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Two young jewel thieves, Tommy and Gordon, stash their jewels on slightly dotty Aunt Martha to avoid the cops. They dupe her into helping them fence the goods. She moves in with the boys, and learns about their criminal activities. She helps reform Tommy, who is falling in love with local girl Judy. When Tommy agrees to one last job, it's up to Aunt Martha to get him out of trouble and save his burgeoning love affair with Judy. Written by
... because in spite of being released on DVD via Sony's MOD program, hardly anyone ever reviews the film and I've never seen it on TV, not even on Turner Classic Movies.
This was a blind buy for me, and it is among the best of the early production code films, which often got ridiculously sentimental in attempts to not violate the code. This one is a little sentimental, but it's interesting and a bit different too. In spite of having everything going for it - good quality script, acting, and production values, it does have a near anonymous cast, even for classic film fans, and that may be the reason it is overlooked.
A 65 year old woman (Henrietta Crosman as Martha Abbott) walks out on her family after basically being made to feel old and unwanted. She leaves a home she owns outright and shares with her difficult nephew and nephew's wife. We never see the argument that drove her out, but we do get to meet the nephew and his wife when they go to the police in a panic about missing aunt Martha. You see, it turns out they probably don't want Aunt Martha back as much as they need her to close on the house - after all she holds title, and they can't sell without her.
Meanwhile a trio of jewel thieves are about to get pinched for their latest robbery. The youngest among them walks into the park where he sees Martha, sitting there looking lost and forlorn He starts a conversation, and stuffs the stolen jewels into her things. The police come up and question them, search the boy, and eventually figure these are not the thieves and leave. The jewel thieves take Martha home with them, at first planning to turn her out the next day. But then a cop sees the back door open, starts wandering around, and is instantly disarmed by Martha's demeanor since she seems like everyone's grandmother. The thieves now see the usefulness of Martha as an apparently harmless front to their operations, and they hire her as a cook and housekeeper.
Martha is not as clueless as you'd think though, and she soon figures out what the three are up to. But she also figures out that Tommy is not a hardened criminal like the other two, although outwardly he is very gruff and pretty disrespectful of Martha. She can see that the other two thieves plan to use Tommy to take the real risks in their operation, all the while acting like they are teaching him some kind of trade. She hangs around to try to make Tommy see the error of his ways and to act as a bit of a matchmaker between Tommy and "the girl next door" - literally - Judy.
Ivan F. Simpson plays Smeed, the most outwardly tough of the two hardened thieves, and that's an interesting bit of casting since I'm used to seeing him play gentleman's gentleman types. Arthur Hoyl plays the other thief, which is not an unusual turn for him since he usually played back-stabbing underhanded types. Of the three thieves he is the most slippery and very good at controlling Tommy, making him think he is always thinking of him.
I'd recommend it to anybody who likes films from the 1930's.
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