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The Enforcer (1951)
Compelling Story & Early Version of Murder Inc.
In 1960 there was a movie called Murder Inc., telling the story of that infamous organization. The book by that name actually came out in 1951 and also inspired this movie. Humphrey Bogart plays the Burton Turkus character, who was so successful in putting away many of the members of Murder Inc. and sending to the electric chair the only major mob boss ever to be executed, Louis (Lepke) Buchalter. Turkus was an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn who became known to the mob as Mr. Arsenic because of his incorruptibility and ability to convict organized crime figures. He was also referred to in the press as the only honest man in New York City, an exaggeration, but perhaps only a slight one. Even Turkus' old boss, William O'Dwyer, who rode Turkus' good work into election as the city's mayor, was later forced to resign among charges of massive corruption and mob connections. Everett Sloane is excellently cast as the brilliant, brutal Lepke like character, a small, slight, but terrifying man, who one policeman described as having the eyes of a doe.
The movie is wonderful in revealing to audiences of the day the machinations of the mob. We see that these are not men of honor, but in reality a society of hoodlums whose every move is motivated by a desire to enrich and empower themselves, and where the rule for bosses on the run is kill everyone, friend and foe alike, who could conceivably incriminate them. We also see how the mob, now concerned about electronic surveillance has come up with code words like contract and hit to confuse law enforcement.
Bogart's device of confronting the incarcerated Sloane with reminders of his victims almost backfires, but instead sets up the film's climax as it demonstrates the long reach possessed by crime chieftains even behind bars. And though seemingly all of his witnesses have been murdered or otherwise neutralized, we see a way for Bogart to eventually prosecute his protagonist.
One moment in the film that is simultaneously comic and chilling comes when Rico is on the way back from a murder. Riding in the back of a truck with the victim in a laundry cart that is nearby, Rico, who is the chief, looks at one of his subordinates, Vince, who is acting very nervously. Concerned about a possible weak link, he turns to Vince and says, "You know, I think there's room for you in the basket too." With that he casually kills the man, as the group of thugs just calmly continue on.
In real life Lepke does get executed along with two of his chief henchmen, Mendy Weiss and Louis Capone (no relation to Al). Loyal to the end both men chose the same final meal as the boss, a chicken dinner.
Our Gang (1922)
Robert Blake Character
An earlier comment by suzyq19651 asked who Robert Blake played as a member of Our Gang. Robert Blake did not appear in the group of shorts commonly referred to as The Little Rascals, with such as Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Porky and Darla. Blake appeared later on after Hal Roach sold his franchise to MGM. MGM recast the series with a group of younger children, although Spanky did appear in some of these as an older and much larger fellow. Blake was a member of this later group and played the character of Mickey Gubitosi, which was his actual birth name. This was in keeping with the Our Gang format in which most characters used their real names, though usually with a nickname such as Spanky or Butch. Froggy was also a part of this later group, which as a group simply did not measure up to prior ones.
Counsellor at Law (1933)
Entertaining, intelligent and fun
What a wonderful film. Just saw it last night for the first time. My first impression viewing the movie was that this was the best performance I had seen from Barrymore. I was wondering if perhaps I had gotten a little carried away, but from reading some of the other comments I see that there is great concurrence on this point. In general this lost gem is fast, funny, poignant and incredibly well acted.
So few films tell the story of a Jewish character, but this one does and very well. Barrymore is a surprising casting choice for the lead, but it is hard to imagine that anyone else could have been as good, much less better. Bebe Daniels is just excellent in the role of the loyal secretary, much better than in her more famous role in 42nd Street. John Qualen and Vincent Sherman are also very good in small roles.
If you are looking for an enjoyable hour and one half that will amuse and also make you think at the same time, jump on this rarely seen jewel. It is reputedly hard to purchase, but TCM recently featured it on its station and hopefully will do so again soon.
Home of the Brave (1949)
While this movie is fine for what it is, it is sad that the producers changed the original intent of the movie. The story as written was about anti-Semitism. For some reason it was changed to a racial theme. With so few movies made about this topic through the years in Hollywood, and with the perception that prejudice equals race in America, it is said to see an opportunity missed to address a deep seated and long enduring American and world problem. This is especially so in light of the time when the movie was made, a time when many in this country tried to pretend that anti-Semitism was a foreign problem.
Anti Jewish feelings and were very prevalent throughout society, including the armed forces. This was an intelligent screenplay that could have gone a long way in bringing this problem to the fore. Slanders at the time, and in subsequent wars, often portrayed Jews as those who managed to avoid combat. It would have been nice to see that prejudice in some way fought. Indeed stories in later years emerged of Jews being denied honors and medals simply because of their religion. One story that came to light in the 1990s revealed that a Jewish soldier had been denied the Congressional Medal of Honor because his commanding officer said he would not even consider recommending a Jew for this nation's highest honor.