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J. Farrell MacDonald
Mary Rutledge arrives from the east, finds her fiance dead, and goes to work at the roulette wheel of Louis Charnalis' Bella Donna, a rowdy gambling house in San Francisco in the 1850s. She falls in love with miner Carmichael and takes his gold dust at the wheel. She goes after him, Louis goes after her with intent to harm Carmichael. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Masterful acting highlight this overlooked gem that features just about everything you'd want out of a classic from the Golden Era of movies. Miriam Hopkins plays a poor girl from New York who travels to San Francisco to marry a man she's never met but once she arrives she learns that he has been murdered. Since she didn't love him, she decides to team up with the man responsible for his death, a ruthless casino owner (Edward G. Robinson) who wants to keep the town under his rule. Soon the woman begins to have second thoughts after meeting young man (Joel McCrea) from her old hometown. Hawks has a big following today and many consider him one of the greatest director's of all time but I'm really not sure I'd join such high praise. I did find it rather strange that when people mention his work this title is often left out, which is too bad because I found this to be one of the most entertaining of his career even though he did take the picture over from William Wyler. Some have called this LITTLE CAESAR set during the gold rush and that might be a fair saying but you could also mix in another Robinson picture, THE HATCHET MAN. This film here is pulp entertainment from start to finish as we have three legends really giving it their all in a pretty good story that contains romance, action, drama, comedy and one masterfully directed sequence. This sequence takes place as a vigilante group is holding a trial while walking through some mud. The sound effects used here and the constant editing down towards the mud is priceless and will certainly remain in the viewers mind long after the film ends. Robinson dives head first into his role and really delivers one of the finest performances of his career. His scenes where the character goes mad or better yet, love struck, are priceless and really pack a nice little punch as he goes off the deep end. The evilness Robinson brings to the role was not only creepy but it added to the entertainment value just because it will also put a smile on your face. Hopkins is also terrific and manages to deliver a full performance full of all sorts of emotions. Her character goes through various stages and the actress captures all of them perfectly. Her and Robinson have wonderful chemistry and I was shocked to learn after the movie that the two hated working with one another on this film. McCrea is also terrific and plays the naive and soft-spoken character wonderfully. The supporting cast features the wonderful Walter Brennan, Frank Craven, Brian Donlevy, Harry Carey and Donald Meek. The film's biggest problem is the ending, which really felt added on but I haven't been able to find anywhere that it was forced by the studio. Why this film isn't better known is beyond me but there's enough packed in here for two movies so hopefully more people will check it out.
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