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It's the New York Department of Weights and Measures vs. a systematic effort to cheat the public by giving them less product than they pay for...organized by crooked city alderman Marty Cavanaugh, who put the last chief deputy inspector in the hospital. The new man, pugnacious Johnny Cave, steps on the toes of influential merchants and gets increasing pressure, both political and strong-arm, to desist. Will the luck (if not the pluck) of the Irish pull him through? Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Early in the movie, Cagney's Johnny Cave character tells his gumshoes in the Office of Weights and Measures that in the previous year, unscrupulous shop owners had cheated the American consumer out of more money than the aggregate National War Debt! Then he goes out and tickets a particularly greasy green grocer for short-selling him a bag of sugar that is four ounces off (oh, the horrors!!) and one skinny chicken that his butcher's scale has rather generously proclaimed to be six lbs., after which the fur--or in this case feathers--flies. Er, fly. When a racketeer in politician's clothing attempts to derail an investigation into the paltry poultry purveyor's practices, our hero becomes a lone wolf waging the war of the weights on behalf of housewives across America. After all, four cents here and a quarter there add up and before we know it we have anarchy! Word of his intransigence soon reaches both the Mayor and the Governor's offices, and Cagney becomes a marked man. If it sounds silly, it's not--the dishonest retailing practices are only a plot tool (or as Hitchcock would say, the McGuffin) and while unfamiliar, it works every bit as well here as any Treasury Agent or G-man anthology in which the fight is taken to shady crooks who are operating outside the interests of the country's common good. The production standards are decidedly Grade-B, but it is Cagney who makes this movie the delight that it is: this was his first film away from Warner Brothers after seeking release in court from his unreasonable contract, and he seems to be at ease and enjoying himself tremendously--the performance turned in here is intelligent and crackles with his unique energy and surefire charisma. Mae Clarke's presence lends a definite Warner's feel to the overall production. The supporting players turn in solid performances and the story moves along smartly after a rocky introduction that seems to begin three or four reels into the story--but sit back and enjoy it for the Cagney showcase and engaging Depression-era time capsule that it is.
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