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William A. Seiter
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Czechoslovakian immigrant Karel Novak fulfills his dream of coming to America only to learn at Ellis Island the entrance fee has been raised from $50 to $200. Unable to pay, he is put on a ship going back to Holland, but jumps off, swimming to Manhattan, and losing his wallet on shore. He is elated at what he sees, the skyscrapers, the automobiles and the opulence. While stealing doughnuts from a lunch table for girls rehearsing for a show, he befriends 19-year-old chorus girl, Sylvia Dennis, who then lets him sleep on the roof of her apartment building. Her young brother, Frank, gets him a job selling newspapers and he gradually works up into driving a cab. Meanwhile, romance blossoms, and when authorities threaten to send Frank to a young boys' home until Sylvia gets married, Karel proposes and Sylvia accepts. But the spectre of his illegal status causes him to see a lawyer about becoming a citizen. He unknowingly goes to shyster Halsey J. Pander, who turns him in for the money. Written by
Arthur Hausner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This delightful work details the struggle of a Czech illegal immigrant, Karel Novak (Francis Lederer), to remain in the United States during the Depression, with a sparkling script limning the cultural impact of New York City upon the newcomer. Stephen Roberts directs with his customary skill in one of his final films (he died shortly after at the age of 40) and avoids both the hyperbolic and hypocritical, particularly significant when we are given the insincerity which marks the current immigration debate with its rough moral equivalence. The Bohemian-born Lederer's strong performance is quite probably his best, with an excellent and witty scenario providing the cast, which includes many of RKO's many contract players, an opportunity to create characterizations that are well-defined. Ginger Rogers nicely portrays Lederer's love interest and there is excellent acting from Sidney Toler and J. Farrell MacDonald as two of a contingent of New York's Finest (all Irish, of course) whose assistance is crucial to the process of bringing the complicated events to a suitable climax. Superlative editing by Jack Hively must be recognized as must the top-flight camera-work of Nick Musuraca, each contributing mightily to a film which should be better known.
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