This is another atypical Sternberg film, his sole official effort at staid MGM; I TAKE THIS WOMAN (1940; which is to follow) was another assignment for that studio that would however be completed by other hands. Still, given the presence of Wallace Beery, I thought this would be a comedy-drama whereas it turned out to be a thriller with elements of both the gangster pictures then at their zenith and the soon-to-be in vogue noirs!
That said, the film starts off in a sentimental vein as Irish copper with traditional heart-of-gold Beery offers to raise a slew of orphaned or abandoned babies. The catch is that, when they grow up, the kids would cause all sorts of trouble for him: two are in love but another claims the girl (Laraine Day) for himself and, while the latter (Alan Curtis in the kind of role John Garfield would come to specialize in) follows in father's footsteps, his impatience for promotion sees him antagonize a notorious gangster (Marc Lawrence) who had learned to respect Beery and eventually turn criminal in his own right! The latter aspect links the film with his earlier (UNDERWORLD , THUNDERBOLT ) and later (MACAO ) phases and, while MGM was best-known for producing wholesome, entertainment-oriented fare, they did churn out the occasional hard-hitting picture over the years. Beery, too, could be serious and schmaltzy and here he mixes the two to reasonable satisfaction.
Though, as I said, Sternberg was unable to invest the proceedings with his trademark style, the film does incorporate an effective montage sequence (courtesy of Peter Ballbusch, who had worked for the director on his masterpiece i.e. THE SCARLET EMPRESS ) depicting Curtis' 'road-to-ruin'.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?