions will seem bizarre and inexplicable.

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Once Rocco’s gang takes over, and everyone realizes they are prisoners there, Nora looks to Frank to save them. Frank gives a little speech, the point of which is, he went through hell trying to rid the world of Johnny Rocco’s and here is another one right in front of him. James tries to tell Nora that no man who went through what Frank did could possibly be a coward. Nora snaps, and unleashes a tirade on him about what a pathetic coward he is. Rocco will tolerate no challenges not even verbal. His reaction is to try and bait him into letting Rocco shoot him. Nora tries to convince herself Frank knew the gun was empty. When she discovers he didn’t that is when she goes postal on him. The movie follows Frank learning to care again. As Rocco, becomes more and more cruel to everyone around him. Frank begins to hate him and the old Frank is on his way back.

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The scene where Rocco makes Gaye sing for her drink is one of the saddest scenes on film. This is the fate of the moll who has outlived her usefulness, now she is discarded like garbage. When Johnny says,”You stink,” Faye answers,”Johnny you’re as mean as can be.” It won Trevor the Oscar; she earned it what a powerful scene. There is a parallel here to Treasure of Sierra Madre, watch as the storm grows, like the fire in Madre, how Rocco gets more and more frightened. Mr. Temple starts praying for divine retribution and almost gets shot by Rocco. Gradually, the film builds to the decision point. They all urge Frank to run; it is a death sentence for sure. Frank hesitates, you can see the anguish on his face, he is through running. He climbs aboard with the gun Gaye gave him secreted away. He is not the same docile, nihilistic Frank who gave that speech at the beginning. He has decided no more Johnny Roccos. The cruelty and evil of the man brought Frank back to his senses.

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Huston pulls no punches, Frank is almost killed several times, and gets a serious wound for his trouble. Rocco is portrayed as a mendacious, cowardly, cruel monster. This was before villains were heroes like in today’s movies. See how strong the normative structure of the country was back there. When Frank returns, with the fog dissipating and the sun rising behind him, both beautiful existential metaphors, the message is unmistakable; the hero has returned. What gives the movie its power is the struggle within Frank to find the hero buried under all that suffering and disillusionment. As the music ascends, and Nora rushes to meet him, his nobility reminds all of us that it is within each of us. It just has to be brought up and out with courage. A GREAT MOVIE.

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shock value

9/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
2 April 2004

My favorite Bogart movie is also Key Largo. Even before Edward G. Robinson and his hoods take everyone hostage in Lionel Barrymore’s hotel there is a tension that does not let up for one second. Movie goers had to be on the edge of their seats in 1948.

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There is one scene however that I don’t think viewers today can fully appreciate. Lionel Barrymore had been acting from a wheelchair for 10 years and movie audiences were used to that. When Robinson and his goons goad him to a futile gesture of bravado, Barrymore rises from that chair and moves slowly towards the snickering Robinson. He swings and misses and falls down and Bogey and Bacall pick up Barrymore and bring him back to his wheelchair. The shock value of that scene for 1948 audiences would have a dimension that can’t be appreciated now.

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Robinson’s Johnny Rocco is based on Lucky Luciano who had been deported a few years back. He’s evil incarnate and Humphrey Bogart as Frank McCloud is the jaded, cynical former idealist who redeems himself and becomes the countervailing force for good. They play well against each other in a reverse from the 1930s Warner gangster flicks where Robinson was usually the good guy.

Who could have known this would be the fourth, last, and best of the Bogey and Bacall teamings.

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Edward G. Robinson at this best

8/10
Author: Dennis Littrell from United States
21 June 2004

Key Largo is just one of John Huston’s many memorable films that somehow always seem to transcend the intention–the Hollywood intention being to make a few bucks–and to this day still plays very well and indeed appears as something close to a work of art. It features what I think is one of Edward G. Robinson’s finest performances as Johnny Rocco, a sociopathic gangster holding the off-season personnel of a seaside hotel hostage as he concludes a counterfeit money deal.

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The story begins as Major Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart) pays a visit to the family of one of his G.I. buddies who was killed in Italy during WWII. He finds the welcome from the hotel’s only “guests” chilly except for Gaye Dawn (a funny and perhaps prescient Hollywood stage name) played by Claire Trevor who is drunk and befriends him. After a bit McCloud discovers that the hotel’s owner Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall) and her invalid father-in-law James Temple (Lionel Barrymore) have been tricked into allowing Rocco’s gang to stay and now, as a tropical storm begins to blow, are being held at gunpoint. McCloud’s delicate task is to keep the megalomaniac and murderous personality of Rocco under some control so that he doesn’t murder everyone.

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Note that this is a splendid cast, and they all do a good job. Note too that Huston adapted this from a play by the versatile American playwright Maxwell Anderson. So the ingredients for a good film are clearly in place; and aside from some self-conscious mishmash with the Seminoles of Florida, this is a success. Anderson’s desire to explore the psychopathic personality (some years later he adapted William March’s novel The Bad Seed into a stage play) finds realization in Huston’s direction and especially in Robinson’s indelible performance. The utter disregard for the lives of others and the obsessive love of self that characterize the sociopath reek from the snares and callous laughter of the very sick Johnny Rocco. I especially liked the crazed and thrilled grin on his face when he emerges from the hold of the boat in the climactic scene, gun in hand, imagining that he has once again fooled his adversaries and is about to delightfully shoot Humphrey Bogart to death.

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What I loved about this scene was that Huston did not think it necessary to contrive a fight in which the good guy (Bogart) beats the bad guy by fighting fair. What happens is exactly what should happen, and without regard for the fine points of Marquis of Queensberry-type rules. Also good is Rocco beginning to sweat in fear of his life as the storm moves in while Bogey gives us his famous laugh and grin as he assesses the essential cowardice of the petty gangster.

Lauren Bacall, in one of her more modest roles, does a lot without saying much, and Lionel Barrymore is very good as the cantankerous old guy in a wheelchair. Claire Trevor actually won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her work, and she was good as the alcoholic moll with a heart of gold. Robinson won nothing, but he really dominated the picture and demonstrated why he was one of Hollywood’s greatest stars.

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Bottom line: watch this to see the gangster yarn meld into film noir with overtones of the psychoanalytical drama that characterized many of the black and white Hollywood films of the forties and early fifties.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book “Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can’t Believe I Swallowed the Remote!” Get it at Amazon!)

Key Largo (1948)


One of Bogart’s, Bacall’s & Robinson’s best.

10/10
Author: Paul Browne from Oldham, England.
5 February 2005

Basically this film is almost like a play. The whole story is more or less (apart from the ending) shot in a rustic Florida hotel. A great location and setting, a real credit to John Huston.

 

In short, Frank McCloud (Bogart) an ex war hero and living at no-fixed-address, visits (by request) his dead war buddy’s father (barrymore) & widow (Bacall). As he arrives, it doesn’t take long for Frank to work out the Hotel is temporarily hostage to a big mob gangster – Rocco (robinson) and his cronies.

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The film instantly grabs you, it looks beautiful, there is a lot of substance and well thought out scripts, nothing glamorous or smart, just very good story telling. A good side line to the story, are the Native American clan, who due to an approaching hurricane need to find shelter, their plight is placed nicely into the story. There is a scene in which Bacall introduces Bogart to the oldest member of the clan, a 100 and something year old Native woman which is just so genuine, I still don’t believe this woman was an actress, Huston must have improvised this into the script.

Not only is Bogart superb in this, but also the whole cast. It goes without saying Edward G Robinson’s performance was second to none as to was – his right hand man (Harry Lewis I think), Bacall & Rocco’s girlfriend – Ziggy..pretty much the entire cast.

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The whole thing ties up well, without Spoilers it does have a great ending. This is a must not just for Bogie fans but for anyone who can appreciate an intelligent film.

-Paul Browne.

Enduring Warner Gangster Melodrama.

8/10
Author: jpdoherty from Ireland
5 June 2012
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of the finest of the great gangster melodramas KEY LARGO is still a firm favourite with fans and cultists alike. Produced by Jerry Wald in 1948 for Warner Bros.

Alberto Morin (in hat) in Key Largo (1948)

it was based on the stage play by Maxwell Anderson and was beautifully written for the screen by Richard Brooks and John Huston. Stunningly photographed in low key black & white by Karl Freund it was expertly directed with his customary flair by Huston. The cast assembled couldn’t be better with Humphrey Bogart delivering one of his very best subdued performances and arguably being almost eclipsed by a riveting Ed. G. Robinson. The rest of the small cast is fleshed out with Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor and Thomas Gomez. And complimenting the on screen proceedings is the splendid music by the tireless Max Steiner who provided one of his best forties scores.

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It is 1946, the war in Europe is over and a returning GI (Humphrey Bogart) arrives at The Largo Hotel in Key Largo. Asked who he is Bogart coolly replies “McCloud, Frank by John out of Helen”. He is here to meet with the hotel owner John Temple (Lionel Barrymore) to talk about the death of his son George Temple and how he lost his life in combat in Italy saving his unit. But McCloud notices that also staying in the hotel are a undesirable crowd of sinister looking characters. It’s not long before he learns that they are a gang of mobsters led by an abrasive deported racketeer – the infamous Johnny Rocco (Robinson). When McCloud reveals who Rocco is and lists his many illegal and crooked enterprises the aging wheelchair bound John Temple gloweringly chides him “You Filth” which elicits little more than a snigger from Rocco. Then the gang declare themselves and display their violent ways (they murder the deputy sheriff) and make known their intention to force McCloud to sail them to Cuba. However after Rocco’s moll (Claire Trevor) slips McCloud a gun he takes them on in a surprise move out at sea which makes for an intense and exciting sequence. The picture ends with McCloud’s dispatch of the baddies and turning the boat around he heads back to Key Largo and The Largo Hotel where a new life awaits him.

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With some remarkable ensemble playing performances are top notch. Bogart gives one of his best portrayals in a likable reserved manner. Here proving yet again that he remains one of the most enduring icons of the silver screen. But there’s little doubt KEY LARGO is Robinson’s picture! His snarling and totally mean spirited Rocco is the best thing he has ever done. Good too are those in support especially Lionel Barrymore as the irascible aging hotelier, Lauren Bacall as Nora his daughter in-law and Claire Trevor giving a great turn as Rocco’s moll in her Acadamy Award winning best supporting actress performance.

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And holding the whole thing together is Max Steiner’s great score. His main theme is a lovely gentle anthem-like cue which points up the sadness of George Temple’s death in the war and the loneliness now felt without him by his father and widow Nora. Also heard are some great action cues and an appropriate swirling piece for the Hurricane sequence. 1948 was a bumper year for the busy composer. In twelve months the man scored an unprecedented eleven films which included such amazing classics as “Treasure Of The Sierra Madre”, “Johnny Belinda”, “Silver River” the exceptional “The Adventures Of Don Juan” and of course KEY LARGO.

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KEY LARGO remains a memorable and enduring classic from Hollywood’s Golden Age. In the tradition of the great noirs it exudes an engaging dramatic thrust throughout and an all encompassing intensity rarely felt in movies today. John Huston demonstrated yet again his prowess as one of film’s outstanding directors and with his inspired casting in KEY LARGO the movie will forever maintain its appeal as long as there are movies and a place to screen them..

Footnote: It is interesting to note that the boat used in the final sequence was Bogart’s own boat “The Santana”.

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Lady for a Day (1933)

Director:

Frank Capra

A gangster tries to make Apple Annie, the Times Square apple seller, a lady for a day.
Apple Annie is an indigent woman who has always written to her daughter in Spain that she is a member of New York’s high society. With her daughter suddenly en route to America with her new fiancé and his father, a member of Spain’s aristocracy, Annie must continue her pretense of wealth or the count will not give his blessing. She gets unexpected help from Dave the Dude, a well-known figure in underground circles who considers Annie his good luck charm, and who obtains for her a luxury apartment to entertain the visitors – but this uncharacteristic act of kindness from a man with a disreputable reputation arouses suspicions, leading to complications which further cause things to not always go quite as planned.
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Great early Capra

28 July 2004 | by dfree30684 (United States) – See all my reviews

this is the film that precedes IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT for the team of Frank Capra (director) and Robert Riskin (screenwriter). Sadly it’s not regarded as one of his beloved classics…it deserves to be. William Warren is the perfect Dave the Dude, who’s heart of gold aids the distressed aged damsel (May Robson…the titled LADY FOR A DAY). Most of it’s innocent charm and humor haven’t faded over the 71 years since it’s release. Speaking of 70’s…at 74 May Robson was the oldest actress to receive a Best Actress nomination.

the scene near the end; where she’s received by the real mayor of New York and his party guests at her phony party (meant to show off her “society” friends to her daughter, and future inlaws) is priceless. Miss Robson’s quiet, teary eyed smile will still bring the viewer to near tears today. Also, Guy Kibbie, and Ned Sparks provide reliable comic support. a must see for all Capra fans.

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I may have to change my mind about Capra!

9/10
Author: Ursula 2.7T from my sofa
23 February 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I’m no Capra fan, but here’s a second movie of his (along with “The Miracle Woman”) that I just loved. Maybe his pre-Codes are better than his other movies? I may have to change my mind about Capra, or at least see some more of his pre-Code movies; they’re terrific!

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This movie was sweet and touching, without being sickening sweet or melodramatic. This movie also has lots of humor and some great dialogue. This 72-yr-old movie holds up extremely well. I was utterly charmed by this movie.

The story revolves around an elderly woman, Apple Annie, who is quite poor. She sells apples for a living and sends all her money to her daughter, Louise, who lives in Spain. Annie is ashamed of her lifestyle, and she leads her daughter to believe she’s a high-society lady by writing letters on the stationery of a posh hotel. Annie even has a friend on the inside of the hotel who passes Louise’s letters that are sent to the hotel to Annie.

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One of Apple Annie’s clients is “Dave the Dude”, the head of a local mob. Before he does any business dealings, Dave always buys an apple from Annie for good luck.

Well, not to spoil the movie too much, let me just say that Annie finds out her daughter is coming to town (New York) and she panics. Her panhandler friends talk Dave into setting Annie up in a suite at the posh hotel so that she can continue the pretense for her daughter’s sake. Dave gets most of his mobster and street friends involved in one way or another — the potential is here for great sappiness, but amazingly the story unfolds with just pure sweetness and lots of humor that has held up very well over the past 3/4-century.

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The performances by the lead actors were terrific. May Robson as Annie was wonderful; she gave a tender, subtle performance as the mother who loved her daughter so much, yet was so ashamed of the way she (Annie) lived. Warren William was terrific as Dave the Dude – I think his was probably the toughest role to play as he had to be a “bad guy” mob head as well as a softie who went out of his way to make Annie a lady for a day. Guy Kibbee as Annie’s husband was superb, a common pool hustler who played an upper-crust gentleman. The rest of the cast were pretty good too … I especially enjoyed the actor who played the dry and sardonic “Happy”; he had some of the best lines in the show.

So, in conclusion, snappy dialogue, nice mix of drama and humor, and just the right amount of sweetness make for a wonderful pre-Code movie. If you enjoy old movies, this is a movie that you definitely won’t be sorry you watched. Highly recommended.

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It Made Columbia Pictures With A Second Choice Cast

7/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
12 February 2008

Back in the days of the studio system only one B picture outfit managed to vault itself into the big time and compete with the majors. That studio was Harry Cohn’s Columbia and the film that did it was Frank Capra’s Lady For A Day.

In his very candid memoirs Capra said unabashedly that his goal was to win one of those statues nicknamed Oscar. The Motion Picture Academy Awards were only five years old, but still the awards were coveted then because it meant prestige and far bigger salaries and in a director’s case, bigger budgets to work with.

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Capra said he tried and failed with a very arty film, The Bitter Tea of General Yen which lost money for Columbia and Cohn. He set out try it a different way with a sentimental story from that most sentimental of writers, Damon Runyon. The original story was entitled Madame LaGimp and it was about a street beggar who the great city of New York takes to its heart for a brief period with the assistance of a gangster with a streak of sentiment.

But this was Columbia, the poverty row studio so Capra couldn’t get the only old lady movie star around in Marie Dressler from MGM. May Robson was his second choice for Apple Annie, the street beggar who has a daughter in a convent school in Spain and engaged to marry into Spanish nobility.

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As for the gangster Capra wanted James Cagney, but Harry Cohn couldn’t pry him loose from Jack Warner. He was offered Warren William instead and certainly the dapper and elegant William played a different kind of gangster than Cagney would have. For William’s moll, Capra’s partner and screenwriter for Lady for a Day Robert Riskin persuaded his then girl friend Glenda Farrell to take the part. She Jack Warner was willing to part with.

With the great skill that Capra had in casting his films, some of the best character actors around like Guy Kibbee, Nat Pendleton, Ned Sparks, and Walter Connolly filled out his roster. A lot of these people would work for Frank Capra again and again.

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Came Oscar time and Lady for a Day had the great distinction of being nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay adapted from another source. This was the first film from Columbia Pictures that was ever nominated for anything by the Motion Picture Academy. May Robson made Capra forget he ever wanted Marie Dressler. Unfortunately she lost to a young actress picking up her first of four Oscars, Katharine Hepburn.

Riskin lost to the writers of Little Women and the film itself lost that year to the British story Cavalcade. One of the most embarrassing moments in Frank Capra’s life occurred when Awards host Will Rogers in announcing the Best Director said “come up and get it Frank.”

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Capra rose thinking it was him and the spotlights came down on him. Then there was a frantic buzzing and the spotlight shifted to the opposite side of the hall where Frank Lloyd got up to accept the award that was meant for him for directing Cavalcade. Talk about feeling like a nickel looking for change.

However next year Capra’s next film It Happened One Night swept all the major Oscars including his first. It sounds like something that only could have happened in a Frank Capra movie.

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Lady for a Day Themes and Thoughts

9/10
Author: Shadow10262000 from United States
16 March 2006
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Things aren’t always what they seem. A person may appear to be rich, happy, and enjoying life, when in fact they are poorer than dirt, have not smiled in days, and are just miserable everyday. Apple Annie was a woman who didn’t live in the best of circumstances but she made the best of what she had. She sold apples to earn money to send to her daughter living in Spain. Such a kind old woman who is trying her best to survive, and she makes that best of her poor little life. She has made many friends in her life some poorer than her and other who are well enough off to not even worry about money. An acquaintance that she has, Dave the Dude, is a well off man, although it is not of total honest ways, as he is the leader of a gang, but he is always kind to Apple Annie and believes that she is good luck for him. He believes that an apple a day does more than keep the doctor away, it keeps the cops away as well as gives him luck in his dealings. Not quite the fairy tale that one would expect but maybe it is. Is it possible that bad guys have good qualities? Can a grown man believe in a fairy tale? Can a lie really turn out to be good or must it be covered up by a string of more lies.

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In Lady for a Day we see much of a fairy tale made of lies come to life through the kindness of a mobster. Annie is embarrassed about her standard of living, and sets up the allusion to her daughter that Annie is a lady of the upper class. She writes letters on the stationery of a classy hotel. She has set up a seemingly harmless lie that she is doing better in life than she really is. This is fine until Louise sends a letter saying she is coming home and bringing a suitor and his father Count Romero. Now Annie finds herself in a bind. She must cover up this lie so that her daughter can keep her lover. Annie fears that if she does not live up to the life style, which her daughter thinks she has, everything will fall apart.

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Her penniless friends talk Dave the Dude into setting Annie up in a room at the classy hotel so that she can go on her lie. Dave who is a bad guy in the sight of the law has a touch of good in him. He believes that he can help what he sees as a fairy tale to come to pass. A parallel to Cinderella Dave becomes the fairy godmother that helps dear Annie to live her dream. But this is not a simple answer. Now that Annie has her classy suite in the hotel, there is more of the story that she has to fulfill. The story follows a perfect line of events. We see the objective of Annie and the obstacles that she must over come. The action just starts rising from the moment she gets the letter from the hotel manager. She has to find her second husband, and even throw a party for the Count before they leave.

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The point in the movie where I was on the edge of my seat was when we were waiting for Dave and his gangster friends to arrive at this classy party. Leave it to the police to draw out what seems to be a simple gathering to put a stop to the gangster’s sinister plans. What a way to bring the movie to a climax. The resolution finally comes after a little added suspense of Dave being arrested, almost. The party goes on with a few unexpected guests; the police chief and even the governor play in to this fairy tale to help it have a happy ending. And the story ends on what could be a happy note, an end to a string of lies, but then again it could be just the beginning of a happily ever after marriage.

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Frank Capra’s Cinderella Story

10/10
Author: Ron Oliver (revilorest@juno.com) from Forest Ranch, CA
21 February 2000

An old apple seller on Broadway panics when she learns her daughter is returning to New York City with her European fiancé. What will happen when the girl discovers her mother is not a high society matron, as she supposes her to be? Only a notorious racketeer can help her become a LADY FOR A DAY.

May Robson is superb in this early Frank Capra film. She steals every scene she’s in as Apple Annie, the harridan sidewalk vendor. This was a plum role & Miss Robson knew how to exploit it to the limit. Glenda Farrell & Guy Kibbee are both excellent in supporting roles – she as a nightclub owner and he as an eccentric judge . Walter Connolly is fun as a suspicious Spanish Count. Warren William is good as Dave the Dude, the criminal boss who comes to Annie’s aid because her apples are good luck for him.

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Halliwell Hobbes is all proper British decorum as Annie’s borrowed butler. Acerbic Ned Sparks & dense Nat Pendleton are both enjoyable as the Dude’s henchmen. That’s an uncredited Ward Bond as the mounted policeman at the very beginning of the film.

This film is bursting with charm.

” May Robson Is Splendid As Apple Annie “

10/10
Author: PamelaShort from Canada
15 December 2013
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you enjoy the film Pocketful Of Miracles, which was the remake of this film, I highly recommend watching Lady for a Day the original. I found a copy of a 1933 review for this charming film and it states ‘ a picture which evoked laughter and tears from an audience at the first showing,’ and it still hits the mark perfectly today as it did in 1933. May Robson was a superb choice to play Apple Annie and her performance is extremely splendid, she completely embodies the character of Annie, thus making her real and believable. Probably May Robson’s best performance ever. No one could have done a better job of playing the lovable old Judge Blake than the wonderful Guy Kibbee. Warren William adequately handles the role of Dave the Dude along with Glenda Farrell as Missouri Martin. A host of excellent supporting actors all give sufficient performances to make this amusing sentimental tale of the grey-haired Cinderella a very pleasurable and entertaining film. There are many fine synopsis written for this film, however Lady for a Day must be seen to be fully appreciated. This is also a terrific example of Frank Capra’s best work and one of the finest films from the 1930s.

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Miller’s Crossing (1990)

Directed by Joel Coen
Cinematography Barry Sonnenfeld

Tom Reagan (played by Gabriel Byrne) is the right-hand man, and chief adviser, to a mob boss, Leo (Albert Finney). Trouble is brewing between Leo and another mob boss, Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito), over the activities of a bookie, Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro) and Leo and Tom are at odds on how to deal with it. Meanwhile, Tom is in a secret relationship with Leo’s girlfriend, Verna (Marcia Gay Harden), who happens to be the sister of Bernie. In trying to resolve the issue, Tom is cast out from Leo’s camp and ultimately finds himself stuck in the middle between several deadly, unforgiving parties.

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The Best Mobster Film Evere Made, bar none.

15 September 2006 | by Blackavaar (United States) – See all my reviews

Contrary to what Pete the Geek says in his comment this film is not a comedy. I suspect he is a fan of the old black and whites and so he believes this is a spoof of them which it is most certainly not. This is a pure drama with perfect dialog and excellent acting all around. The film basically tells the events that unfold around a Gangland war between the Irish and Italian mobs of the late 20s. Gabriel Byrne plays Tom, Leo’s (Albert Finney) right hand man and adviser who disagrees with his boss’s decision to protect the conman brother (John Turturro) of his girlfriend Verna (Marcia Gay Harden) and must work his own wily methods to protect Leo from this decision.

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This is a masterpiece of modern film and definitely shows that the Cohen brothers can do anything with film. The dialog and accents are all perfectly executed in vintage 20s style and flare, the sets are absolutely beautiful and the costume work is so good you almost feel like you stepped back in time. Anyone who doesn’t love this film should go back and try watching it again. The musical score alone is enough to make it worth while.

The Jewel of the Coen Crown

10/10
Author: PClark from Cincinnati, OH
8 July 1999

One of the great undiscovered gems of recent movie history. In my opinion, Miller’s crossing is easily the best of the Coen brothers’ films, and one of the true classics of American cinema.

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On the surface, the story of warring gangsters in 1920’s America is one that has been told many times before. But never before has it been handled with such artistry and precision. The (rather violent) action scenes keep the movie going along at a brisk pace, and the camera work is every bit the equal of “Fargo”.

I became a lifelong Gabriel Byrne fan as a result of this movie, despite his best efforts to disappoint me since. Byrne’s Tom Reagan is a compellingly amoral character, who takes more unchallenged beatings than perhaps anyone in film history. Men beat him up. Women beat him up. Collection men, bookies, gangsters, and even his boss gives him a terrible thrashing, and he hardly lifts a finger in opposition (with one notably humorous exception).

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Albert Finney is tremendous as Leo, the local crime boss. His “Danny Boy” scene should go down in film history as one of the greatest pieces ever filmed. Jon Polito is at once absurdly funny and threateningly psychotic as Johnny Caspar, Leo’s rival in the turf war. J.E. Freeman, John Turturro, and Marcia Gay Harden all lend strong support in a cast that was assembled and performs to near perfection.

I will never understand why this film has not received more recognition and acclaim. As an example of the modern style of Film Noir, it has no equals (“The Usual Suspects” would rate a close second). Among gangster films, only “The Godfather” can compete, and “Miller’s Crossing” features superior pacing and dialog, although it lacks “The Godfather’s” epic proportions. Perhaps someday this film will receive, like “The Manchurian Candidate” and “Touch of Evil”, the belated accolades it so richly deserves.

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The Intellectual’s Gangster Film

10/10
Author: Geoffrey Crayon from New York
24 May 2003

“I’m talkin’ about friendship. I’m talkin’ about character. I’m talkin’ about–hell Leo, I ain’t embarrassed to use the word–ethics.” So Jon Polito, as crime-boss Johnny “Caspar,” describes to his overlord, Albert Finney as “Leo,” his point of view while seeking permission to kill a double-crossing underling (played by John Turturro) in the opening lines of __Miller’s Crossing__. Had the script sought only to explore the power relationship between the two chief mobsters (one the rising Italian, the other the diminishing Irishman), this would have been a very good gangster film. It portrays an earlier era in the nation’s history of organized crime (perhaps Chicago in the late ’20s), and one can imagine Leo as the Irish predecessor of __The Godfather__’s Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando).

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Just as __The Godfather__ was really about family relationships and the ethical complexities arising when familial loyalty collides with the business of violence, however, __Miller’s Crossing__ is actually about, as Caspar tells us, friendship and character put under the enormous strain of that same business of violence. The film, therefore, centers on Leo’s trusted adviser Tom (played flawlessly by the Irish actor Gabriel Byrne). Tom is not a gunsel, but the brain behind Leo’s muscle. His decisions carry life and death consequences, however, and we watch him try to live with himself, to preserve his character, as he works out a code that will help him and his friends survive brutally violent upheavals. Critics of the film have cited its graphic cruelty and the seeming coldness of its characters, yet these are essential features in developing the film’s theme.

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Sentimentality might get any of the major characters killed, and one notes the pathos and dark humor that underline an ironic distance that each character, especially Tom, cultivates as a tool for survival.

Clues abound as we wonder what Tom will do next. Follow, for example, the men’s hats over the course of the film. Who “keeps his lid on,” so to speak, and who loses his? Note the number of times characters exclaim “Jesus!” or “Damn!” when saying the name “Tom.” What has he sacrificed? Has he damned himself?

Spectacular action sequences, beautiful production values, top-notch camera work by Barry Sonnenfeld, a haunting musical score, and the best dialogue ever written by the Coen brothers make this a great gangster film. The fascinating and complex theme of friendship, character, and ethics make it one of the great films from any genre.

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masterpiece

Author: (meisterpuck@yahoo.com) from detroit
18 March 2001

In my modest opinion, this film is the Coen’s greatest achievement to date, even greater than Fargo. I was happy to see so many recent entries on this page, because that means something I predicted long ago is coming true: film buffs are finally “discovering” Miller’s Crossing, an underground masterpiece that has dwelt in obscurity for ten years.

The central motif of the hat, and Johnny Caspar’s preoccupation with the altitude thereof, brings to mind another underrated masterpiece, Drugstore Cowboy. The complex Jungian symbolism of forests, doors and especially hats is my favorite aspect of the film.

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The only criticism I’ve heard of this film (and I think it’s B.S.) has to do with the “over-acting”–a criticism that has been directed at more than one Coen film. Admittedly, Coen screenplays read more like novels than movie scripts and are not always actor-friendly. Gabriel Byrne, who appears in all but two scenes, does a great job playing an extremely complicated character. Tom Reagan is a smart guy surrounded by morons, and exists in a scenario where only muscle counts and brains don’t. And he hates it. And he hates himself because he knows he’s all brains and no heart. He tries to redeem himself through a selfless devotion to Leo, whom he hates. All this makes for an immensely challenging part, and the film could easily have fallen apart with a lesser actor than Gabriel Byrne playing the lead.

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But the acting is great from top to bottom: Marcia Gay Harden (in her big screen debut) as the hard-boiled moll; Jon Polito as the maniacal Johnny Caspar; Steve Buscemi as the hop-addicted Mink; J.E. Freeman, who is such a marvellous screen villain you have to wonder why he’s still toiling in obscurity; and Albert Finney, an actor who embodies the term “screen presence.” But the Grand Prix goes to John Turturro, who carries the most powerful scene in the movie: when Tom takes Bernie out to Miller’s Crossing to “whack” him.

Another criticism frequently levelled against the Coens is that they are preoccupied with “scenes” and don’t focus enough on plot coherence. This too is an invalid criticism, as far as I’m concerned. Some people are irritated by a film that you have to watch a couple times to fully understand, but that’s precisely the kind of film that I love, and that’s why I love Miller’s Crossing so much. Every time I see it I pick up on something that I didn’t catch before.

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Speaking of “scenes”, the “Danny Boy” scene is the best. The second best is the following scene, where Tom and Terry walk through a hallway lined with goons. The third is the police raid on the Sons of Erin Club, in which Leo takes on the entire police force.

I’ll resist the temptation to call Miller’s Crossing “The Greatest Film of All Time”–because who has the right to say that? But I must say that it is my favorite film of all time.

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950)

Directed by Gordon Douglas
Cinematography J. Peverell Marley

From the trial of the survivors, we flash back to amoral crook Ralph Cotter’s violent prison break, assisted by Holiday Carleton, sister of another prisoner…who doesn’t make it. Soon Ralph manipulates the grieving Holiday into his arms, and two crooked cops follow her into his pocket. Ralph’s total lack of scruple brings him great success in a series of robberies. But his easy conquest of gullible heiress Margaret Dobson proves more dangerous to him than any crime…

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The film that Phil Spector and Lana Clarkson were watching in Spector’s chauffeured car on the way to his Alhambra mansion the night of her murder.  in 2003.

Underrated gangster/film-noir gem

8/10
Author: Shawn Taber (filmbuffshawn@netscape.net) from Rock Forest, Quebec
9 September 1999

I can’t believe that this film is not well known. Get rid of the terrible courtroom framing device, and you have a gangster masterpiece. Coming on the heels of Cagney’s better known White Heat, this film takes violence and corruption to a new level. This film starts off with a brutal jail break and never slows down. The cold blooded violence portrayed is quite jaw dropping. Cagney was born to play this role. He is clearly relishing his cold blooded character. The freshness of this film is surprising. You are totally caught off guard. In this sense, it reminds me most of Kiss Me Deadly. For anyone with a passing interest in Cagney, or gangster films, or film-noir, or film violence, watch this film!!

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If they made this movie today…

Author: tostinati from United States
1 October 2001

Spoilers here.

If they made this movie today, they would call it “White Heat 2: Cody Lives”. Cagney is as ruthless as in White Heat, but here, his pathology is under control, (brain surgery after his Oil Tank “accident” in Part 1?) so he can blackmail cops and smoothly double-cross his erstwhile moll while skimming wherever else and whenever he can. In the first couple of minutes of the film, he shoots a fellow prison escapee “just because”. His sense of loyalty to his supposed accomplices goes downhill from there.

Barbara Payton is a more resonant and convincing actress than Virginia Mayo, and it can be argued that her strength as an actress creates much of the tension here: We want to see her get wise to the Cagney character’s dirty game, and also succeed in avenging her brother’s death (the fellow escapee shot in the beginning of the film).

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And unlike the case of Virginia Mayo’s unsympathetic moll in White Heat, we actually do root for her to gain a comeuppance against the Cagney character. But we’re torn. Cagney has so much natural charisma, even when playing a snake, that we can never entirely want him to get his. There is a sense of justice and inevitability to the ending. But there remains the nagging hurt feeling at what Cagney– with all that bristling energy and industry and charisma– COULD have accomplished if he hadn’t succumbed to the dark side. Ten stars. See it!

Coal black, brutish, exhilarating noir!

10/10
Author: oOgiandujaOo from United Kingdom
25 April 2007

How fickle film history is! To think that this most intense crime thriller has been totally overlooked. I wouldn’t say underrated, because it seems that everyone who has watched it agrees with me.

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I woke up ten minutes before this movie started on TV, flicked the switch, and thought, OK cool, a James Cagney movie. I wasn’t prepared for the roller-coaster plunge through abyssal night. Or the violent way with which the riders carom off into the void. The ending scene is totally classic with dialogue and revelation that pitches the film into the darkest reaches of noir.

Everything about this movie is hyped, Cotter (Cagney) hasn’t got a bottle of champagne, he’s got a jeroboam, he hasn’t got a revolver, he’s got an automatic, he hasn’t got one honey, he’s got two, we don’t do 100 kilometers per hour, we do 100 miles per hour, and in a car the size of a carnival float. The guy’s a total psycho, but not in the Robert Ryan way that turns you against his character, in the Cagney way where it’s all like some big game to him.

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There are a lot of totally mesmerising scenes in this movie. Two stand out just for the sheer exhilaration factor – this is the bit where you coo out loud. When Barbara (Holiday Carleton) throws a pot of coffee at Cotter he says, ‘No cream?’, so she throws the cream at him, ‘No sugar?’ so he gets the sugar, and finally ‘No cigar?’. I was on the floor. Then there is the scene where Helena (Margaret Dobson) takes him out for a drive in her sporty little number. She takes it up to a hundred to scare him, and then he stamps his foot on hers and takes it to 110 whilst she frantically swerves.

Some people have commented on how the framing device of the court-case doesn’t work. But for me it’s total brutality, the director doesn’t waste time with the minutiae of court proceedings, he just uses them to makes plain right from the very start that its all gonna end badly. It’s a complete train wreck of a movie, there isn’t an honest man in sight, and the casual nature of the violence just shocks you. Cutting kills people like he’s taking out the trash, it’s just another chore.

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There’s also classic support from Ward Bond, in this movie he always looks like he’s gonna screw you up and toss you away. This role stands apart from the usual supporting roles he gets, either buffoonish (Fort Apache), ineffectual (Johnny Guitar), foolishly vigilante (On Dangerous Ground).

OK so we got broads with pzazz, we got dialogue to die for, we got utter magnetism from the lead actor (as only Cagney can be), and we’ve got total, anthracitic, ebonic, pitch-black noir. 11/10

“Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” is effective Cagney vehicle

7/10
Author: (chuck-reilly) from Los Angeles
5 August 2008
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Although not up to the high standards of his previous work in “White Heat” the year before, “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” is still a worthy follow-up for James Cagney. Whereas Cagney’s Cody Jarrett in “White Heat” was a deranged psychopathic killer, his character here (Ralph Cotter) is more of a calculating cynic who plays on the fears and weaknesses of others.

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He’s the type of ruthless criminal who could corrupt a cloister of nuns and he leaves a trail of misery wherever his path takes him. Unfortunately, he has one lovely lady named Holiday who believes all his lies and will do his bidding without question. Played by the beautiful Barbara Payton, Holiday does all she can to aid and abet Cotter until he takes away the only other person she loves in the world: her brother. That’s a mistake that Cotter pays for in one of the most well-remembered death scenes in 1950’s cinema.

Veteran director Gordon Douglas keeps the brutal action moving at a brisk pace and he employs a trove of famous character actors who weave themselves in and out of the twisted plot. Ward Bond is around as a suspicious cop with a shady past. Good-looking Helena Carter plays a young and very rich socialite who Cagney takes advantage of so he can pass himself off as legitimate.

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Kenneth Tobey plays an honest detective and they’re in short supply in this film. Barton MacLane, John Litel, Luther Adler and William Frawley (Fred Mertz from “I Love Lucy”) round out the stellar cast. Director Douglas had a prolific career directing a slew of famous and not-so-famous films all the way into the late 1970’s. Cagney, as always, dominates the screen whenever he appears and his performance definitely raises the level of this work quite a few notches. Without him, “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” would’ve been a standard 1950’s “cops and robbers” film with few redeeming values. As it stands, the movie is not a classic like some of Cagney’s other gangster epics, but it certainly has its moments—especially at the end. When Ms. Payton finds out that Cagney has murdered her brother, she gets the opportunity to give new meaning to the title. She sticks a gun in Jimmy’s face and spits out the words “You can KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE!”

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Oh no, he stopped being smart when he took my money.

8/10
Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
31 August 2011

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye is directed by Gordon Douglas and adapted to screenplay by Harry Brown from the novel by Horace McCoy. It stars James Cagney, Barbara Payton, Helena Carter, Ward Bond, Luther Adler and Steve Brodie. Music is by Carmen Dragon and photography by J. Peverell Marley.

Ralph Cotter (Cagney), career criminal, escapes from prison and crudely murders his partner during the escape. Hooking up with Holiday Carleton (Payton), the oblivious sister of the slain partner, Cotter quickly gets back into a life of crime and violence. But will his evil deed stay a secret? How long can he keep the corrupt coppers under wraps? And is his “other” romantic relationship with Margaret Dobson (Carter) doomed to failure? ……

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Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, it seems to have been lost in the slipstream of White Heat that was released the previous year. An undoubted classic of the gangster/crime genre, and featuring one of Cagney’s greatest acting performances, White Heat has unsurprisingly dwarfed many a poor genre entry. However, while it doesn’t equal the searing ferocity of White Heat, both in tone and character performance by Cagney, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye is a seriously hard movie. Energetic from the off, film is often brutal and cynical and awash with potently memorable scenes, with some deemed as being too much, resulting in the film being banned from theatres in Ohio!

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Female or a cripple, it matters not to the menacing force of nature that is Ralph Cotter.

Gordon Douglas was a multi genre director, unfussy and able to keep things taut, he gets some super performances from the cast while never letting the pace drag. Cagney is a given, give him this sort of character and let him run with it, in fact it is arguably a detriment to the film as a whole, that it can’t match Cagney’s blood and thunder show? But Bond (big bad corrupt copper), Brodie (Cotter side-kick) and Adler (shifty lawyer) do shine through with imposing turns.

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Of much interest is the dual lady characters in Cotter’s life. Both very different from each other, this gives the film a double whammy of femme fatales in waiting. Payton takes the honours, in what is the best written part in the film. Her Holiday Carleton is a good girl drawn in to a murky life by a bad man, while Carter as bored rich girl Margaret Dobson is the polar opposite, she likes fast cars and dangerous men, allowing the actress to deftly sidle in with impact in the smaller role.

Photography isn’t out of the ordinary, and the music is standard boom and bluster for a crime picture. But this is about Cagney’s performance and the grim thematics contained within, and much like Ralph Cotter, it doesn’t pull its punches. Finally sealing the deal with an ending that firmly pulls the movie into the film noir universe. 8/10

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Last Cup of Coffee for the Road

4/10
Author: radiobirdma from Guernsey
12 April 2016

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce” — the famous Marx quote also counts for Jimmy Cagney’s last gangster movie, a lackluster rehash of his 30s screen persona and classic Cagney stuff, the legendary grapefruit scene from The Public Enemy now transformed into a leaden homage with Barbara Payton tossing a cup of coffee at Cagney, who has — I hate to say it — lost his magic, the dancer elegance, the energetic body language, the aggressive upstart aura. While White Heat from the previous year captures Cagney as a completely berserk character, a distorted middle-age mirror image still breathing the intensity of youth, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye merely reflects the portrait of the artist as his depleted doppelganger.

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Director Gordon Douglas can’t hold a candle to Raoul Walsh, the production value looks more like Poverty Row than Warner Bros., the script is clumsy, and Cagney walks through this 35 mm swan song like he’s anticipating those legendary words uttered by Elvis five years later in the opening of Milkcow Blues: “Hold it, fellas. That don’t move me. Let’s get real, real gone.”

At last, Cody Jarrett’s twin brother has finally been found

7/10
Author: nomoons11 from United States
16 November 2012
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Man if this character Cagney plays doesn’t appear to have the same look, feel and over the topness of his character in White Heat, I don’t know what other film does.

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This was a pretty good but it’s not in the same breath as White Heat. Cagney plays a guy who busts outta prison and gets together with a few corrupt officials and regulars to commit robberies for fast dough. In this we meet his helper in his escape, Barbara Payton and the driver. They get involved with corrupt cops and lawyers whoever else to get ahead. The character Cagney plays so closely resembles Cody Jarrett that just by me mentioning it you’ll immediately know what your in for. Cagney goes through this film doing whatever he wants to whoever without batting an eyelash. The best part is how all the people around him react.

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One comment on the time this film was made, late 40’s early 50’s, there probably wasn’t an “institute for cosmic consciousness” in the south. How do we know this was in the south? Well, I know of know other place in the US that had chain gangs(like the one Cagney escapes from). In this film you see a corrupt ex-mob guy who’s running this “new-age” place and I can tell ya folks, ain’t know way that place would have existed in the south in that day and time. They would have run them outta the place. Another little fun nugget? Take a look at the end scene where Cagney falls after being shot. If you look close on the left hand side of the screen, you’ll see a crew members foot come into the frame for just a second. LoL now that’s quality editing.

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Looking for over-the-topness in your films? This one should suit you just fine. It was pretty obvious Cagney jumped on this one cause of how well White Heat previously. It works but don’t expect White Heat.

Cagney does Cagney

6/10
Author: madmonkmcghee from Netherlands
7 November 2012

So you liked White Heat, with psychotic mamma’s boy Cody Jarret going way over the top? Well, here’s one just like it, only without any pretense at psychological probing of Cagney’s character.

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Ralph Cotter is just plain evil, that’s all there is to him. Unfortunately any comparison with White Heat shows up the deficiencies of this movie. There’s simply no real reason to be all that interested in any of the characters. They rob and steal, scheme and cheat, but there’s no real drive to their actions. You keep wondering why you should spend any time with these nasty people; even Cagney lacks that vicious charm he usually gives to these gangster roles.If you can watch Cagney do anything you may like this movie, for me it held too little appeal.

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An overlooked but excellent gangster film noir !

10/10
Author: gullwing592003 from United States
13 May 2010

James Cagney is in top form in this rare & obscure gem, obviously made to cash in on the success of White Heat. If you enjoyed White Heat you will relish Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye. Cagney does not disappoint & shows that he is still at his best as a gangster. No matter how evil & despicable Cagney was you could never really hate him. That was how charismatic & electrifying James Cagney was & only he could have played Cody Jarrett & Ralph Cotter. Cagney is more in control & more clever & manipulating as Ralph Cotter. Everyone gets sucked in & gets caught in his web from Crooked Cops played by Ward Bond & Barton Maclane, a crooked lawyer (Luther Adler), the moll (Barbara Payton), the wealthy businessman & his spoiled daughter.

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I like the scene where Cagney sets a trap for Inspector Webber (Ward Bond) by recording a conversation about plans for a bogus heist on record to blackmail & use against him to get what he wants. Cherokee Mandan says “Let’s try it on for size”, he gets Ralph a gun permit & later Cagney even gets the inspector to give him a policeman’s uniform to undermine & cash in on a criminal racket.”Any business that pays 50 grand is a good business to be in”. Cagney seemed unstoppable & was in control of every situation, pushing the envelope & it’s easy to see why Holiday Carlton (Barbara Payton) had to kill Cagney in the end for killing her brother during the prison break.

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I almost wished he hadn’t of gotten killed by her because it seemed like the rich father & his daughter had some kind of good influence on him, Ezra Dobson later approves of their marriage & decides not to have it annulled & offers Cagney a proposition of managing his daughter’s money(Helena Carter)who’s richer than her father. When she asks Ralph why he carries a gun she asks to see it & intentionally tosses it in the water. “You don’t need it any more”, he was heading in a new direction & starting a new life of respectability & leaving his criminal life behind. Or would Ralph have just gotten greedy to their millions of $$ & bumped them off as well or would he have reformed ? We’ll never know. Watch this movie, I highly recommend it !!

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Deadline – U.S.A. (1952)

Directed by Richard Brooks
Cinematography Milton R. Krasner

Ed Hutcheson, tough editor of the New York ‘Day’, finds that the late owner’s heirs are selling the crusading paper to a strictly commercial rival. At first he sees impending unemployment as an opportunity to win back his estranged wife Nora. But when a reporter, pursuing a lead on racketeer Rienzi, is badly beaten, Hutcheson is stung into a full fledged crusade against the gangster, hoping Rienzi can be tied to a woman’s murder.

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James Dean appears in a tiny non-speaking role in the film as a press boy.

During the first day of shooting, star Humphrey Bogart admitted to friend and writer/director Richard Brooks that he had been drinking until late in the morning, and had not learned his lines. Earlier in the day, while he had being difficult on the set and resistant to saying his lines (ones he never knew) veteran Ethel Barrymore pushed him to just get on with it, by explaining that ‘The Swiss have no navy’. In other words, like actors, they are powerless.

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The story is based on the closing of the New York “Sun,” founded by Benjamin Day, in 1950. The Sun was sold to the Scripps Howard chain and absorbed into the “World-Telegram.”

A homage to those great Warner dramas of the 1930’s

31 December 2009 | by calvinnme (United States) – See all my reviews

I don’t know if it was intended to copy the fast-paced press room and gangster films that Warner Brothers did in the 1930’s, but you certainly get a chance to see what Bogart could have done had he been a star at Warner Brothers during the 30’s rather than largely a supporting player.

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Of course, everything here is taking place in present day – 1952 – but not only does the film reach backwards for its brisk pace, it reaches forward into the 21st century with some of its subject matter. In particular, there is the subject of how big companies buy smaller more effective companies to eliminate the competition, and the subject of inherited wealth and how the companies that formed that wealth are often not appreciated by the spoiled children-heirs.

Here Bogart plays the editor in chief of crusading hard-hitting daily newspaper “The Day”, which is about to be sold off by the bored children of the deceased founder. The founder’s widow (Ethel Barrymore) unfortunately is outvoted by her ungrateful children, and with the encouragement of Bogart’s character tries to come up with enough money to buy her children’s shares back from her daughters. In parallel with this is the story of The Day trying to break one last big story before they are bought out – a story that will break the power of a local crime boss who is not taking his possible downfall lying down.

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This one is seldom seen and very well done, and I highly recommend that you see it if it ever comes your way.

surprisingly timely

7/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
6 August 2005

A very good movie about The Day, a newspaper publishing its last editions, and its aggressive attack on a known mobster. Humphrey Bogart does an excellent job as the editor, and Ethel Barrymore gives a wonderful, regal performance as the widow of the publisher, whose daughters are now demanding that the paper be sold to a competitor.

The film brings up, a mere 53 years ago, issues that are relevant today – the tabloids versus real, factual news, and the meaning of a free press. These debates continue today, but unfortunately, it seems that the tabloid type of journalism is winning. As for a free press – our press might be freer than many, but it isn’t entirely free. As anyone who lost money in the great savings and loan scandal can tell you, important stories disappear from the front pages all the time.

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Bogart’s strong performance is the engine that keeps this film going, and there’s a nice performance by Kim Hunter as his ex-wife. Deadline USA reminds us of the good old days, when you could believe what you read in the New York Times.

Racing to beat life’s deadline

8/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
9 June 2006

Deadline – U.S.A. has Humphrey Bogart as the editor of a big city newspaper that is in the process of being sold to a Rupert Murdoch like chain that publishes scandal sheets. His paper is in the process at the same time of doing an expose of notorious racketeer Martin Gabel.

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And if that ain’t enough for Bogey his wife Kim Hunter is splitting from him. It’s the usual story, she can’t stand having him married to her and the paper as well.

Growing up in New York in the Fifties we had several newspapers, each vying for a smaller readership. I remember we had the Times, News, Post, Herald Tribune, World-Telegram&Sun, Journal-American, and the Daily Mirror. Some of those you can see are the products of consolidation, there were more in the past. After a printer’s strike in the sixties most of them went out of business.

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The papers were competing for a shrinking share of readership. In the previous generation, radio competed with the print media and I grew up with that new phenomenon of television. Today we are seeing the effects of the Internet as the individual’s primary source for news.

The gangster part of the plot gets started with the discovery of the body of a Virginia Hill like moll, the former mistress of Martin Gabel. While some of the scandal sheets cover the sensational aspects of the murder of a glamor girl, Bogey’s paper does some serious investigative reporting and uncovers a lot of evidence. Their work also has consequences including the maiming of young reporter Warren Stevens.

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In the meantime the heirs of the newspaper’s original founder are looking to sell the paper. Opposing it is their mother, Ethel Barrymore and she has a fine part and is obviously the model for the widow publisher played by Nancy Marchand in Lou Grant. She has one classic scene with Humphrey Bogart where they commiserate over their mutual problems.

Deadline – U.S.A. is a realistic look at the life of a big city paper in days gone by. It’s a gritty piece of nostalgia, as timely in its day as The Front Page was in the Twenties. Cast members like Paul Stewart, Jim Backus, and Ed Begley look and feel right at home at their jobs.

The film is recommended particularly for younger viewers who are glued to their computers and television to see how a newspaper functioned back in the day.

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One of Bogart’s two most underrated films.

Author: bat-12 from New York, N.Y.
5 April 1999

This film was released (as I remember) the same year as The African Queen. I have always liked it more than the latter film. Richard Brooks’s prior experience working on a newspaper gives it a genuine idea of what that kind of work is like. The performances of Bogart and Barrymore are very good. I think it’s one of her very best. This movie deserves to be seen and appreciated more.

“…and the lawyers are up in the dome right now waiting to explain the nature of their crime with facts, figures and falsehoods. One more ‘F’ and they won’t be drafted.”

7/10
Author: classicsoncall from Florida, New York
4 June 2006
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

“Deadline U.S.A” is the story of a newspaper facing extinction, though it delves into a neat little crime story that graces page one prominently during it’s final days.

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What’s interesting is that the gangster drama doesn’t involve Humphrey Bogart as a mobster or a law man; he’s the editor of ‘The Day’, a paper put on the selling block by an owner family at the advice of their financial attorney. The family’s matriarch, portrayed by Ethel Barrymore eventually sees the light of ‘Day’ so to speak, as you know she will. Her conversation with Bogey near the end of the film is a classic tribute to freedom of the press and the role of newspapers as society’s watchdog.

There’s another side story going on as well, though it’s not entirely necessary. Ed Hutcheson (Bogart) attempts to reconcile with ex-wife Nora (Kim Hunter), and though it appears he’s hit a roadblock, winds up winning her back in the end. It’s never made clear however what the turning point in the relationship was, since Nora was planning to remarry and abruptly changed her mind.

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Classic film fans will enjoy seeing Ed Begley and Jim Backus in roles as newspapermen employed by ‘The Day’. The mobster being investigated by the paper is portrayed by Martin Gabel. It was with a bit of discomfort watching Bogey’s character get into the back seat of Gabel’s car to ‘go for a ride’. That scene could have gone either way, especially since editor Hutcheson felt compelled to crack wise with a goon who had murder included in his resume. As for the rough stuff, that was generally handled by Tomas Rienzi’s main henchman Whitey, Joe Sawyer in an uncredited role, but a Warner Brothers mainstay nonetheless.

With the clock running out on the newspaper, and a judge siding with the sellers, Hutcheson gets to the finish line with his page one story with damning evidence of Rienzi’s complicity in the death of his hush hush girlfriend and her brother. But the film ends so abruptly, there’s no time to reflect on the bittersweet finale, not even a shot of Bogey and his ex getting back together for a feel good moment.

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If you enjoyed this film, you might want to check out another lesser known Bogart movie titled “Two Against The World”, it also goes by “One Fatal Hour”. There he finds himself in another media forum running a radio station. Like “Deadline U.S.A.” though, it may be difficult to find since neither has been commercially released. You’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for a cable presentation, or source it from private collectors.

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Everyone is Pressed

9/10
Author: pensman from United States
7 April 2004

`Stupidity isn’t hereditary, you acquire it by yourself.’ A great line from one of those films you need to have made every so often-one that glorifies the value of a free press. Bogart is the hard-hitting editor of a newspaper on the brink of extinction. He has to decide whether to fight for the press or his wife. Oh yes, his ex-wife tired of being a `bulldog’ widow and is ready to remarry. Will the daughter of the original-now deceased-owner/publisher move on to a less printful husband? Will the publisher’s widow be able to halt the sale of her husband’s paper? Will the editor be able to bring down a local racketeer/thug/murderer?

No doubt this film will fade into obscurity to be viewed only by a few journalism/media majors doing a research paper on the portrayal of the press in film-assuming they go beyond All the President’s Men. Too bad.

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Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

1934. Young adults Bonnie Parker, a waitress, and Clyde Barrow, a criminal just released from prison, are immediately attracted to what the other represents for their life when they meet by chance in West Dallas, Texas. Bonnie is fascinated with Clyde’s criminal past, and his matter-of-factness and bravado in talking about it. Clyde sees in Bonnie someone sympatico to his goals in life. Although attracted to each other physically, a sexual relationship between the two has a few obstacles to happen. Regardless, they decide to join forces to embark on a life of crime, holding up whatever establishments, primarily banks, to make money and to have fun.

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They don’t plan on hurting anyone physically or killing anyone despite wielding loaded guns. They amass a small gang of willing accomplices, including C.W. Moss, a mechanic to fix whatever cars they steal which is important especially for their getaways, and Buck Barrow, one of Clyde’s older brothers.

Trivia

Producer Warren Beatty requested that the sound of gunshots in the movie should be much louder than the rest of the soundtrack. He was greatly influenced by Shane (1953) in this regard. However, at a screening in London he noticed that the gunfire sounds were much softer than intended. He went to the projection booth, where the projectionist told he that he had “helped” the film by adjusting the gunfire sounds. The projectionist said that he had not come across a film as poorly mixed since “Shane”.

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A masterpiece that dares to be excessive!

‘Bonnie and Clyde’ is not a film about two real people famous for so many bank robberies and murders across the big country… It shows a new kind of fury in which people could be harm by weapons… The film, however, manages to carry the impression that these two youngsters took great pleasure in robbing banks and stores… It also suggests that it was very easy for them to fool the law—as certainly occurred in real life… Though merited punishment caught up with them, audiences laughed at their remarkable deeds and wanted them to get away…

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In ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ Penn created an emotional state, an image of the 1930s filtered through his 1960s sensibility… The sense of this period reflects Penn’s vision of how the 1930s Depression-era truly was, and for all the crazy style and banjo score, this vision is greatly private…

What is also personal about ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and constitutes its incomparable quality, is its unusual mixture of humor and fear, its poetry of violation of the law as something that is gaiety and playfulness…

‘Bonnie and Clyde’ is both true and abstract… It is a gangster movie and a comedy-romance… It is an amusing film that turns bloody, a love affair that ends with tragedy…

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A modification between pleasure and catastrophic events is important to the essential aim of the film… In their second bank robbery, a daring and joyful action goes morosely embittered when Clyde is forced to kill an executive in the bank, and real blood pours out from his body…

Bonnie and Clyde take self-gratification posing for photographs with their prisoners… But when surrounded by detectives in a motel, they turn into vindictive bandits struggling for their lives… C. W. Moss, specially, brings to mind Baby Face Nelson, when he murders policemen with a blazing machine gun…

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One of the stimulating moments in the film happens when Clyde chases Bonnie through a yellow corn field, while a cloud transverses the sun and slowly shadows the landscape… Here the characteristic quality of the Texas countryside and the vague aspect of the story are beautifully communicated……

Penn’s masterpiece nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, won two Oscars, one for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and another for Best Cinematography…

The movie that made it okay to sympathize with murderers…

10/10
Author: filmbuff-36 from Houston, TX
30 October 2001

First of all, let me say that I’m appalled by the real life Bonnie and Clyde. They were two psychopathic thrill killers from Dallas who had a special hatred for law enforcement officers.

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I must admit that I do feel sorry for the way they were killed, but like the old axiom goes, “If you live by the sword, you die by the sword.”

That said, the movie “Bonnie and Clyde” was a groundbreaking film. It was the first time that we the audience were allowed inside the killers minds, and could see what made them tick. This is perhaps the first film that takes a somewhat objective look at crime; we the audience don’t have “FBI Seal of Approval” morality shoved down our throats, but we still can tell by the actions of the characters that they are evil, whether they know it or not.

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The story is of two Texas young adults who, bored with their lives and the prospects of going nowhere in the world, decide to live out their dreams of stardom by going on a crime spree. They fancy themselves a sort of “Romeo and Juliet” couple, and think of their robberies as harmless fun. They start out small by knocking over grocery stores and gas stations, but soon graduate to banks when they need more money to accommodate their lifestyle. Soon they have a simple minded gas clerk named C.W. and Clyde’s brother and wife in the gang, and the duo goes down into history.

Then the fun and games are over. With law enforcement officials now looking for Bonnie and Clyde, they become targets of bounty hunters, unethical cops and other greedy persons who wish to make a name for themselves, and they lose a part of their childish innocence as the escalation of their crimes makes them become more and more violent. When death finally comes for Bonnie and Clyde, it comes with a vengeance.

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Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway have never been better. Beatty, who plays Clyde Barrow as an impotent, ne’er do well country boy who seems to be sowing his wild oats, is in top form. He makes Clyde likable, with a goofy smile perpetually pasted on his face, even when sticking up a bank with two guns in his hands. Dunaway is the ultimate femme fatale as Bonnie Parker, a sweet natured Southern belle who likes the feel of a .38 in her hands as she politely asks for all the money. It’s absurd, it’s unrealistic, but hey, it’s Hollywood. And the film works.

But most importantly, Bonnie and Clyde are in love. It’s a kind of love that only few films afterward have been able to equal. There is a genuine feeling of giddy romance between the two no matter what the scene, be it a bank robbery or family get-together away from the reaches of society.

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Arthur Penn was obviously a man on a mission when he directed this film. You could sense with every frame that he knew of the importance of this movie; a cinematic masterpiece that dares to make its audience evoke pathos for what would have been banned just a few years earlier.

The finale is still to this day a triumph of audience manipulation. The two bandits, finally captured and unable to escape, are dealt with in a fashion that will haunt you days after viewing. It’s sad, it’s disgusting, but it brings closure to the lives of two individuals whose works and existence could not be tolerated by the powers that be.

Great To Be Nominated Series

The movie “Bonnie and Clyde” inspired a generation of film makers to look at cinema in a different light. Actions movies were allowed to be funny from this point; funny movies could get away with violence. On the negative side, however, the film changed the morals of Hollywood by allowing murder to be dealt with in such a nonchalant fashion.

Sure, Claude is obviously shaken up after his first kill, as are Bonnie and C.W., but from that point on violence against law officials is no longer a problem. The police in this film are rather like the way gangsters used to be portrayed; a collection of stupid, soulless individuals who only want to ruin Bonnie and Clyde’s fun.

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In the end, this in an excellent film about Depression era gangsters. Most ironically, however, is that it seems dedicated to the two real life robbers who don’t deserve such an honor of having a film legacy created in their names.

10 stars. Innovative, fresh, and hey, it helped pave the way for “Dillinger”, my favorite movie in the robber-gangster genre.

“We Rob Banks.”

Author: Michael Coy (michael.coy@virgin.net) from London, England
10 January 2001
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Boy meets girl, boy takes girl on robbery spree, cops chase boy and girl. This innovative film transformed Hollywood’s approach to the crime genre and ushered the nouvelle vague into America’s mainstream.

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The real-life Bonnie and Clyde ranged the rural Texas-Oklahoma-Missouri emptiness in the early 1930’s, holding up village banks. A product of the Depression, these amateurish outlaws attracted media attention because they brought drama to a bleak, joyless world. They were freewheelers who turned the tables on the banks, notorious but somehow admirable villains. The Robin Hood theme is quietly insisted upon throughout the film. Banks foreclose on poor farmers, or suddenly fail, wiping out ordinary folks’ savings. Out of this chaos emerge these youngsters, scourging the rich and living for the moment, riding their luck for as long as it lasts, “uncertain as times are”.

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Mythology is the stuff that Bonnie and Clyde are made of. The film deals admirably with both reality and myth. A farmer touches Clyde reverently, as he might touch a sacred relic. On the other hand, Old Man Moss is disappointed by the ordinariness of the dynamic duo – “they ain’t nothin’ but a coupla kids!” We see the clumsy, ragged robberies and the burgeoning fame. Our lovable rogues may be violent thugs, but they favour the little guy. During a robbery in progress, a farmer is permitted to keep his money. The authorities are portrayed as hapless oafs, as is customary in ‘Robin Hood’ movies, but here it bears an underlying significance – America’s institutions have failed the citizens. People can’t repose trust in the police. (The film was made at the depths of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights disturbances.)

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One of the striking features of the film, and one which attracted criticism on its release, is the linking of violence with comedy. This was a period when violence was being portrayed graphically onscreen, and what is new in this film is that the firing of the gun and the bullet hitting the victim are both contained in the same camera shot, as opposed to the traditional euphemism of the cut away from the gun. We never forget that, for all their hedonistic levity, our two leads are “staring square into the face of death”. The final shoot-up is a shocking and fascinating danse macabre. “There’s nothing quite like the kinetics of violence,” says director Arthur Penn. He uses crazily juxtaposed running-speeds to compound the horror of the madly-flailing corpses, an effect which he calls “both spastic and balletic”.

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And then, of course, there is sex. The real Clyde Barrow maintained a homosexual liaison with C.W. Moss, and originally the writers Benton and Newman had wanted the menage-a-trois with Bonnie to be a part of the film. Warren Beatty objected to playing a bisexual, and on reflection the Beatty-Penn-Benton-Newman production team dispensed with the sexual sophistication, reasoning that it would complicate the story unnecessarily and alienate cinema audiences. The only remaining vestiges are Clyde’s difficulty making love to Bonnie, and some laddish cuddles during the card game in the hideout. The meeting of Bonnie and Clyde at the start is filled with playful sexual imagery. A bored, trapped Bonnie pummels the slats of her bedframe, pouting with sexual frustration. Clyde bursts into this ‘prison’ and seduces her with his aura of danger and excitement. Check out the phallic symbols – toothpick, gun and coke bottle.

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The music is wonderful in itself, and wonderfully appropriate. Flatt and Scruggs’ “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” evokes place and time perfectly, and provides a rousing accompaniment to the car chases. Director Penn has the boldness to dispense with incidental music and, where dramatic effect requires it, to rely on ambient sound such as eerily-rustling grass.

At the writing stage, Benton and Newman were in love with the French New Wave and wanted this project to enshrine the nouvelle vague principles. Strenuous but abortive attempts were made to recruit first Truffaut and then Godard, but Beatty finally convinced the writers that outer trappings such as European directors were unnecessary, because the script held all the New Wave ingredients.

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Truffaut’s benign influence pervades the final version, especially the section where Bonnie reads her ballad aloud. We move visually through three scenes as Bonnie’s voice proclaims the couple’s testament, a cinematic gem suggested by Truffaut. Throughout the action, the jump-cut style of editing captures perfectly the spareness which is the essence of New Wave. Two sheets of newspaper are scattered on the swirling wind, an image which underscores the feckless, empty existence of the protagonists. Benton may not have got his francophone director, but in this fresh treatment of classic American subject matter he succeeded in making his “specifically European film”.

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“We couldn’t have made it on the back lot,” says Beatty, and he is right. The rural Texas locations are terrific, their open spaces hinting at both freedom and emptiness. Bonnie and Clyde are at their best when on the move, and they grow fractious whenever cooped up. The countryside is almost a participant in the story, as when the distraught Bonnie, filled with thoughts of death and separation, absconds through the field of withered corn, or the Eugene-Thelma episode closes with a dustcloud ‘wiping’ the action. The night-to-day sequence around the two cars after Buck’s misfortune is beautifully done.

Beatty produced the film as well as starring in it. He held daily pre-shoot discussion sessions for the cast, an admirable attempt to enrich the creative process. By the evidence of this fresh, entertaining and superbly-constructed film, his inclusive instincts triumphantly augmented a winning formula.

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1967’s best movie.

10/10
Author: Charles Saint-Pierre from Montreal, Canada
10 September 1999

“Bonnie and Clyde” is, what I would consider to be, the movie that let loose violence in cinema. Artur Penn’s based on a true story classic of violence, sexuality, and crime, was excellent thirty-two years ago when it first came out, is excellent today, and will be excellent for decades to come. Plus, it is one of those rare movies that are at the same time a landmark for cinema history as well as a true classic for more than just its landmark aspect. This movie earned five nominations only for acting and won best supporting-actress for Estelle Parsons.

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One morning, as she wakes up, Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) notices that a man is trying to subtly break into her car. She quickly dresses up and runs down. The man looks up at her embarrassed and we are than revealed Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty). The two of them go for a walk down the road but when Clyde tells Bonnie that he is a robber, she doesn’t believe him. So, he decides to prove to her that he isn’t lying and robs a small grocery shop right away. As soon as he exits the store, he shows Bonnie the money and they escape in a car that they steal. And so begins an adventure they will never forget.

Along their way, they pick up a young boy who works at a gas station who is called C.W. (Michael J. Pollard).

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They begin doing more and more robberies until Clyde is finally forced to kill someone. Later on in their trip, Clyde’s brother (Gene Hackman) and his wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons) catch up with Clyde, C.W., and Bonnie and they continue committing crimes such as robberies and even sometimes murders but usually in cases of self-defense.

“Bonnie and Clyde” is beautifully acted and expertly directed. After “Bonnie and Clyde”, Arthur Penn directed some other good movies such as “Little big man” but as good as they were all, none ever equalled “Bonnie and Clyde”. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should put it first on your “Next movies to watch” list.

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