The main character in '60 Cents an Hour' is Jimmy Kirk, a soda jerk. I wish his name were *James* Kirk, so I could make a few Star Trek jokes in this posting. Actually, this is a pretty good comedy so there's no need to make fun of it. Jimmy Kirk is played by Walter Hiers, whom I've seen in character roles elsewhere. Here, he gets a rare chance at a lead role and acquits himself well.
CONTAINS SPOILERS. Jimmy's salary is a whacking huge $7.50 a week (this is 1927, remember), but he has an eye on bigger things. For one thing, he's in love with the banker's daughter. Her name is Mamie Smith, which I found hugely implausible. 'Mamie' is a working-class name, and I just couldn't believe that a banker would give his daughter such a monicker. Ambitious Jimmy gets a job as night watchman at Smith's bank. But a smoother and handsomer (and slimmer) rival for Mamie's affections tosses some firecrackers into the bank. When they go off, Jimmy assumes that someone has dynamited the bank vault, and he raises the alarm ... then looks a fool.
The next night, there's another explosion in the bank. This time, Jimmy doesn't even bother to investigate. He just assumes it's another false alarm. But this time the firecrackers are really safe-crackers. Some actual yeggs have blown the vault and scarpered with the boodle. Naturally, Jimmy gets sacked.
Now we come to the jitney. Anybody here remember jitneys? In the 1920s, a jitney was a hire-car that required a steady supply of coins to continue running. Jimmy rents a jitney for 60 cents an hour (this film's title) and takes Mamie for a drive. (Why is she even acknowledging his existence, considering he stood by while her dad's bank got robbed?) Rather implausibly, the crooks have cached the cash in the jitney: a car that just anybody can hire and drive off with. (This is such a howler, I won't even make a wisecrack about it.)
Anyway, all this implausibility sets up an exciting and funny climax. The crooks take off in their own car, pursuing Jimmy and Mamie (and the loot) with guns drawn. Jimmy loses control of the steering wheel, causing the car to weave crazily, and attracting the attention of the police. So the cops and the crooks are all chasing the jitney. Meanwhile, the moolah starts leaking out the back of the car, causing chaos.
SPOILER NOW: After the dust settles, it turns out that a surveyor's error has put three inches' worth of the bank on Jimmy's property. And they can't move the bank, so...
'Sixty Cents an Hour' is hugely implausible: an acceptable sin for a comedy, but less than half of this movie's implausibility is in the service of the humour. The long chase climax is thrillingly shot and edited. This film makes me wish that Walter Hiers had played more lead roles. But he was extremely heavy-set (even bulkier than Roscoe Arbuckle) and physically unattractive with it, which is probably why he isn't better known. And it's difficult to sympathise with his character: he's a night watchman who sleeps on the job and ignores an explosion. Ricardo Cortez, Charles Ogle and Lucille Ward give splendid performances, but I was less impressed with Jacqueline Logan as the banker's fair daughter. I'll rate '60 Cents an Hour' 6 out of 10.
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