6.5/10
847
21 user 7 critic

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.

Director:

Writers:

(screen play), (screen play) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
...
...
Raymond Brown ...
Sheriff
Harland Tucker ...
Mr. Ames
Ralph Remley ...
Mr. Robert
Charley Foy ...
...
...
Porky
Elliott Sullivan ...
Mugsy
Alan Davis ...
Pete
...
Slats
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

14 January 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Unlawful  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Humphrey Bogart was given top billing, in part, in order to further humiliate Kay Francis, whose $200,000 annual salary and declining popularity had become a sore spot for Warner boss Jack L. Warner. Aware of the motives, Bogey was unhappy that he was being used as a pawn in order to humiliate Francis in front of the public that had once admired her. After years of struggling as a relatively-unknown actor in b-films, he considered achieving his first top billing this way to be more salt in the wound. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Bill Stevens: What do you want with me, Joe?
Joe Gurney: Well, I tell yuh, me and the boys are takin' a bit of a layoff while the pressure's on, and I got thinkin' about that book you wrote, you know, on Napoleon. Figured that him and me bein' so much alike, you'd like to do a little job for me.
Bill Stevens: What kind of job?
Joe Gurney: Well, every big man, you know, oughta have somebody to write his auto... uh, auto...
[unsure of the word]
Bill Stevens: Autobiography?
Joe Gurney: Yeah, that's it.
Bill Stevens: An autobiography is the story of a man's life written by himself.
Joe Gurney: Well, I...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Diese Drombuschs: Abschied im Zorn (1990) See more »

Soundtracks

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

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User Reviews

 
A gangster movie with a light touch
20 September 2008 | by See all my reviews

Husband-and-wife doctor team Carole and Niles Nelson are doing modestly well in their careers, but Niles has a gambling problem. His luck changes when he (unknowingly) saves the life of a gangster from Joe Gurney's mob and gets a big bonus from the gangleader himself. Loving his change of fortune (and snazzy new apartment), Niles continues to receive payoffs for patching up other injured members of the gang. Unfortunately, his shady deals come to light in a police raid, which hangs a shadow over his wife's career as well.

At this point the plot comes into focus, as Carole Nelson has to rescue her career before her license is suspended. This involves bringing the gang to justice more or less single- handedly.

This is not a hard-edged gangster picture, but a plot that might have been comfortable on a show like MATLOCK or MURDER SHE WROTE. There is some tension, but the mood is kept light by Bogart's tongue-in-cheek performance of a stupid gangster who imagines himself as the "Napoleon of Crime." His other gang members also function more as stooges than hoodlums. And there's some snappy dialog between Bogart and Francis, especially when she's treating his injuries at his hideout. Of course, as in all gangster flicks, there's a big shootout ending, but with a humorous twist. This is a good short film showing Bogart on his rise to stardom.


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