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|Index||14 reviews in total|
Stagy and a little disappointing but an interesting story, and the film
boasts Lowell Sherman--a very underrated actor/director. A film star
for 20 years, he is forgotten now, but his great talkie success, What
Price Hollywood, is still considered one of the best 30s films.
In The Pay-Off, Sherman plays a gentlemanly gangster who gets involved with a young couple of innocents--William Janney and Marian Nixon--who get involved in his crime ring when they get mugged my a "butcher" played by hunky Hugh Trevor. While the premise is interesting, the film is not too well done and it talks itself to death.
The ending is no big surprise, but Lowell Sherman remains one of the great undiscovered acting talents of the early talkie period. Despite his make-up (very stagy) his acting is very natural and not at all the hammy early talkie style.
George Marion plays Mousy, Helene Millard is Dot, Robert McWade and Al Roscoe also co-star.
Hugh Trevor, who died a few years after this film, is best remembered for 2 comedies with Wheeler and Woolsey--The Cuckoos and Half Shot at Sunrise. He could have been a big star--tall and handsome--but he died on the operating table during a routine appendectomy.
This film tells the story of an well bred and mannered man (Lowell Sherman)
who happens to be the boss of an underworld racket. When one of his
henchmen robs a young couple about to get married, he feels sorry for them
and takes them in as his family, only to have other henchmen in his crime
unit make them stooges in robberies.
An early sound film (1930) directed by Lowell Sherman, the stand out performance here is by Sherman himself. He has a very natural and easy going style of acting, making me curious to see other films in which he starred. The plot of the film, though not very believable, still makes for interesting viewing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tommy and Nancy are "spooning" in the park, and dreaming of getting
married on their savings of $260. Nancy is played by Marian Nixon,
a versatile actress, who specialised in "sweet young things". Tommy was played by William Janney, who I suspect was the older brother of Leon Janney, who made a couple of Penrod films in the early 1930s. They play their roles convincingly.
They are overheard by Rocky (Hugh Trevor) who robs them. He is the right hand man of racketeer Gene Fenmore (Lowell Sherman). Gene is a "Robin Hood" as he steals from unscrupulous people and never resorts to any rough stuff or gun play. He is very classy but Rocky wants to run the show. Tommy and Nancy follow Rocky and attempt to hold up Gene and Rocky. After getting to the bottom of things Gene takes them under his wing. Nancy thinks Gene is a good person but Tommy is not so sure.
A bit of cross promotion - the dance music at the night club is a selection from "The Cuckoos" which starred Hugh Trevor.
The gang is planning a big job but as usual Gene wants no bloodshed. Rocky is determined to implicate Tommy as he has never forgiven him for the "phoney" stick-up. The jeweller is killed and when Gene and Rocky confront each other Rocky is killed. The other gang members, who are fed up with Gene's "gentlemanly" ways believe Gene cold bloodedly murdered Rocky. The police have been trying to capture Gene for years and by arresting "the kids" they hope to appeal to his better nature.
Debonair Lowell Sherman is the whole show, although Hugh Trevor shows that he could have been a big star. Hugh Trevor was very handsome, could sing and had such a presence in this film. He had been a hit in "The Cuckoos" (1930) and "Half Shot at Sunrise" (1930) but he left films in 1931 to go back into the insurance business. He was still getting movie offers right up to his untimely death in 1933.
Another Alpha Video $4.99 DVD bringing a forgotten pre-WWII second (or
third?) matinee feature to the DVD player.
A young couple sits in a faux Central Park late at night contemplating their marriage the next day. Fortunately the lad has saved $260 towards their life together. But a real nasty bad guy overhears them and holds them up taking every dime.
But...the almost groom recognizes the creep as a guy who hangs out in the building where he's a super's schlepper (that's NYC talk). So he and fiancee attempt to regain the money by armed robbery and blow it. They're captured by the gang.
The gang, which does high values burglaries and robberies, is headed by a suave guy, Gene Foreman, played actually with some insight by Lowell Sherman who was at the tail end of his acting career. Perhaps he knew that: he seems genuinely sad throughout the film.
Foreman eschews violence-he's a dapper dan in tails who gets leads to promising heists through wining and dining the rich. Foreman sort of adopts the young couple and the girl really likes him. Her boyfriend worries about losing this gem who intones "squeeze me" whenever she's scared, needs affectionate reassurance or both.
The really nasty dude, Rocky, is murdered and the couple are the suspects. Foreman magnificently rises to the occasion, his acting transcending the limitations of predictable plot, sets less realistic than those on "The Honeymooners" and a supporting cast of deservedly unknowns.
Fun flick from the past.
On an early morning in New York City, school-boyish 20-year-old William
Janney (as Thomas "Tommy" Brown) and his mature-looking 18-year-old
girlfriend Marian Nixon (as Nancy Porter) wake up on a park bench. The
cute couple are planning to get married on the $230 Mr. Janney has
saved. Unfortunately, thieving Hugh Trevor (as Rocky) walks by and
hears them talk about the money. He robs Janney. Later, the victims
return the favor by finding Mr. Trevor and his gang. As it turns out,
Janney works at the hotel where Trevor and his shady pals play cards.
Janney's attempt to hold-up the gang fails, but gang leader Lowell
Sherman (as Eugene "Gene" Fenmore) admires the effort. He takes a
fatherly interest in Janney and could become even more interested in
"The Pay-Off" is a film adaptation of the Broadway play "Crime" (1927), written by Samuel Shipman and John B. Hymer. The too common title was changed, appropriately. Also changed was the name of the young teenager debuting on Broadway; future film actress Sylvia Sidney's character "Annabelle" becoming "Nancy". The film has a very stagy look, and the writers' names in the Internet Broadway Database's search engine will reveal the origin. As such, it's a good effort, also directed by Mr. Sherman. The former "silent" movie villain serves himself well as star and director. Age on stage matters less; here, Gimbels worker Nixon seems too girlish and Janney is not far behind. As Sherman's understanding servant and friend, authentic character actor George F. Marion helps.
***** The Pay-Off (10/15/30) Lowell Sherman ~ Lowell Sherman, William Janney, Marian Nixon, Hugh Trevor
The film is interesting more on account of its vintage than its plot. The acting is campy,stagey, hammy. The idea that a bunch of rowdies pillage and rob with no guns and no killings was probably just as absurd then as it seems today. However, this was likely the last appearance for Lowell Sherman in front of the camera. His style of acting seems to have become obsolete with the advent of talkies,possibly before. I am not certain who plays the role of Nancy. Incidentally, this film was remade a couple of years after Sherman's death with Richard Dix and an oily, villainous Eduardo Cianelli. That one was better, but even the acting and slightly better tech weren't enough to salvage the much outdated script and concept. However, if you just dig old celluloid, as I do, it's a worthwhile watch.
There are several crime dramas from the 1930s to chose from and this
one is below average to me. If you want a good crime film from the
1930s you'll have to look elsewhere. This "drama" has it's "cutesy"
moments with the wife and once in awhile the men so it's a cutesy drama
at times - yea it's "one of those" you see fairly often from the 1930s.
I found the story bland, the acting merely okay, cinematography and directing average. Really, look elsewhere for a GOOD crime drama from the 1930s - this one is very mundane, nothing special - doesn't have what it takes to really stand out from other films. Not a hidden gem.
This is another film I wanted to like, or at least get into to a degree but I couldn't. Bored me to tears.
The Pay-Off (1930)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Young lovers (Marian Nixon, William Janney) run off to get married but while talking about the money they have saved, they're robbed by a thug (Hugh Trevor) who happens to be working under gangster Gene Fenmore (Lowell Sherman). Soon the two young ones attempt to hold up the gangsters and finding their effort good, Gene takes both of them under his wing to try and give them a better life.
THE PAY-OFF is another one of those early talking pictures that deal with love, gangsters and of course a morality tale. The film certainly isn't a masterpiece or even very good but if you're a fan of this era of filmmaking then it's certainly worth watching at least once thanks to a decent story and a nice leading performance by Sherman.
At just 71 minutes the film moves at a very good pace and for the most part it keeps you entertained throughout. The film does have some weak performances scattered throughout and that includes Trevor who comes across quite laughable at times. This is especially true during the scene where him and his girlfriend hold up the gangsters. The film also suffers from some pretty far-fetched, overly-cute moments that don't help anything.
I thought Sherman was quite good in the lead role and that he was also very believable in the part of a gangster who tries to do things with the human life being respected. THE PAY-OFF is worth watching if you're a fan of films from this era but just don't expect a masterpiece.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is something very John Barrymore-ish about Lowell Sherman, the
middle-aged star of this movie who later played a Barrymore like star
in "What Price Hollywood". It is ironic that in real life, they were
once married to the Costello sisters and would co-star together in one
movie, "General Crack". Sherman seems to be taking on a Barrymore
persona here as the suave head of a racket of jewel thieves. He ain't
no Ronald Colman of "Raffles" or William Powell of "Jewel Robbery", but
a slightly portly lothario who seems to have forgotten that he's past
the era of seducing young girls and taking them away from their
same-aged boyfriends, which he attempts to do here with Marian Nixon
and her fiancée, William Janney.
"If it wasn't for men like me, there wouldn't be a necessity for men like you", he tells a detective out to bust up his racket, and you know he's dead serious. Even if he runs a seemingly legitimate nightclub, frequented by the well-dressed social set, he's uncontent in his lot, and continues to knock off jewelry shops when the right moment comes along. Hugh Trevor is the handsome but rather amoral pal who goes too far in Sherman's eyes when he robs the struggling Janney right after Nixon has agreed to marry him. This puts Sherman into a sort of George Arliss style plot; He takes the down on their luck lovers into his home, yet plans to steal Nixon for himself until Trevor takes matters into his own hands to get revenge for being humiliated by being exposed for what he claims was just a practical joke.
Slightly creaky and extremely stagy, this early talkie crime drama with elements of drawing room comedy manages to entertain in spite of its constant shift in moods. It certainly isn't a rival to the big crime dramas of the time ("Little Cesar", "Public Enemy", "Scarface") yet isn't without merit. Sherman also directs this film which he would do for a few later films he starred in, which brings into question the man's ego, one seemingly as huge as Barrymore's yet without that unforgettable profile and over-sized personality.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For his second feature as an actor-director, Lowell Sherman hogs the limelight in the very stagily written, directed, acted, photographed and set, The Pay-Off. Based on a stage play which never made Broadway, little has been done to open it out for the screen. However, director Sherman has an advantage over the rest of the cast which be exploits to the hilt, hogging the camera unmercifully even when he is seated in a two-shot or a grouping of four or five. He also uses his penetrating voice to draw the audience's full attention his way and is the only actor to use such a generous amount of black-ringed eye make-up on his pancake-powdered face, so that you and I can easily pick him out in a crowd. The other players do what they can to upstage actor Sherman, but as he was also the director, they face a losing battle. I can't even remember what the chief villain looks like, but have no trouble recalling Sherman's image. I also remember Marian Nixon, who was one of the very few silent stars who had no trouble at all converting to sound, although she did retire after making her 73rd movie in 1936, after marrying director William A. Seiter in 1934. After Seiter died in 1964, she married Ben Lyon (of all people) in 1971. This was certainly news to me. I grew up with Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels and when Bebe was forced to abandon "Life with the Lyons" for health reasons, the nation went into shock. So Ben returned to the U.S.A. and married Marian Nixon? The things you find out on IMDb! Anyway, getting back to the stagily directed "Pay-Off", it does admittedly hold the interest for its 71 minutes, despite Sherman's constant on-camera thesping. The only time he relaxes and throws a bit of meat to a fellow thespian occurs when he shares a scene with George Marion. Available on a very good Alpha DVD.
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