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Bordertown (1935)

Approved | | Crime, Drama | 23 January 1935 (USA)
Johnny Ramirez rises from bouncer to partner in Charlie Roark's border town casino. Charlie's wife Marie loves Johnny, but Johnny loves society woman Dale. Marie kills her husband, making ... See full summary »


(as Archie L. Mayo)


(screen play), (screen play) | 2 more credits »

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Complete credited cast:
Dale Elwell
Charlie Roark
Mrs. Ramirez (as Soledad Jimenez)
Hobart Cavanaugh ...
Brook Manville
Dr. Carter (as William Davidson)
Arthur Stone ...
Manuel Diego
Vivian Tobin ...
Mrs. Garner


Johnny Ramirez rises from bouncer to partner in Charlie Roark's border town casino. Charlie's wife Marie loves Johnny, but Johnny loves society woman Dale. Marie kills her husband, making it look like suicide. She tells Johnny she committed murder for him and, still rejected, tells the police that she and Johnny murdered Charlie. She goes crazy in court and Johnny goes free. Dale runs from Johnny and dies in an auto crash. Johnny sells the casino. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

23 January 1935 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Barreira  »

Filming Locations:


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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Several plot points of this movie were used 5 years later in They Drive by Night . See more »


When Dale and Brook leave the Olvera Street cafe, the camera follows them down the street. Several objects and people pass between them and the camera, and the shadow of the camera falls across several of these. At one point, the shadow of a technician wearing a cap (presumably the camera operator) is plainly visible against a flat surface. See more »


Marie Roark: The only fun I get is feeding the goldfish, and they only eat once a day.
See more »


La Cachimba de San Juan
Music by Lorenzo Barcelata
See more »

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User Reviews

Smoldering Anger Against Racism
11 October 2009 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Although Paul Muni does go over the top a bit in Bordertown, the film remains a savage indictment of racism, concentrating as it does on the struggles of one man in a racial/ethnic minority to find a place in this society.

In a biography of Paul Muni I read that he deliberately hired a Mexican driver who stayed with him for several weeks so he could copy his mannerisms and get down the proper speech pattern. He didn't do half bad as Johnny Ramirez, the disbarred attorney who turns to the dark side.

The story has Muni bright and eager to start making a living as a lawyer and please his mom Soledad Jimenez who sacrificed a lot so her kid could study law. But in his first appearance in court he loses his temper and manages to get himself disbarred.

Had this been a white attorney, I assure you he might have gotten a slap on the wrist and a censure, but not a disbarment. Broken in spirit, Muni ends up working for Eugene Palette at a road house as a bouncer.

He also catches the eye of Palette's wife played by Bette Davis. But Muni has eyes for Margaret Lindsay, a society girl who likes to go slumming. In the end both women disillusion and betray him.

Bordertown is one of the darkest films of the Thirties, the future is by no means clear for Muni. Though he does overact a bit, you will not forget the smoldering anger that he brings to the part of Johnny Ramirez. This was the second of two films in which Paul Muni played a person of Mexican background. The other was Juarez and there is 180 degree difference between the angry Ramirez and the stoic Juarez. You can hardly believe it's the same actor, but Muni had one incredible range as a player.

This is a film that could probably stand a remake. I could see someone like Benjamin Bratt or Lou Diamond Phillips in an updated version as Johnny Ramirez, possibly Edward James Olmos. It was in fact made over in part by Warner Brothers in They Drive By Night. But the Mexican heritage and a great deal more was not included in that film.

Until then I recommend Bordertown highly

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