Nick Venizelos, an immigrant Greek barber, has an uncommon affinity for poker and other sorts of wagering and a group of his friends bankroll him in a big game, where his weakness for pretty blondes is taken advantage of by sleazy operator Sleepy Sam who cleans him out in a rigged game. Nick accepts help from his buddy Jack as they turn the tables on the grifters, but triumph soon changes to tragedy. Written by
Gabe Taverney (email@example.com)
At the time the movie was made, James Cagney had appeared in several movies but was not yet a big star. During the making of Smart Money, Cagney was simultaneously filming The Public Enemy with director William A. Wellman. (Screenwriters Kubec Glasmon and John Bright were re-writing dialogue for "Public Enemy" while working on the set of "Smart Money.") Knowing that his friend Edward G. Robinson was already a star, Cagney deferred to Robinson in most of their scenes together. But by the time "Smart Money" was released, "The Public Enemy" had been out for several months and had made Cagney a star as well, so Warner Brothers put Cagney and Robinson's faces together on posters for the film, and gave them equal billing. See more »
According to video commentators Ursini and Silver, Robinson starred as Luis Pasteur, a role that was played by Paul Muni. Also they credit "Scarface" as a Universal picture. It was actually a Caddo Picture released by United Artists. See more »
This is not exactly the sort of film you'd expect from Edward G. Robinson in 1931. While he was well-known for his gangster roles, this character isn't a saint by any stretch, but he's far from vicious or deadly like "Little Caesar". In addition, this early film is the only film that ever paired him with Jimmy Cagney. Cagney, at this point, was the lesser star and has a rather small role in the film as Robinson's right-hand man. The breakout film, THE PUBLIC ENEMY, was released just before SMART MONEY and at the point of making this second film, the studio didn't know that he was now a mega-star.
Robinson is a barber with an uncanny ability to gamble and win. Eventually, he and his friends pool their money and send him to "the big city" and even though he at first is bankrupted, he eventually becomes the biggest and most famous gambler around the country. The only problems are that he's a lousy judge of women AND the District Attorney is out to get him no matter what it takes! The film is pretty well written and interesting--not the usual gangster stuff. Plus, there are a few neat scenes that took place since the film was created before the strict Production Code was created--so you get to see Eddie kick a woman in the rear as well as have another lady try to offer him sex to pay off her debt to him! Pretty risqué here and there, but in general this isn't really that violent or salacious a film. Just a good drama with some nice twists and decent acting.
PS--When you watch the film, look for a brief cameo by Boris Karloff. He does have a few speaking lines, but he has a rather odd accent--a Brit trying to sound like an American mug.
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