One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
Soapy Gibson (Edward Ellis) and his wife Annie (Marjorie Rambeau) run a lonely hearts club in a small town. Even during the Depression years these were often "clip joints" - places where people with money but no mate got taken by someone offering the promise of companionship. However, Soapy and Annie are strictly on the level - and they have more than one reason to want to stay on the level. You see Soapy escaped from the law years ago, had some plastic surgery and changed his name, and has been living on the lam with his wife ever since. The film opens with a weekly meeting of the lonely hearts club in progress, and the only real complaint anybody can make is that the neighbors hate the volume and singing voice of one member of the club. The Gibsons are saving up to buy a farm, which has always been their dream.
Then something upsets their lifestyle completely. The mother of one of Soapy's old gang is dying and sends a letter asking if Soapy and his wife will take care of the gang member's daughter. You see, the daughter has been told her father is dead when he has been in jail for many years, plus the daughter has no memory of her father at all. At first the Gibsons balk about this, and are afraid that the cops might figure Soapy's real identity if the old gang member's daughter is living with them. But the girl (Dorothy Jordan as Mary) steals their hearts. They change her name to Gibson so that nobody will get wise to her real identity, and the three begin to gel into a family unit in the MGM tradition, although this is a Paramount film. Eddie Quillan plays Andy, a young reporter who takes an interest in Mary, and the Gibsons approve of their dating.
Up to now things have been rather slow, and I was actually beginning to get a little bored with this film. But things liven up pretty quickly. Louis Calhern as Magruder, a violent con-man, enters the scene. The plastic surgeon who did Soapys surgery told Magruder about Soapy before he died, and Magruder uses that information to muscle in on the Gibsons' lonely hearts club and make it a real clip joint. The Gibsons have a real dilemma on their hands. If Magruder hangs around and clips the wrong person, it puts them in the headlights of the police. If they say no to Magruder, he'll tip them off to Soapy's real identity.
To complicate matters, Magruder has his eye on having Mary for himself. What follows is a murder, a frame up, and three people all rushing to the airport on a rainy night to gun down Magruder. All three get there at the same time - one succeeds. But who succeeded? Apparently the police don't know and this movie is impossible to spoil because the audience never knows either! It seems that society is better off without this guy and the movie leaves it at that. As the city desk editor says when young reporter Andy calls in and says Magruder's been shot and killed - "Good!".
The whole thing has a precode ending as a murderer unknown goes unpunished with Soapy apparently in the clear for his past misdeeds. If Edward Ellis looks familiar, he's the original "Thin Man" in 1934's "The Thin Man" - the guy whose disappearance is at the heart of the mystery in the first place. I thought Dorothy Jordan was very good here as the teenage girl. She showed much more range than she did in those early sound musicals over at MGM. She's still playing it sweet and straight, but there is some genuine mischief and playfulness being demonstrated. Marjorie Rambeau is just perfect as an aging flapper, loyal wife to Soapy, surrogate mom to Mary, astute, tough, and tender depending on what's called for. Louis Calhern is pitch perfect as always as a villain with perfect manners - unless you cross him.
This is a good film, well worth your time in spite of a lack of big name stars - in fact there's not one contract Paramount player in the cast. Recommended.
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