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Society-woman Hattie Leonard organizes her own band of 'gang-busters' when she discovers a garment she sent to the dry-cleaners had been taxed twenty-five-cents to pay for gang 'protection.' She sends to New York City for a reformed gangster she had befriended, Frankie O'Fallon, and he hires the manpower needed from the usual Columbia hoods. Her gang hi-jacks the racketeers, recovers the merchant's money and returns it to them. Lila Thorne, engaged to Hattie' son, Fred, throws in with her future mother-in-law when she sees the old lady is fighting for the American principle of freedom of choice...and action. Lila frames the gang-leader, George Watson, and Hattie's big-city vigilantes kidnap him, and extract the information that the town-mayor, Johnny "J.J." Jones, is the brains behind the protection-gang and is getting the big cut of the money. But Hattie still has to rob a bank before she can secure the evidence needed to convict the mayor. All in a day's work for a crusading society... Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
"There's never been a run on this bank !" -- Hattie Leonard.
That's one of the tasty little nuggets of comedy which gets tossed about, seemingly in a most haphazard manner, in this excellent and user-friendly "gangster comedy," from 1939. In a very real sense, the writers and the director of this film were seeking to do something that is always difficult and sometimes impossible ... which is ... to make a social satire that has more laughs than bites.
Consider that "The Lady and the Mob" is a window on a time before our times, before the cruelties and barbarities of World War Two, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War and the never-ending Gulf War, burned away all pretense of innocence from what was once called "the American Dream." Consider that Faye Bainter's character, Hattie -- and she is delightful in the goofiest possible ways -- lampoons the stuffy, hypocritical matrons so often created in the posh comedies of the 1930s.
To call this a feminist film would be entirely wrong, and yet the strength of the satire, and the plot, lies entirely in the hands of Faye Bainter and Ida Lupino. Indeed, Ms. Ida Lupino gets a plum in this second billing, a role as juicy and sweet as her character is tart with her tongue ! Wealthy Hattie Leonard owns a bank and has a conscience, something most average people who lived during the 1930s and those Depression years probably could not believe -- unless they saw it in a motion picture !
One only has to see "Stagecoach" with John Wayne, Claire Trevor and John Ford directing, to understand how deeply-felt the animosity of "regular folks" was, towards bankers. Both of these films were released in the early part of 1939 and they both tell a tale of truthfulness about how badly damaged people can become decent again, and what it means to be "a True American".
Since there is every prospect that Turner Classic Movies will run this fine, funny, film again soon, it would be spoiling things to give away much of the satirical plot of this comedy. Faye Bainter's classic looks and poise are a salute to all that's ever been the best about the actresses of the United States, and Ida Lupino plays her role cleverly. It is a definite mark of natural ability, as Ms. Lupino -- who is quite gorgeous at twenty-five -- darts in and out of the scenes with Bainter and "her Mob". The character actors selected to play Hattie's "stumble bums" are simply hilarious -- unless the viewer happens to know absolutely nothing about the 1930s and American slang.
Even then, their comedic posturing works really well and is simply visually entertaining. This is a great little gem of a movie and while it does not quite carry the social and satirical "punch" of Frank Capra's "Lady for a Day," from 1933, it is well worth viewing, and for capturing on the digital video recorder to have on a lazy, rainy afternoon. Eight stars for comedy, satire, and snappy jokes.
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