Up 14,745 this week

King of the Underworld (1939)

Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 6.5/10 from 569 users  
Reviews: 18 user | 4 critic

After the killing of her husband by friendly fire during a police raid, Dr. Carol Nelson tries to find gangster Joe Gurney to clear her name with the medical board.



(screen play), (screen play), 1 more credit »
0Check in

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 1294 titles
created 28 Apr 2012
a list of 7145 titles
created 20 Oct 2012
a list of 3038 titles
created 10 Jan 2013
list image
a list of 38 titles
created 5 months ago
a list of 40 titles
created 1 week ago

Connect with IMDb

Share this Rating

Title: King of the Underworld (1939)

King of the Underworld (1939) on IMDb 6.5/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of King of the Underworld.


Cast overview, first billed only:
Joe Gurney
Carol Nelson
James Stephenson ...
Bill Stevens
John Eldredge ...
Niles Nelson
Jessie Busley ...
Aunt Josephine
Arthur Aylesworth ...
Dr. Sanders
Raymond Brown ...
Harland Tucker ...
Mr. Ames
Ralph Remley ...
Mr. Robert
Charley Foy ...
Murray Alper ...
Joe Devlin ...
Elliott Sullivan ...
Alan Davis ...
John Harmon ...


Niles and Carol Nelson are married doctors who save one of gang lord Gurney's men. Gurney exploits them, then kills Niles leaving Carol to take the fall. He next kidnaps writer Bill Stephens to write his biography. Knowing Bill will be killed when the biography is finished, Carol takes matters into her own hands. Written by Ed Stephan <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


EXCITEMENT...WITH THE SILENCERS OFF! (re-release print ad - all caps) See more »


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

14 January 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Unlawful  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Several actors in studio records for the movie "King of the Underworld (1939)" were not seen in the film; these include, with their character names if any, Peggy Moran (Young Man's Wife), Davison Clark (Foreman), Jerry Fletcher (Young Man), Francis Sayles (Furniture Store Proprietor), Vera Lewis and Frank Orth. See more »


The night scenes of the raid on the Gurney hideout are mismatched. It goes from day-for-night to what appears to be genuine darkness. See more »


Joe Gurney: [after being shot] Where's my writer?
Bill Stevens: I'm here, Joe.
Joe Gurney: I guess you'll have to finish my book without me.
Bill Stevens: The finish was written long ago.
See more »


Featured in Hollywood and the Stars: The Man Called Bogart (1963) See more »


I Wanna Go Back to Bali
(1938) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Warren
Played when Joe receives the telephone call after the operation
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Kay Francis as a doctor comes up against gangster Bogie
26 June 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

In an effort to elevate Humphrey Bogart's star and get rid of Kay Francis, Warners remade Dr. Socrates, giving the good doctor a sex change and making him Kay Francis instead. However, Bogart gets top billing and Francis' role was reduced. It didn't work; Francis kept plodding along until the end of her contract. Also, I still felt she came across as the star in this.

Francis plays a doctor whose husband starts picking up easy money repairing the wounds of gangsters and not reporting on their illegal activities. Eventually, he is killed in a raid, and the police are convinced that Francis was in on it with her husband. Unless she can prove her innocence, she's going to lose her medical license. When she gets a lead on the gang's whereabouts, she sets up shop in the same town.

It's really hard to believe this movie came out in 1939 - it has the look and feel of something done about five years earlier. Bogart is good as a cocky and violent criminal who trusts no one and is too fast with a gun. Stardom is just ahead for the actor, as well as lots less of films like this.

Francis was past the magic age of 30 by this time, and her big star, big film days were behind her. She would soon fall to second leads and eventually move over to Monogram for several films, and, after a couple of early TV appearances, would retire. Everything about Francis embodies the strong '30s career woman, and it's hard to picture her out of the era. She does a great job in this as a determined, classy woman who has to use her wits to get out of a bad situation. An eminently watchable actress.

Worth seeing for Francis and Bogart just before his great career takes off.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Warners thimb nose goodbye at Kay Francis deforest-1
Discuss King of the Underworld (1939) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: