Lou Ricarno is a smart guy. His plan is to organize the various gangs in Chicago so that the mugs will not liquidate each other. WIth the success of his leadership, Louie prospers, marries ... See full summary »
Lou Ricarno is a smart guy. His plan is to organize the various gangs in Chicago so that the mugs will not liquidate each other. WIth the success of his leadership, Louie prospers, marries Doris and retires to Florida to write his autobiography and play golf. In his absence the gang warfare flares, but he does not return as he wants to give a respectable image of life to his wife, younger brother and his Florida neighbors. While letters and telegrams from Mileaway will not influence his decision, events will. Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com>
No information about the publication of Rowland Brown's story, "A Handful of Clouds," has been found; it may not have been published. See more »
What appears to be a typo in the gangland slaughter headline of the newspaper Louie reads in the boarding house - it reads 'grewsome' instead of 'gruesome' - is in fact an acceptable variant that was more popular at the time the film was released. See more »
The "Doorway to Hell" is a one-way door. There is no retribution - no plea for further clemency. The little boy walked through it with his head up and a smile on his lips. They gave him a funeral - a swell funeral that stopped traffic - and then they forgot him before the roses had a chance to wilt.
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Much has been said about Lew Ayres being miscast in this film, but I don't agree. The notion that a pretty young boy can't be a gangster is belied both by Ayres' performance and by history itself--Pretty Boy Floyd, anyone? (I should add, however, that Jimmy Cagney, in his autobiography, agreed with those who believed Ayres was too pretty to play a convincing gangster!)
This film is so much better than you'd think, and that is due not only to fine performances by Ayres and Cagney (make that, a WONDERFUL performance by Cagney, who really does ignite the screen), but also to impressive direction by Archie Mayo. I confess I usually think of Mayo as a pretty journeyman director, but maybe I've only seen his later work and "talkies" spoiled him. If you were to watch this film without sound, you'd be hyper-aware of the wonderful camera set-ups and editing, particularly during the prison break, when the screen is filled with jump cuts of men's legs running. Of course, without the sound, you'll miss the great period dialogue (a gangland ambush offers Ayres the opportunity to "walk into a handful of clouds").
TCM shows this film from time to time, and you really shouldn't miss it. It's well-written, well-directed, has great performances, and the closing lines (displayed as a printed page of the source story on the screen) are as poignant as anything you'll ever read.
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