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Navy Lt. Richard Perry becomes an undercover man out to discover the leaders of a group of well connected men who pull off bank robberies during the McKinley administration (early 20th century). Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A bland title disguises this solidly-carpentered example of old-fashioned Hollywood entertainment, this film proves a largely successful hodgepodge of several disparate elements: a period piece, a romantic drama, a crime movie and a political thriller. Interestingly, though made by Fox, its protagonists Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck were both usually associated with other studios; their on screen chemistry here is palpable and eventually led to marriage in a couple of years' time. While a bit too young, Taylor is a dashing hero (a Marine personally appointed by President McKinley to uncover the culprits behind an organized clean-up of numerous banks); unsurprisingly, no sooner has he tracked them down (led by smooth Brian Donlevy and thuggish Victor McLaglen) that he falls for a chanteuse (naturally, Stanwyck) who has thrown her lot with the gang although, truth be told, singing is far from being the actress' forte! Similarly, apart from having to prove his worth to make it into their fold, he has to vie with McLaglen for Stanwyck's attentions; by the way, the practical joker persona of the former reminded me a lot of Charley Chase in SONS OF THE DESERT (1933) which, incidentally, was likewise directed by William A. Seiter. Later on, Taylor is in two minds about involving Stanwyck in the impending bait and tries to offer his resignation to the President while eloping with the girl but the jealous rival disrupts his plans. The robbery gone awry, we find Donlevy dead and the other two in jail; Taylor's hopes for McKinley's intervention having meanwhile learned the identity of the elusive and obviously prominent 'inside man' are seemingly dashed when the President winds up assassinated himself (a great plot twist, though the resulting eleventh-hour suspense feels contrived)! To get back to the film's jumble of styles, even if the vaudeville sequences are a matter of taste, the romantic triangle slows things up and it skimps somewhat on the thriller aspect, this emerges a handsome production indeed with the actors already mentioned ably supported by the likes of John Carradine (who unaccountably disappears after just one scene!), Douglas Fowley, Sig Rumann and, as two American Presidents, Sidney Blackmer (the bubbly Theodore Roosevelt) and Frank Conroy (McKinley).
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