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King of the Underworld (1939)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Romance | 14 January 1939 (USA)
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 »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Carol Nelson
Bill Stevens
John Eldredge ...
Niles Nelson
Jessie Busley ...
Aunt Josephine
Dr. Sanders
Raymond Brown ...
Harland Tucker ...
Mr. Ames
Ralph Remley ...
Mr. Robert
Charley Foy ...
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 <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drop That Gun, Killer! See more »


Crime | Drama | Romance


Passed | 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: [Entering the doctor's office] Dr. Nelson?
Niles Nelson: That's right.
Joe Gurney: [Taking in the doctor's shabby office] I don't get it.
Niles Nelson: Whatta yuh mean?
Joe Gurney: A guy with a pair of million dollar hands in a dump like this!
Niles Nelson: Oh?
Joe Gurney: Yeah! You're wastin' your time down here. You oughta be uptown with the big dough.
See more »


Version of Dr. Socrates (1935) See more »


(1938) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Warren
Played when Joe receives the telephone call before the operation
See more »

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User Reviews

Gats, Gangsters, Doctors, & Feminine Guile - & Bogart to boot!
14 February 2007 | by (Texas) – See all my reviews

In this theatrical melodrama Humphrey plays a gangster; amazing stretch of the imagination, isn't it? A semi-literate, Bogie (bad guy Joe Gurney) idolizes Napoleon (short guy ego tripper) and quotes le petit emperor on occasion to justify his own actions, such as placing chunks of lead into the physiques of various inconvenient people with the assistance of gunpowder.

He utilizes this method of employee reduction to lay off (without benefits) his doctor, who's wife, Kay Francis (Dr. Carole Nelson), who has just won the Isabella Rossellini look-a-like contest, is also a doctor. She scrams Big City to settle down in a small town to start over, and prove her innocence on a charge of consorting with known actors who play criminals. This is considered highly unprofessional by other doctors, who sent in notes of complaint from the golf course.

Well, wonders never cease as Bogie and his gang show up coincidentally and quite by chance in that very exact identical same town! Of all the burgs in all the world, why did they have to drive into this one? Additionally, the gang has picked up a hitch-hiking writer (James Stephenson) who has become Bogie's biographer, not entirely of his own volition. Nefarious doings evolve, love blossoms, lots of action and shooting, police persons with tommy-guns are attracted; and maybe, just maybe the gangster wins in a 1930's era movie, by special dispensation of the Hayes Office.

Or maybe not. Jeepers, the suspense is killing you, so don't miss this movie if you get a chance! Just remember, the criminals are the ones who use poor grammar and have a tendency to fall down with holes in their bodies. Bogie proves adept at utilizing the vernacular popular amongst persons criminally inclined, as usual. And, I don't mind telling you that there is a modicum of suspense as the fair doctorette bravely faces adversaries on both sides of the law. I actually bit a fingernail. I give this one gun up with a lot of bullets. Hey, it's watchable and it's got Bogie!

Xoxox Mike

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