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While running away from the police, playboy racketeer Jack 'Lucky' Wilson receives a non-life threatening bullet wound. Lucky manages to escape and drives as far as he can before passing out. Lucky is found by farmer Henry Miller, who believes Lucky is an innocent man who was randomly shot by gangsters. Lucky contacts his partner, Tony Berrelli, who sends the mob payrolled doctor to check on Lucky's condition. Tony believes this situation is perfect: the Miller farm is the perfect hide-out for Lucky from the police during Lucky's recuperation. Farm life is against Lucky's sensibilities, that is until he meets the pretty Miller daughter, Pauline. He immediately falls for her and she for him. Lucky needs to figure out how to reconcile his gangster background with the simple farm life, especially with Henry who has had his own bad experiences with racketeers, and with the police who are still after him. Written by
"Sweet" is not a word I've ever used to describe a film, mostly because the films that might merit the word are invariably too sappy to qualify. But "Hide-Out" pulls it off and truly deserves that description.
Much like "Bad Bascomb" (1946) and "Angel and the Badman" (1947) this is the story of an incorrigible criminal who is reformed because of his accidental association with good people. In "Hide-out" they are not reformers and there is no deliberate effort to reform; the character change comes because the positive examples cause him to adopt their values and belief system.
Robert Montgomery plays Lucky Wilson, a charming Broadway playboy who is part of a protection racket specializing in nightclubs. His boss gets a percentage of each club's profits and Lucky insures the payoff is correct by estimating each club's business from their napkin usage (a convenient procedure because they control the laundry the clubs use).
The opening sequence is exceptionally well staged, with Lucky's insatiable appetite for women revealed through a montage of blonde conquests; in the opening minutes he goes from a girlfriend's maid, to the girlfriend, to another girlfriend waiting for him in a car, to a new conquest at the night club he visits. During the brief intervals between conquests he finds time to leer and flirt with every pretty girl who crosses his path.
All these girls are blonds with lots of makeup and with elaborate hairstyles. Their appearances are meant to contrast with the natural appearance of Pauline Miller (Margaret O'Sullivan), the girl with whom he eventually falls in love.
"Hide-Out" is one of those films where the casting is perfect, as you cannot imagine anyone but Montgomery and O'Sullivan being able to pull this out without appearing completely silly. They are nicely assisted by Elizabeth Patterson (as Pauline's mother) and by a very young Mickey Rooney (as Pauline's younger brother Willie). The standing gag is Willie's frustrated attempts to get the family to call him Bill. His scenes with Montgomery are especially good and it is interesting how much natural acting talent he exhibits this early in his career. They go out on a standing gag about the reproductive abilities of the rabbits he has been raising.
A big reason why the film works is the attention paid to the details,. A second viewing will reveal many things you do not even notice the first time around, like Montgomery's continuing discomfort with "nature" when he brushes a rose bush in the front of the house. There are hundreds of these little details, most of them involving the citified Montgomery's fish-out-of-water adjustments to country life.
There was a 1941 remake titled "I'll Wait for You" staring Robert Sterling and Marsha Hunt. Although I love Marsha Hunt the 1934 original is easily the better film.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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