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Back in the Thirties when Thomas E. Dewey was becoming a national
figure by putting all kinds of racketeers behind bars, the special
prosecutor was considered a fearless figure and good subject matter for
a film hero. In this loan out film for Columbia Pictures, Edward G.
Robinson plays a law professor appointed just such a city prosecutor
while he's on a year's sabbatical.
Robinson who plays a character with the soon to be famous name of John Lindsay has been programmed to fail because some of those same city fathers that want him in the job are those heading the rackets. And it's not like there isn't competing gangs within the underworld. But Eddie proves to be pretty resourceful and gets the job done. At least Dewey had a hand at picking his own staff.
Coincidentally enough the John Lindsay who became New York's Mayor did a stint in the Eisenhower Justice Department before he was a Congressman and then Mayor.
Columbia Pictures and Harry Cohn gave their visiting star as good an ensemble cast as he normally would have gotten at Warner Brothers for this kind of film. Barbara O'Neil, next year to be Scarlett O'Hara's mother in Gone With The Wind, plays Eddie's loyal supporting wife. John Beal is his ace graduate and number one assistant.
Wendy Barrie plays a sob sister newspaper columnist with a sideline and Otto Kruger is her sugar daddy and father of John Beal. Both are deceptive characters.
I Am The Law is a typical programmer, not too much different from what Robinson was doing at Warner Brothers at the time. Still fans of Mr. Robinson will enjoy and appreciate.
i had never heard of this film until i ran across it on turner classic movies one day. It wasn't one of his best or worst films, come to think of it edward g. robinson never really made a bad film. As for the film itself, unless your a big edward g. robinson fan like me you probably shouldn't watch it.
In the mid-1930s familiar movie gangsters like Edward G. Robinson and
Jimmy Cagney had image makeovers. Now that the new Production Code was
accepted in 1934, gangster films were less frequently made and less
violent. As a result, these two actors were now given other
roles--broadening their acting range. I am sure that the actors liked
this chance to do something other than act tough and kill, but there is
still an oddness in seeing 'Little Caesar' playing a crime-busting law
professor in this film!
Despite the change, this is still a dandy little film even if it is a bit conventional. Like many of the Post-Code films, this one is about punishing the gangsters and Robinson becomes obsessed with rooting out local mobsters. At first, his crusade falls flat, but when he ultimately realizes the important lesson that to have a free country, you need to ignore the Bill of Rights!! Locking up prisoners with no specific charges or evidence as well as having publicized fist fights with them is how Robinson eventually gains the upper hand! Now that's an interesting way to defend democracy!
Robinson's performance is a bit more three-dimensional than usual and he's ably supported by the ever-professional Otto Kruger. Direction is good and the script, while a bit predictable, is still pretty well written. All these come together to make a film that is more than just a time-passer--it's a lot of fun as well.
Little Caesar himself, Edward G. Robinson, is one of the good guys in
"I Am the Law" in this 1938 film also starring Barbara O'Neill, Otto
Kruger, John Beal, and Wendie Barrie.
Robinson plays John Lindsay, a professor on sabbatical, looking forward to his first vacation with his wife (O'Neill) in a long time. But at the last minute, he's asked to become special prosecutor and fight the corruption taking place in the town, as the authorities haven't been successful. He asks his best student, Paul Ferguson (Beal) to work with him. It soon becomes apparent that there is a leak in his staff, as they finally get a witness willing to talk and he's killed. Before Lindsay can get rid of the corruption in town, he needs to get rid of it in his own office.
This is a fairly routine film with a good cast. Robinson was a little man but a wonderful actor with a powerful voice. He could play the most pathetic weakling or the toughest, meanest guy on earth. Here he's plenty tough but with a lot of warmth. Robinson is well thought of as an actor from the classic period, certainly, but I wonder sometimes if he isn't a little underrated.
As far as the other actors, Otto Kruger plays Paul Ferguson's father and gives his usual smooth performance. John Beal got the star buildup at RKO, but after RKO, he signed with MGM. He was young, handsome, and had a kind of earnestness. When the Gable-Harlow deal to do "In Old Chicago" at Fox as a trade for Tyrone Power doing "Madame X" fell through, Beal was given the part of the son. He never achieved stardom. He was, however, a very prolific Broadway actor particularly after World War II, and continued to do films and television until 1993. I had the pleasure of meeting him in the '80s, and he was very charming.
This is an okay film, enjoyable for the performances. The story is fairly routine.
"I am the Law" (1938) Professor John Lindsay (E.G. Robertson) is taking
a sabbatical from his law position. He volunteers to go after the
gangsters in town. He thinks it will be easy but very quickly he learns
those in charge don't want him to succeed & that includes his staff
chosen by the city fathers & Eugene Ferguson (Otto Kruger) Paul's
father & head of the mob.
So he & his top student Paul Ferguson (John Beal) volunteer to go after gangsters & corruption from his home. Because those in charge want to see failure John & Paul are fired. With his wife Jerry (Barbara O'Neil) he recruits his top graduated law students to form an unpaid army of law enforcers. What will happen next? What & see!
I just caught this movie during TCM's Edward G Robinson marathon. It may not be a "classic", but I found this film to be entertaining and well written/directed. It's the sort of gangster movie that is light and simple enough that you don't have to pay much attention to it -- you can be doing other things while you're watching the movie and still be able to follow the plot. Just suspend belief for a while -- some of his tactics wouldn't be exactly tolerated in real life -- he would be disbarred and arrested! Also, I had a hard time buying EGR as a pipe-smoking, ivy-league, absent-minded professor; still, I found his performance engaging and enjoyable. This movie has lots of pretty people, wearing expensive clothes, in opulent settings, so that aspect of it is pleasant to watch. Unlike most "formula" gangster flicks, the ending is especially satisfying and may in fact be the best part of this movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rackets are taking over a big, unnamed city, so a law professor (Edward
G. Robinson) decides to get involved. Little does he realize that one
of his best former student's own father is head of the rackets which
causes the urbane gangster (Otto Kruger) much headache when Robinson
hires the son (John Beal) to be his partner. Robinson is getting a
headache from trying to convince the victims of the racket to testify
even though the violence has continued to get worse. Robinson's pretty
wife (Barbara O'Neil) desperately wants Robinson to take a sabbatical,
but that won't happen until all the racketeers are behind bars or dead.
It's inevitable that at one point, the popular gangsters of the early 30's are going to play law enforcement, and after James Cagney became a "G-Man", Robinson was sure to follow suit. This is the same year that he investigated the criminal mind in "The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse" (with future hero Humphrey Bogart still playing the gangster) and just a few years before he played a reformed gangster hiding out as a monk in "Brother Orchid". The villain here isn't a "Public Enemy" or a "Little Caeser", but a respected member of society hiding behind expensive suits and well dressed sophisticated ladies (in this case, the pretty Wendy Barrie) who is just as shady as the sugar daddy she left a career as a reporter to move into more expensive circles.
The clever screenplay really hooks you in as you see the obstacles which Robinson will have in going after the unknown kingpin and the dirty rats he's out to exterminate. He's not afraid of humiliating himself or even break the law himself as long as the outcome protects the people who have become victims of a protection racket. One very clever scene has Robinson rounding up the gangsters following the widow of one of the victims, calling in the press, and proceeding to show the truth about their real character. At first it seems a bit preposterous, but it is done in such a fun way that it is easy to overlook the ridiculousness of it all. Even more clever is the finale where Robinson gets the goods on the nasty Kruger and makes a bargain with him where the only way out has no return. It's even a bit of a redemption that literally is dynamite.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** The movie is based on the true life exploits of New York
City's Special Prosecutor, and later the State Governor, Thomes E. Dewy
not the future NYC two time, 1966-1973, Mayor John V. Lindsey.
Law professor John Lindsey, Edward G. Robinson, is out to crack the rackets that are turning NYC into war zone. Taking advantage of his sabbatical Lindsey instead of taking an Atlantc sea cruise with his wife Jerry, Barbara O'Neil,takes the job from the NY State Governor's Civic Committee to clean up the town and put the criminals who's actions are making it a place not to bring up a family in behind bars.
Trying to do the job as best he can Lindsey doesn't realize that the person who suggested him to take the assignment the well respected businessman and socially conscious Paul Ferguson, Jon Beal, is in fact the undercover mob boss who runs the city's rackets. It's Ferguson's plan to be able to monitor Lindsey's every movement and thus tip off his hoods when the next police raid on them is to take place. There's also Ferguson's son Eugene, Otto Kruger, who's a top law student in Lindsey's class in law school as well as a close and personal friend of his! This makes Lindsey's task of ridding the city of crime even more difficult!
Eddie Robinson as Special Prosecutor John Lindsey uses both his knowledge of the law as well as his fists to take on the mob who find out that he's no nutty and harmless professor, he's always setting his suit on fire by putting a lighted pipe in it, but a hard hitting and two fisted dynamo when it comes to deal with them. Still Lindsey needs the cooperation of the mobs victims to be able to pt them behind bars and out of operation.
***SPOILERS*** It's one of Ferguson's shake down victims J.W Butler, Louis Jean Heydt, who finally stepped up to the plate in fingering Ferguson's boys in blackmailing him that broke the dam that ended up flooding Ferguson and his entire gangster empire. But it also cost the brave and gusty, who left behind a wife and two young children, Butler his life! As for Ferguson he had a change of heart at the end of the movie in that instead of having Lindsey blown to pieces he did it to himself. That in Ferguson having in a bomb installed in his car, for Linsey to turn the ignition on, by his boys but he himself ended up taking the gas pipe. That's by him insisting to be the one to start up, in that he didn't have cab fare that he needed to get home, the car knowing full well what the outcome would be!
Law professor John Lindsay (Edward G. Robinson) is asked by a civic
leader (Otto Kruger) to become a special prosecutor to go after the
racketeers in town. He doesn't know he's being duped by the civic
leader until a man he promises protection to is killed by the man's
henchmen. After realizing that gangsters have infiltrated his staff, he
recruits his law students to form an army of law enforcers.
Robinson is excellent in a "good man" role and Barbara O'Neil is radiant as his supportive wife. John Beal is a little too enthusiastic in his supporting role as Kruger's son but Wendy Barrie makes an interesting impression as a glamorous and ruthless gang moll.
Although the script is full of improbabilities, it's a tense and tidy little programmer, and this time Edward G. is working at Columbia instead of Warner Bros. Despite that fact, the film has the look of the kind of gritty crime melodramas Warners produced in those days--which is a compliment.
In every town or city nationwide, there are men who decide to take advantage from those who have little or nothing at all. The word gangster, mobster or racketeer are often used to describe these criminals. It's isn't often modern audiences can see Tough-guy Edward G. Robinson play a good guy, but that is exactly what we get in this old Black and White film entitled " I Am The Law. " Robinson plays John Lindsay a noted college professor and upstanding citizen who not only stands up to be counted, but is appointed a special prosecutor with a single task. His job is to ferret out and destroy the muscle behind the mobsters. It's a big job to be sure. but made doubly difficult because those who hired him are part of the problem. The story itself is taken from the novel by Fred Allhoff and directed by Alexander Hall. Despite it being in B/W it's still garners enough interest because of the good acting and of course the cast which includes Barbara O'Neil, John Beal, Paul Ferguson, Wendy Barrie, Otto Kruger and the main star E.G. Robinson who makes the movie flow with little effort to create a classic. ****
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