CONTAINS SPOILERS. 'King Solomon of Broadway' is one of several low-budget movies that tough-guy actor Edmund Lowe made in the waning days of his career, teamed with director Alan Crosland ... whose career was also in a downhill phase at this point, but who might have made a comeback had he not died in a road accident.
A cliché that I really dislike is the one about the macho drifter who wins some immensely valuable piece of property in a card game. How often does this happen in real life? We're supposed to accept that this guy just naturally wins card games by virtue of being nervier than everybody else. This time round, the cliché character is nicknamed King Solomon, because of his alleged wisdom. His girlfriend is named Sheba. (Geddit?)
Actually, the cliché gets a slightly realistic variation this time. King Solomon is ostensibly the owner of a nightclub which he supposedly won in a card game. The twist is that the real owner of the nightclub is gangster Ice Larson. Solomon is fronting for Ice because of Ice's criminal record. I found this plausible, having encountered some similar situations in real life.
Another twist that lifts this movie out of the cliché is the fact that, for once, the macho drifter isn't quite so lucky. King Solomon, who's allegedly a wise man, turns out to be just a wiseguy. He gets into a poker game with some rival gangsters, and (surprise!) he loses. He bets the deed to the nightclub, which he doesn't actually own. Surprise! He loses again. Rather than admit he's skint, Solomon gives the goons an I.O.U. to the property. Now he's got to get that chit back.
Rather implausibly, Solomon tries to get back into the game with a Michigan roll. For those who came in late, a Michigan roll is a bankroll with a big bill on the outside, and all the rest are $1 bills. Solomon's version is even worse: a $100 bill on the outside, and all the rest is blank paper. (Maybe he's planning to say the ink faded.) The gangsters fail to fall for this folding-money foolery.
Much of the action(?) of this movie occurs in the nightclub, which supplies an excuse for some musical numbers. These are provided by Pinky Tomlin, an energetic performer who should have made more movies. Tomlin reminds me of Kay Kyser: both were bespectacled genial guys who were talented musicians but preferred to flavour their music with comedy. Unfortunately, Tomlin's material isn't very good here ... and he co-wrote it, so he deserves some of the blame.
Solomon's girlfriend Sheba (hoo boy) is played by Dorothy Page, an actress I've never seen before. She's quite pretty, but she looks remarkably like Loretta Young ... unless perhaps the makeup artist and hairstylist are deliberately trying to make her look like Young. From what's on offer here, Dorothy Page didn't have even a fraction of Loretta Young's acting ability and screen presence.
Charley Grapewin plays a twee codger who doesn't resemble anybody you'd ever meet in real life. Matters are not helped by a (mercifully) brief appearance by African-American actor Fred Toones, supplying some alleged comedy relief. You could start a good argument over whether or not Fred Toones was more annoying than Stepin Fetchit. They both played 'yassuh' roles, but Toones tended to throw in some effeminacy. There are a few good points in 'King Solomon of Broadway' but they're far between. I'll rate this thinly-plotted thick-ear movie 4 out of 10.
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