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Racketeer Steve Recka, art patron and political power-maker, rules his town and Madame Lan Ying, his beautiful Oriental friend and hostess (read: mistress), with an iron hand. He meets Margaret Van Kase, a socialite not impressed by his power nor his wealth, having no money herself, and Steve makes frantic efforts to win her and turns away from the loyal Lin Yang. Margaret ignores him as she plans to wed Philip Easton, a penniless bond salesman. The furious Recka, poses as a friend to Easton, while planning to ruin him. His henchmen kidnap Easton when he is carrying a large assignment of bonds, and he is branded as a runaway thief. The only doubters are Margaret and Police Inspector Brandon, who knows Recka's methods and suspects foul play. Easton is found in an abandoned house and arrested as the gangsters have taken the bonds and tipped the police where to find him. Recka offers to clear Easton if Margaret will become his bride and, while her hatred for Recka is intense, her love ... Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
Stephen Recka comes out of his home office late in the film, meeting Kusnoff in the front hall. Recka lets the door slam shut behind him, and the wall to the left wobbles visibly, revealing that it's just a piece of set. See more »
Director Robert Florey, who studied under Feuillade and served beneath Sternberg and Vidor among others, is at his best in this dark work by one of the most innovative "B" film auteurs, completed during his strongest period at Paramount, a tastefully crafted film replete with Florey's trademarked strengths: crisp pacing, a realistic spirit, and creative employment of expressionistic composition through camera and lighting that establishes humours for each scene. A student of cinema in all of its artistic aspects, Florey showcases to telling effect in this affair the performing ability of classically trained Akim Tamiroff, who gives his finest performance, and of Anna May Wong, who benefits from the director's use of closeups as she fills a part that she created for her stage debut in "On the Spot", by Edgar Wallace, upon which the screenplay is based. Florey's enthusiasm for Asian art, costume, and other elements of design is in evidence throughout a film that reportedly receives little or no circulation through the medium of television, with but a single public domain archive for availability, unfortunate for cineastes since there is great worth to be found within the piece, the director's endeavours augmented well by the editing of Arthur Schmidt and creative cinematography, essentially by Karl Struss. The setting is in Los Angeles, where gangster Steve Recka (Tamiroff) dominates the workings of city politics without achieving that which he most craves: acceptance into the world of old money that of course can never look with favour upon such a man, notwithstanding his powerful influence. Scorning his loyal mistress, Lan Ying (Wong), Recka courts Margaret Van Case (Gail Patrick) as a method of scaling the societal ridge that daunts him, thereby generating in Lan Ying a desire for revenge, leading to an insightful scene of suspense that Florey swashes with melodramatic cunning. A solid supporting cast is in place, led by Lloyd Nolan's portrayal of a detective lieutenant who avidly seeks an arrest of Recka for his crimes, and by Anthony Quinn as Recka's principal henchman, and when requirements of the film's "B" nature come to the fore in the script, the players avoid condescension with their readings, yet another component of Florey's artistry.
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