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The Big Shakedown (1934)

Racketeers flood the market with counterfeit cosmetics and drugs, causing some tragedies.


(screenplay), (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

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Complete credited cast:
John, the New Salesman
Robert Emmett O'Connor ...
Regan, the Bartender
Renee Whitney ...
Mae LaRue
Gyp (as George Pat Collins)
Adrian Morris ...
Ben Hendricks Jr. ...
Spike (as Ben Hendricks)
George Cooper ...


Former bootlegger Nick Barnes pressures neighborhood druggist Jimmy Morrell into making cut-rate drugs. The money makes it possible for Jimmy to marry Norma Frank, a pharmacy clerk. Expecting a baby, she wants Jimmy to quit the racket. Beaten by the mob, Jimmy works on, diluting the medications still further. Norma is rushed to the hospital for a premature delivery and given bogus medication. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

6 January 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Drogas Infernais  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Mae LaRue: [Bursting in on Dutch and Lil in Dutch's office] I told you he was in!
[Sizing up the situation]
Mae LaRue: Hello, lover.
Dutch Barnes: [Straightening his tie nervously] Hello, Mae.
Lily 'Lil' Duran: Hello Mae? You bet he's in; he's in my hair.
[turning to Dutch]
Lily 'Lil' Duran: Why you double-crossing, two-timing slug. So that's why you want to send me to Europe, huh?
Dutch Barnes: Now wait a minute, honey, wait a minute.
Lily 'Lil' Duran: Oh, wait a minute - breezin' me off so you can play post office with this queen. What gutter'dja pick her out of?
Mae LaRue: [...]
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Referenced in This Is Your Life: Bette Davis (1971) See more »


Music by Dana Suesse Lyrics by Edward Heyman
Played during the opening photo credits and often in the score
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User Reviews

early Bette in her ingénue days
3 July 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Charles Farrell, a great silent screen star, appears with Bette Davis and Ricardo Cortez in "The Big Shakedown," a 1934 film featuring Allen Jenkins and Glenda Farrell.

Farrell and Davis are Jimmy and Norma, a boyfriend-girlfriend who marry later in the film. They run a corner drugstore. Cortez is a post- Prohibition gangster, Dutch Baines, looking for a new racket. Patronizing the store one day, he realizes that Jimmy can make his own products, which are identical to ones on the market. However, he isn't selling them claiming that they are the commercial brands; he makes them so he can sell a house brand for less.

Of course, Dutch sees that if these products are sold under the commercial names, he can use their publicity and brand reputation to make a fortune. He talks Jimmy into making toothpaste and beauty products because Jimmy needs money. He's reluctant to do it and planning to quit when Dutch decides to go into medicine and have Jimmy make drugs. Jimmy flatly refuses; Dutch makes noise about Norma's safety, and Jimmy caves.

This is a typical crime film interesting because of the cast. Davis' role is an ordinary ingénue one that could have been played by anyone. She was still getting a build-up and hadn't yet become a star with a special image. She's blond and pretty. Glenda Farrell has the role of Dutch's girlfriend, whom he throws over. Farrell, with her distinctive speaking voice and likable personality always stands out. Cortez does well playing the tough, uncompromising Baines.

Charles Farrell, whom I used to see as an elderly man (your fifties were considered like the seventies back then) when My Little Margie was in syndication, was good-looking and popular in his day. He had a gentleness about him and also an earnestness which he displays here. He retired in 1941 to become a land developer, but returned for Margie, which was followed by his own show. Then he retired again.

Cortez's career as a leading man was just about over. Though he continued working until he retired, he also became a successful broker on Wall Street.

Of interest, the actor who played the young Jewish boy who buys ice cream (a cone was six cents), Sidney Miller, went on to become a director and composer, and actually revamped the Mickey Mouse Club for Walt Disney beginning in its second season.

Amazing that Bette Davis was the only one to stay full-time in acting.

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