Crime drama with Jimmy Durante in an early and unusual role...
... in fact it was his first film role. After this film he got a contract with MGM and stayed there for a good long while. But that's another story.
This is a 1930 Paramount featuring Charlie Ruggles as a newspaper reporter (who spends a lot of time posing as a tippler) investigating a small nightclub run by a notorious bootlegger ready to bump off anyone threatening his operations.
Fred Kohler, he of the gruff "Oh, yehhh?" school of tough guy acting, plays the bootlegger boss who carries a gun and does much of his own dispatching, while singer Helen Morgan gets top billing as a singer (what else?) in Kohler's roadhouse who was sweeties once upon a time with Ruggles years before they took up their current occupations.
Morgan sings a song or two in this one, though, nothing, unfortunately, of great note. Her memorable warbling and performance in Show Boat were still six years away.
One of the film's most pleasant surprises is the presence of Jimmy Durante, only this time he's part of a three man act called Clayton, Jackson and Durante. Durante is clearly the star of the act and, for those who enjoy the Great Schnozzola, he scores well in this film. "It's the gallows, the gallows," he keeps saying, in reference to the cutthroats that run the rough roadhouse in which he and Morgan both work.
Durante vaudeville partner Lou Clayton would die in 1950 but Eddie Jackson would later appear with Durante on television in The Jimmy Durante Show in 1954. This is the only film made in which the three vaudeville partners can be seen together.
The film has a certain primitive power, though it is, at times, a crudely filmed early talkie. (The tops of heads of actors are frequently cut off in the camera shot). The legendary Ben Hecht is credited as scenarist, and the film does have some of the hard bitten style that you would associate with him.
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