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Cecil B. DeMille
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 <email@example.com>
Although the origin of the screenplay is not credited, the Motion Picture Herald stated that the film was based on a story written by Melville Crossman (a pseudonym of Darryl F. Zanuck), which appeared in Liberty Magazine. However, no other source mentions that story. See more »
The opening credits list the names in picture frames with subtle tree silhouettes in the background. See more »
In a recent biography of Barbara Stanwyck, I learned that Darryl Zanuck was keen on teaming Stanwyck with her soon to be husband Robert Taylor. Stanwyck freelanced and was currently owing 20th Century Fox a picture, so Zanuck must have worked something out with Louis B. Mayer at MGM to get his favorite star over to Fox.
The year before the Taylor/Stanwyck team starred in His Brother's Wife which I'm sure did good business, but wasn't exactly memorable. Neither would This Is My Affair if it hadn't been for the fact that it starred a couple that were a hot gossip column item.
What Zanuck did was give Bob and Barbara a vehicle that must have at some time been intended for Tyrone Power and Alice Faye. It's a period piece set at the turn of the last century. Barbara is even given a couple of songs by Alice's own songwriting team of Harry Revel and Mack Gordon to do as well as some period public domain music. Apparently she does them herself because I see no credit for voice dubbing. They would have been better had Alice Faye done them however.
Taylor is a Navy Lieutenant on detached assignment to work a job for President William McKinley personally. McKinley is worried about a successful gang of bank-robbers operating in the Midwest who seem to have inside information about vault combinations and even have keys to let themselves in at night so no break-in is required. He has Taylor go under deep cover and report only to him if needed.
It takes months, but Taylor does find the gang which is headed by Brian Donlevy and Victor McLaglen. He also finds Donlevy's stepsister Barbara Stanwyck with whom he falls for. But still his duty is clear.
The notion that a President of the United States is taking such a personal interest in apprehending a gang of robbers is interesting. William McKinley's administration was one that had a lot foreign and domestic concerns. I can't believe that particular president could have involved himself in this crime investigation. But also the banking system was not so tightly regulated that one man could have had all that inside information. It's not even that tightly regulated now, even with the creation of the Federal Reserve which was a dozen or so years in the future.
In fact McKinley's own assassination nearly cooks Taylor's goose. Frank Conroy looked very much like William McKinley and his character portrayal was accurate right down to the cigars McKinley enjoyed, the only vice this most Christian of presidents was known to have. Sidney Blackmer played Theodore Roosevelt many times on screen and really does make you think you're watching TR himself. He was much better at it than John Alexander from Arsenic And Old Lace.
The two stars who soon married never did another project together while they were husband and wife. Taylor and Stanwyck did do The Night Walker after their divorce almost thirty years later. None of the three films is at the top drawer of credits for either star.
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