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Lady Killer (1933)

 -  Comedy | Crime  -  9 December 1933 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 986 users  
Reviews: 22 user | 12 critic

A former gangster makes it big in Hollywood, but his old life catches up with him.



(screen play), (screen play), 2 more credits »
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Complete credited cast:
Leslie Fenton ...
Spade (as Douglas Dumbrille)
Russell Hopton ...
Raymond Hatton ...
Henry O'Neill ...
Robert Elliott ...
Marjorie Gateson ...
Mrs. Marley
Willard Robertson ...
Detective Conroy
William B. Davidson ...
Director Williams (as William Davidson)
Douglas Cosgrove ...
Detective Jones


When a movie theater usher is fired, he takes up with criminals and finds himself quite adept at various illegal activities. Eventually though, the police catch up with him, and he runs to hide out in Los Angeles. There he stumbles into the movie business and soon rises to stardom. He has gone straight, but his newfound success arouses the interest of his old criminal associates, who are not above blackmail... Written by Ken Yousten <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Warner Bros. screen scoop of the year teaming Jimmie again with the girl he slapped all the way from obscurity to fame in "Public Enemy" See more »


Comedy | Crime


TV-G | See all certifications »





Release Date:

9 December 1933 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Finger Man  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


When Myra (Mae Clarke) is reading from the California travel brochure, she gets a worried look on her face when she reads "Grapefruit." This is a reference to The Public Enemy (1931) (which also stars James Cagney and Clarke) where Cagney's character pushes a grapefruit into the face of hers. See more »


After the robbery of the robbery of the wealthy woman's home the paper says a maid was struck and seriously injured; and later in Cagney's office they're still talking about a maid who screams. Later when the guy who actually hit comes back scared; he's says the butler died. See more »


Myra Gale: Hey, what about we go to Florida?
Dan Quigley: Uh-uh. Too many hurricanes, blow you right out of bed. Wake up in the morning and find a boat in your lap.
See more »


References Dark Hazard (1934) See more »


Isn't It Heavenly
(1933) (uncredited)
Music by Joseph Meyer
Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg
Played when Myra invites Dan into her apartment.
See more »

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User Reviews

Gangster Gone Hollywood
18 October 2013 | by (Greenwich, CT United States) – See all my reviews

Look out, world! Jimmy Cagney's coming to Hollywood and whether they use bullets or make-up the con artists haven't got a chance, in this raucous send-up featuring a New York crime boss who lands himself where the real action is – on a theater marquee.

Cagney is a wise guy named Dan Quigley who can't make it as a movie usher, so he raises his sights from lavatory dice games to breaking into rich folks' homes with the help of a nasty gang. When that goes bad and the gang leaves him flat, Quigley finds a new line in Hollywood, first as an extra, soon after as a "Famous He-Man of the Screen." But what will happen when the old gang shows up for a piece of the action?

The marquee in lights near the start of the film advertises someone called "The Prince Of Pep." He might as well be Cagney in this streamlined star vehicle, written entirely to showcase his fast patter and easy charm. Cagney's so good they don't even bother to build a coherent film around his character, and it hardly matters.

If you want to see a great Cagney film, there are perhaps a couple dozen better candidates. But if you want to see why the guy clicked so hard in the days of early sound, and still packs a punch 80 years later, this should be on your short list.

Cagney's lines here are priceless. To a dog being held by a theater manager who just fired him: "Listen, Fido, this guy's got a wooden leg. Try it sometime!"

To a group of card sharps who just cleaned him out: "I think I'll stick to checkers."

To the same group, after he's figured out their scam: "You kick back with my fifty bucks, or I'll fold your joint like an accordion!"

Just seconds later, he proposes a partnership. "You got a sweet racket here. Maybe I can show you a few new wrinkles."

"Lady Killer" was made just before the Hays Code was seriously enforced, which makes for interesting viewing. Reviewers here have already pointed out a scene when we see Quigley sneak Mae Clarke's character Myra a peck on the breast. The film takes even greater advantage of the liberal mores then still in effect by letting Quigley get away with his crimes. Sure, he goes straight, sort of, but only because he finds a better racket than potentially homicidal B&Es. There's no moment of Quigley coming to regret his wicked past, as censors would have required just months later.

That makes for a more entertaining Cagney vehicle, but a somewhat disjointed film. Director Roy Del Ruth keeps things moving quick, but in odd directions in tone, turning "Lady Killer" from a semi-serious gangster story to a genially goofy Hollywood satire. In his DVD commentary, Drew Casper calls "Lady Killer" a "shyster satire." It might also be called a "crooked comedy;" no one is on the level, whichever side of the law they're on.

So in Hollywood, we see Quigley break big after really slugging an extra in a mock prison break scene, and further his path toward stardom by faking fan letters. It's shallow stuff, but fun, especially as it all plays so fast. Other than the star, pacing is "Lady Killer's" ace in the hole.

Clarke should have graduated from the grapefruit league with this performance. She and Cagney resume their fireworks from "Public Enemy," this time with even more outrageous stunts, but Clarke, here the first- billed female, does wise work making sure we enjoy her comeuppance. Even her catty asides to Cagney, or the way she shamelessly plays with her hair while shaking him down for (more) dough, is on par with Barbara Stanwyck's star-making wickedness.

But make no mistake, "Lady Killer" is Cagney's baby, and he makes it work, despite the tone shifts and the odd title (Quigley's not a killer himself, and doesn't play with women's affections). You root for the guy despite his crookedness, and that's all that matters in the end.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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