Bill Bailey is a Los Angeles bail bondsman who lives in a world of complete, casual corruption, where all he has to do is pick up the phone to get the charges against a client dismissed. He...
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William A. Wellman
A kind-hearted young man is thrown out of his corrupt home town of West Rome, Oklahoma. He falls asleep and dreams that he is back in the days of olden Rome, where he gets mixed up with court intrigue and a murder plot against the Emperor.
The Goldwyn Girls,
Bill Bailey is a Los Angeles bail bondsman who lives in a world of complete, casual corruption, where all he has to do is pick up the phone to get the charges against a client dismissed. He falls in love with slumming socialite who bluntly and startlingly declares her sexual preferences with this immortal line: "If I could find a man who would be my master and give me a good thrashing, I'd follow him around like a dog on a leash."
This is another case of a film that turned out to be different than I had expected: in fact, I thought it would be a gangster picture which is why I watched it following 2 Josef von Sternberg genre entries that happened to feature the same star, George Bancroft! Still, it does concern a racket of some kind since the protagonist is a leading bail-bondsman with an ability to pull strings where and when required (if anything, this was an area of work which was hardly ever touched by cinema and certainly not at this point!).
The film came at the tail-end of the "Pre-Code" era, but it offers plenty of salacious elements notably a gratuitous semi-nude Hawaiian dance and the uninhibited character of Frances Dee (which she herself described as "a masochistic nymphomaniacal kleptomaniac"!). Ironically, the lovely actress soon to marry Joel McCrea and perhaps best-known for the Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur horror classic I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943) had just come off something from the opposite end of the spectrum, the David O. Selznick/George Cukor adaptation of the literary classic LITTLE WOMEN (1933)! Anyway, as had been the case with all 3 Bancroft vehicles I watched prior to this (there was also yet another Sternberg title, albeit not genre-related), he is played up to be something of a ladies' man (whereas a review of THUNDERBOLT  had described his physical appearance as "repellent"!) but, at least, here he eventually settles down with someone closer to his type and age i.e. Judith Anderson in an early and atypically glamorous role (she is the owner of a speak-easy which comes equipped with a chanteuse whose vocal range takes in both Mae West and Al Jolson!).
Another important character is Anderson's younger brother, an unrepentant criminal whom Bancroft is often required to bail-out for the woman's sake. However, the situation is complicated when Dee (another of the hero's clients) enters the picture Bancroft neglects Anderson for her but, after she meets the "exciting" young man herself, begins an affair with him behind her 'protector''s back! In a complex turn-of-events, the protagonist himself becomes a pariah and is marked for death (via an exploding billiard-ball a' la Buster Keaton's SHERLOCK JR. !) by the city's gangland factions with Anderson's consent! but, ultimately, she sees the error of her ways and races against time to stop the attempt (suspense is admirably built here through cross-cutting, with her car even getting involved in a wreck!). The finale sees the two getting back together while Dee bumps into a girl who had been practically ravaged by her proposed employer when answering an ad and, ever a glutton for punishment, she takes up the call herself!
Finally, this is the first of 3 pictures by Rowland Brown (who seems to favor shooting from odd angles!) I will be watching over the course of succeeding days the others are the thrillers QUICK MILLIONS (1931) and HELL'S HIGHWAY (1932); incidentally, he would make another film with Bancroft i.e. the gangster milestone ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938) by which time, however, both had been demoted: the director to co-scriptwriter status and the star to a supporting role!
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