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Bordertown (1935)

 -  Crime | Drama  -  23 January 1935 (USA)
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 932 users  
Reviews: 24 user | 7 critic

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 »

Director:

(as Archie L. Mayo)

Writers:

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

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Marie Roark
...
Dale Elwell
...
Charlie Roark
Robert Barrat ...
Padre
Soledad Jiménez ...
Mrs. Ramirez (as Soledad Jimenez)
Hobart Cavanaugh ...
Harry
Gavin Gordon ...
Brook Manville
William B. Davidson ...
Dr. Carter (as William Davidson)
Arthur Stone ...
Manuel Diego
Vivian Tobin ...
Mrs. Garner
Edit

Storyline

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

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

23 January 1935 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Barreira  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Paul Muni hired a Mexican man as chauffeur to study his accent and mannerisms in preparation for this role. See more »

Goofs

When Johnny shows Marie to her car, the shadow of the camera is visible on the car door. See more »


Soundtracks

A Great Big Bunch of You
(1932) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Warren
Played at the Silver Slipper
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Production Code Asserts Itself
23 October 2009 | by (Claremont,USA) – See all my reviews

As a poor Mexican-American boy, Muni labors to get a night-school law degree, but can't make a professional living in such a poor neighborhood. Ambitious and tough, he works his way into heading a gambling casino. Though a financial success, he loses his way in a white- dominated social world.

It's 1934 and the notorious Hollywood Production Code has just kicked in. Few studios were more affected than Warner Bros., the home of the uncompromising gangster films of Cagney, Robinson, and Muni. There are elements of the typical rags-to-riches gangster theme in this movie, but the tone and content have altered from the pre-Code product. Note the complete absence of gunplay, dead bodies, brutality, and other staples of such pre-Code classics as Public Enemy (1931), Little Caesar (1931), and Scarface (1932).

Technically, this is not a gangster movie-- Muni may be shady, yet he's no criminal. But that too, I believe, results from trying to get right with the new Code. Note how business rivals try to buy out Palette's casino instead of just muscling-in in classic gangster fashion. And though the girls sport some pretty revealing gowns, Muni refuses Davis's overtures, while remaining unclear on his relationship with Lindsey. Such compromises likely result from the producers not wanting sexual relationships to cross racial lines. Contrast this with the strong hints of incest, no less, in the free-wheeling Scarface.

In short, the movie has the trappings of a gangster film, yet departs in ways that I think are traceable to the newly installed Code. Among others, the new strictures were supposed to end public enthrallment with the underworld by deglamorizing it. Thus, Bordertown lacks many of the risky elements that made Warner Bros. such a riveting and dynamic studio during its classical period.

Now, this is not to say the movie is without interest or entertainment value. It took some guts to make Muni's central character a Mexican-American and cast him in a sympathetic light. In fact, the only thoroughly dislikable character is Lindsey's snobbish white boyfriend (Manville). At the same time, I agree with others who think Muni's performance is too florid, along with an accent that sort of comes and goes. He looks the part, but never gets past the impersonation stage. On the other hand, Davis's one scene of nervous frustration while alone in a room is a little gem of mounting hysteria, and makes me appreciate how well she emoted with her expressive eyes. However, it's Margaret Lindsay who walks off with the movie, at least in my view. Her devious upper-class lady is compellingly natural and unaffected, an interesting contrast to Muni's undiluted staginess.

Anyway, the movie may be a come-down from Warner's pre-Code product, but still includes a couple of good twists (e.g. the first courtroom scene). It's also worth a look-see for anyone interested in the evolution of the gangster movie.


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