Country lawyer Lynn Hollister comes to the city to investigate the murder of a friend found shot after spending the evening in The Inferno, a night club that fronts for an illicit gambling operation. It is covertly run by an affable but corrupt politician, 'Boss' Tom Cameron, who uses voter fraud to maintain influence on city hall and the governor's mansion. Hollister learns that his friend was a winner in a dice game on the night of the murder and threatened exposure of Cameron's vice racket. Complications arise when other underworld forces vie to take over Cameron's operation, and Holister falls in love with Cameron's beautiful daughter. Written by
Lawyer John Wayne's friend, a high school basketball star from his town, is shot down and then run over by a car. The death is declared a suicide by the local coroner. Wayne goes to the big city to investigate.
Wayne's directed to see Edward Ellis who is the local political boss and of course the Duke falls big time for Ellis's daughter Frances Dee. Never mind he's got a job to do, even if it costs him Dee.
This was John Wayne's one and only attempt at playing a crusader type, a scaled down version of Jefferson Smith. Ellis is a combination of the characters played by Edward Arnold and Claude Rains in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Dee combines both Jean Arthur and Astrid Allwyn. I'd say the results were mixed. Perhaps with a better script at a larger studio with more production values, Wayne might have done more with the part.
As it is there are some nice John Wayne style fight scenes in A Man Betrayed, a couple with Ward Bond, and a king sized brawl outside a polling place where Ellis is bringing in repeaters from his sponsored soup kitchens. Machine politics, American style. Hopefully none of those countries where we're crusading for democracy ever sees this film.
Ward Bond plays the moronic brother of Alexander Granach, owner of the red light district club where Wayne's friend was killed in. His performance while good, was a carbon copy of Lon Chaney, Jr.'s from Of Mice and Men. I expected him to ask Granach about the bunny rabbits any minute.
At this phase of Wayne's career, Republic was casting him in a variety of parts to broaden his casting potential in the wake of his success with Stagecoach. Herbert J. Yates of Republic films was making almost as much money loaning Wayne out as in his own films and he was trying to make him more marketable. He didn't succeed with A Man Betrayed, but it wasn't the Duke's fault by any means.
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