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|Index||15 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After getting two Oscars in a row, Big City must have been a let down
for Luise Rainer. This must have been Louis B. Mayer's way of
"punishing" a recalcitrant star. Probably the reason Ms. Rainer left
Hollywood rather abruptly.
Big City is an average programmer with the distinction of having Frank Borzage direct it, a man who specialized in bittersweet romances. Rainer is the wife of Spencer Tracy a cab driver. The drivers for his company are in a taxi war with another company that employs the strong arm goon squad of William Demarest. This is one of the few times that Bill Demarest ever played a serious villain. What Tracy's bunch doesn't know is that Demarest has a mole with Tracy's company.
When Victor Varconi who is Luise Rainer's brother attempts to infiltrate, he's killed by a bomb and it's made to look like Rainer and he cooked up a plot that Varconi got caught up in. Since she's six weeks shy of being a citizen, the politicians get the brilliant idea of making the whole thing go away by having her deported. So Tracy and the rest of his crew hide her out. Rainer is also very much pregnant.
In the climax of the film which involves a number of former boxing champions headed by Jack Dempsey joining with Tracy's drivers to best the Demarest bunch every Hollywood cliché you can think of is thrown into the film. Let's just say that several things personal and political all get resolved in one finale.
Tracy is fine as the working class hero of the group. Tracy was never bad in anything at least anything he did after he signed with MGM, I can't speak for his earlier work with Fox, I haven't seen most of it. Rainer won her Oscar for The Great Ziegfeld with a telephone scene and of course they give her another one. Her she's talking to the mayor, played by Charley Grapewin, telling him that she will give herself up to be deported to prevent all the cabdrivers who work with her husband from going to jail for obstruction of justice.
I get the feeling that Big City may have been made to publicize Jack Dempsey's new restaurant. After Dempsey quit fighting in the early Thirties, he got some backers and opened up a restaurant located at Broadway and West 50th Street. When I was growing up in the Fifties by that time it was a premier Broadway night spot and I did eat there with my family on one occasion.
Maybe they should have gotten an actor who was a little more like Fiorello La Guardia than Charley Grapewin. But seeing all the old champions of yesteryear is nice even today.
Tracy was between Oscars with Captains Courageous behind him and Boys Town in front of him. He must have wondered what he was doing in a routine programmer as well. But Tracy was nothing if not professional and he's just fine.
Big City is not a bad film, it's really good nostalgia. But it is sure beneath the talents of its leads.
Luise Rainer and Spencer Tracy are an affectionate couple in "Big
City," a small film from MGM, which is surprising, since it has two big
stars in it. The happy world of Joe and Anna is torn apart when her
brother is killed as a result of a war between the independent cabbies
in New York and a large cab company. Anna is blamed and plans are made
to deport her.
Rainer and Tracy make a sweet couple; one really believes they're in love. Tracy is wonderful. Rainer is beautiful with soulful eyes, and of course, she gets another telephone call as in "Hello, Flo" in "The Great Ziegfeld." Rainer takes a lot of heat for winning two Oscars in a row and basically disappearing soon after, as if this was her fault. She was, and still is, a strong-willed woman who came up against Louis B. End of story. He's long dead and she's still alive as of this writing, at the age of 96, and made a film in 2003. So take that, Louis.
This film was made at a time when you weren't supposed to see a woman's pregnancy, and though Anna is pregnant in the story, in fact, far enough along to be ready to give birth, from the look of her, the baby should have weighed half an ounce.
The end of the film is a free-for-all featuring some of the great sports figures of the day, listed in the cast, including Jim Thorpe, Maxie Rosenbloom, and Jack Dempsey. Look for Ruth Hussey in a small part as the mayor's secretary.
The follow-up to "Mannequin" and coming just before the sublime "Three comrades" melodrama ,"Big city" has a bizarre cast and credits showing cartoons Winnie Winkle style .But it's not a comedy.Once again ,it's a drama showing the fight of two lovers against a hostile world.Both Spencer Tracy and Luise Raiser(her eyes are so beautiful) give outstanding performances .Once again,Borzage teaches us real love,true love,pure love ,this love which leads you to sacrifice everything (Anna calling the Police)so the others can go on.He shows us men and women all standing together against the High and the Mighty.Recalling sometimes his great silent work "street angel" (1927)when Tracy visits his wife on the boat about to take her away from him.The final rumble may seem too long ,but after so much pain,it's a sweet relief.Humor is also present in the scene of the bottle of milk.Monsieur Borzage,you were a great man.
... declares Chevy Chase in a fake commercial in the first season of
Saturday Night Live about some strange product that could be one of
several things that nobody can identify. That sentiment applies to this
film too. With Spencer Tracy and Luise Ranier in the lead as a cab
driver husband and his foreign born and raised wife and the MGM
trademark you'd be expecting a melodrama, but when it comes to director
Frank Borzage, expect the unexpected.
The overall theme has to do with the war between a large cab company - Comet Cab - and the independent cab drivers in New York City. It's part tragedy in the willingness of city officials to deport an innocent alien girl (Ranier as Anna) without any real due process in order to avoid a controversy, part drama in the war between the cabbies and the conspiracy to hide Anna from the cops until six weeks expires and she becomes an American citizen, and part screwball comedy with a funny but rather pointless street brawl between all of the cabbies with some popular sports figures of the day (Jack Dempsey, Jim Thorpe, Bull Montana, Jack Jeffries and more) thrown into the fight for good measure as well as the chief of police, the district attorney and the mayor getting into the act. Actually the part about hiding Anna is partially played for laughs too, with the joke being on the hapless police always running in circles.
Then there's the bad guy, the muscle for Comet Cab Company who is willing to murder to keep his protection racket rolling who is played by - William Demarest??? Usually the comic relief or a harmless yet crusty fellow, you just know Borzage is playing the drama part of this tongue in cheek with this particular piece of casting. When Uncle Charlie of "My Three Sons" says "I'll rub you out if you talk" it's just hard to be too terribly afraid. All we need is baddie Barton McLane as a hairdresser to make the upside down casting and strange plot roadmap of this film complete.
One of the things Borzage did best was depict camaraderie and heroism, and here you see that in the independent cabbies and their wives who are willing to risk jail to keep Anna hidden from the police, and in Anna when she realizes that her presence among them is causing so much hardship for them.
Don't think I don't like this one - I do. Just sit back and enjoy whatever course of events you are presented and don't try to pigeon hole it or analyze it too much. From the first frame with cabbie Joe Benton attempting to "pick up" his own wife, to the end credits with the normally dignified MGM insignia that instead sports a hand-drawn lion's backside aimed at the audience, I've never seen anything quite like this from the movie factory era of MGM.
A very funny film that stars Luise Rainer and Spencer Tracy as a taxi cab driver and his wife. The plot is basically two cab companies fighting over which one gets the territory or something like that. The two main stars are great and Luise Rainer has top billing over Tracy. I've read a lot of negative reviews but i think it's very funny.
(There are Spoilers) Strange movie featuring two double Acadamy Award
winner, for best actor & actress, as it's top stars.
New York cabbie John Benton, Spencer Tracy,is having such a wild and crazy time with his Russian born wife Anna, Luise Rainer, that at first you don't realize that the movie "Big City" is actually a crime drama not a light screwball 1930's type comedy.Later we see that there's a taxi war going on between the independent cab drivers, which Joe is a member of, and the Comet Taxi company that turns deadly. Anna's brother Paul, Victor Varccni, goes to work for Comet and at a birthday party she gives his friend Buddy, John Arledge,a raincoat to leave at the Comet Taxi garage for him. Not knowing that Beecher, William Demarest, who's the head of security for Comet is planing to start a war between the two rival taxi groups, the independent and Comet in order to justify his job, by having the garage blown up that evening. What happens is that after Buddy leaves the package with the raincoat Paul shows up to pick up his cab and the bomb goes off and Paul's killed by the night watchman, Paul Fix, who's also working for the sleazy Beecher. With Buddy now in hot water for leaving the package, that is mistakenly described as a bomb, Anna is the prime suspect in her brothers murder and the independent cab drivers, like her husband Joe, are seen as accomplices in the crime since they were at odds, or at war, with the Comet Taxi Company.
At Paul's funeral Anna, who's there in black grieving for him, is on the verge of getting arrested and deported back to Russia, or the Soviet Union, for "her part" in Paul's murder and the bombing of the taxi garage. The independent cabbies outraged at this injustce keep the police and immigration agents at bay as Anna is slipped out of the church and into hiding.
In what seems like a shell, or Three Card Monte, game Joe and his cabbie friends keep the police and immigration agents away from Anna as almost all the independent, some 40 of them, divers are held as accessories to her escaping from the arms of the law. As all this is going on Anna, who's very pregnant, now sick and tired off all the trouble she's caused by being on the lamb decides to give herself up for a crime, the bombing of the Comet garage and the murder of her brother Paul, that she had nothing to do with. later Buddy, Anna and Paul's friend, decides to take out insurance by leaving a letter to the District Attorney, implicating Beecher for the bombing if Beecher tries to have him knocked off in order to keep his mouth shut for good.
Joe together with fellow cabbie Mike, Eddie Quillian,getting the letter implicating Beecher and his hoods for Paul's death rushes to a boxing event that the mayor, Charley Grapewin, is attending to get him to stop the ship from leaving New York Harbor, for the Soviet Union, with Anna on it.
Wild ending with the mayor and a couple of car load of professional boxers including Jack Dempsey James J. Jeffres Man Mountain Dean, and even Olympic legend Jim Thorpe, wading into a battle with the Comet Taxi drivers. The drivers together with Beecher and his hoods, came to the docks to have it out with Joe & Co. as the mayor and his DA and top aids watch and enjoy the action with the cops, called to put an end to all this ruckus, stuck in heavy midtown traffic. In the middle of all this action poor Anna is in an ambulance giving birth, surprise it's a boy, and the baby is later christened with every boy's name ,from A to Z, in the book to make sure that no one's left out.
After watching Big City a, TCM, television version of the movie, I felt cheated that I had not seen Luise Rainer before. She was magnificent, sweet, and believable. Because of my research on this 1930s two-time, back-to-back Oscar winner, I can't wait to see the other seven films in which she acted. She won an Academy Award in 1937 & 1938. She left acting at the peak of her career, and that is very sad. This woman had something "different" about her. Though she is now 102 years old and lives in England, she has a new American fan. Spencer Tracy was the male lead, and he was his usual incredible self, but Luise Rainer, in my opinion, upstaged the great Tracy!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm not sure what genius came up with this weird little film or why
anyone would bother making it let alone cast two superstars in the
leads. This was Spencer Tracy's 34th film and Luise Rainer was a
two-time Oscar winner. As incomprehensible as this film is, had it not
been for them it would be unwatchable. So let's see if this makes
sense: to prevent a war between rival cab companies the NY DA wants to
deport the foreign-born wife (Rainer) of one of the cabbies (Tracy). To
top it all off he wants to indict her of murder in the death of her own
brother in an explosion. But no one mentions the fact that he was
gunned down. She goes into hiding and to find her the cops go wherever
they please without warrants and arrest whomever they please, again
with no warrants. The main villain, played by William Demarest, is the
gangster boss of one of the cab companies yet he orders the DA around
and generally acts as if he ran the show. The DA and the mayor stand
around like schoolchildren while this mobster dresses them down. Oh
yes, lest I forget, Rainer has been pregnant this whole time even
though she looks her usual slim self.
Now come on, how dumb did they think the public was? I guess if this was a comedy this stuff might pass. But it's not, the actors are playing it straight, really. There are no gags, at least none intended, apart from some semblance of slapstick at the end when a bevy of famous athletes hand it to the mobster's cabbies. In the main this is a love story. Here the film actually succeeds. The two leads are very good. The opening sequences when we're introduced to them are really endearing and Rainer uses her large eyes and expressive face to maximum impact. Tracy is better than usual here and comes across as sensitive and loving. Later on he reverts to type, becoming overbearing and annoying when he argues with Rainer about baby names and wakes up the entire household with his inconsiderate shouting.
So this one is really odd, impossible to classify. Some very good scenes, some very bad ones, and Ruth Hussey's debut as well as a good look at several famous athletes from the 30s. As bad as it might be I'll probably watch this one again for the good ones and skip the bad ones.
Big City (1937)
*** (out of 4)
Incredibly off the wall and insane drama from MGM has an independent taxi service battling with a union led taxi service. When the union side has their placed bombed one of the indie guys (Spencer Tracy) has his wife (Luise Rainer) suspected and shipped out of the country. This film is all over the map that you could put it in any genre including a romantic comedy, a screwball comedy and an action film. Tracy and Rainer deliver very good performances and their chemistry together is right on the mark. They make for a very romantic couple and Tracy's big crying scene is incredibly touching. It's also great seeing NYC back in the day plus there's a scene inside Jack Dempsey's restaurant, which leads to a street fight with Dempsey himself plus other famous athletes including Jim Thorpe, Man Mountain Dean and various others.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well, now I've seen everything! Here's a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie in which that arch-conservative studio has tackled the socially conscious platform that often animated Warner Brothers and occasionally 20th Century Fox. But naturally, being Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer, the studio has attempted and even brilliantly succeeded to go ten or twelve steps better that its rivals with a name cast that is at least three or four times as large, sets that would dwarf the Empire State Building and rousing action sequences that make Warner Brothers look like pikers. And leading the acting charge here is would you believe? teary- eyed Luise Rainer and Boys Town's Spencer Tracy? But they are both great! In fact, all the players in the vast cast deliver well and even many of the minor actors have some great moments in front of the camera. Full marks to director Frank Borzage, writers Dore Schary, Hugo Butler and Norman Krasna, and especially to art director Stan Rogers and set decorator Edwin B. Willis. The unnamed second unit director also deserves a pat on the back but maybe there was no second unit. Maybe Borzage directed the lot? Full marks also to Joseph Ruttenberg for his superb camera-work. Available on a superb Warner Brothers DVD.
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