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The Racketeer (1929)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 9 November 1929 (USA)
A dapper gangster sponsors an alcoholic violinist in order to win the love of a glamorous divorced socialite.



(story), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Rhoda Philbrooke (as Carol Lombard)
Tony Vaughan
Bobby Dunn ...
The Rat (as Bobbie Dunn)
Budd Fine ...
Bernie Weber (as Bud Fine)
Mrs. Lee
Jack Oakhurst
Mr. Chapman
Winifred Harris ...
Mrs. Chapman


Tough mobster Mahlon Keane practically runs crime in New York City. He meets broke ex-society girl Rhoda Philbrooke at a society fundraiser and helps her cheat her way to some winnings in poker. Rhoda needs the money to help nurse broken alcoholic concert violinist Tony Vaughan back to health. In between his criminal dealings, Keane takes up Rhoda's cause and helps promote Vaughan's return to public performance. Rhoda agrees to marry Keane but still harbors unrequited love for Tony Vaughan. On the eve of her marriage, Vaughan confesses his love to Rhoda. Now how will she handle her mobster fiancée? Written by Gary Jackson <garyjack5@cogeco.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama and romance in its most perfect blend...a tense, heart-stirring story of two crooks in a "comeback" (original ad) See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

9 November 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Love's Conquest  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


(copyright length) (sound)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The earliest documented telecast of this film occurred in Los Angeles Thursday 17 February 1949 on KFI (Channel 9). See more »


When Gus spots rival gangster Bernie Weber riding in the back of a taxi, he tells his driver Squid to pull alongside it so he can shoot him. Gus refers to it as a gray cab, and in the studio close-up it appears to be white or at least a very light gray. In the subsequent cut to the location shot done outdoors on location, the cab with the dead mobster appears to be black. See more »

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User Reviews

For the early talkie fan or the Lombard completist
21 November 2009 | by See all my reviews

This is one of those early talkies, so the filmmakers had not yet learned that a good film is in delivery of lines, motivation, and screenplay, not just the fact that the characters talk. I'm sure someday people will look at today's CGI movies and make equivalent criticisms. Robert Armstrong plays "the racketeer" here, but he is a kinder gentler gangster. At the beginning of the film he doesn't even "rub out" a member of his gang that has jumped bail on him - he just hands him over to the police so he can get his money back. James Cagney's Tom Powers would have never handled it this way.

This sets up the story so that the racketeer seems quite human and likable. At a charity Monte Carlo night he catches a fallen woman Rhoda Philbrooke (Carole Lombard) cheating at cards and helps her cover up her crime. It turns out Rhoda is broke and really needs the money since she has left her husband and taken up with drunken musician Tony Vaughan (Roland Drew). Racketeer Mahlon Keane then goes to Rhoda's apartment and offers to help her. Mainly, he helps her "dry out" her drunken boyfriend and get him back on his feet. He even arranges for Tony to perform at a big concert. He also asks Rhoda to marry him. He doesn't do this as a condition of his good works, but Rhoda accepts his proposal because she feels beholden to him and she does genuinely like him. In the end, Rhoda realizes that she still really loves Tony but doesn't want to hurt racketeer Keane.

The one thing that is never sufficiently conveyed to the viewer is why Rhoda loves Tony. He comes across as a drunken weakling that quite frankly seems very indifferent to Rhoda until the end of the film and doesn't seem to mind the fact that he is being helped by someone who is courting her. Probably the worst thing about this film is the unrestored condition it is in. I've seen prints from several companies and they are all in pretty bad shape. The audio is surprisingly good for an early talkie, but the video has lots of scratches in it and is somewhat washed out. The most interesting thing about this film is that it is one of Carole Lombard's very earliest film performances.

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