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Two prisoners, Saint Louis and Dannemora Dan, escape during a theatrical production in order to go to the aid of Steve, a former prisoner whose past is about to be exposed by the man who framed Judy unless Steve agrees to help him commit another crime.Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is the only movie in which Humphrey Bogart and Spencer Tracy co-star. Although Tracy and Bogart were good friends, they never appeared in another movie together, as Bogart was tied to a contract with Warner Bros. for much of his career while Tracy was bound first to Fox, and then (most famously) to MGM. When the freelance era rolled around in the 1950s and both were free of their studio contracts, the two talked about co-starring together in a picture, but according to Tracy's lover Katharine Hepburn, they could never agree on who would get top billing (although Tracy was the more respected thespian, Bogart was more popular at the box office; however, after playing second-fiddle to Clark Gable for many years at MGM, Tracy wasn't about to accept second billing at that time in his career). Hepburn recalled they considered a suggested compromise that would have created an "X"-shaped credit in which Humphrey Tracy would have co-starred with Spencer Bogart, when read normally. See more »
Well, I ain't gonna go through with it, I tell you.
Now, listen. I never break my word, and I gave my word to Judy - and we're goin' to New England, and we're goin' tonight!
I can't go to New England, not tonight. I'm in the finale.
Oh, St. Louis! What's the use?
Say, if you don't do like I tell yuh, it's gonna be your finale!
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This is a film that can best be appreciated by old movie buffs and film historians instead of someone watching it for its aesthetic value. If you had seen this movie at the time it was made, you never would have suspected that this film was the work of one of Hollywood's greatest directors (John Ford) and featured two mega-stars (Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart). That's because all were early in their careers and they were still years from being recognized for their talents. While John Ford had been in Hollywood for some time, he had yet to make his mark. 1930 marked the beginning of Tracy's Hollywood career--having starred in three minor films earlier that year without any particular distinction. And finally, Humphrey Bogart was in his second film--his first where he actually got billing (having appeared many years earlier in a film as an extra). All three were far from their later polished selves, but it sure was fascinating seeing this film because of its historical pedigree. And, because of their future greatness, this film was a training ground--helping to mold them into stars and a top-notch director.
Now if you ignore all this, the film is a very routine film and my rating of 5 might just be a tad generous. Bogart talks too fast but is otherwise fine and Tracy just comes off as a jerk. Probably the most interesting acting performance in this little film was Warren Hymer as the dumb but likable comedy relief. As for Ford, it's obvious that this was a quickly made B-film because a few scenes should have been re-shot--actors flubbing their lines and yet it was allowed to remain in the film. The plot, is mildly fun but not especially memorable.
There are a few bizarre moments here and there in the film and most of them happen in this rather luxurious and happy prison. First, the warden's young daughter (about 7 or so) hangs out with the prisoners and doesn't seem to be watched by anyone. Fine parenting, huh? Also, men and women are housed in the same prison--with not very much separating them! Finally, the prison seems like a pretty nice place to live--with baseball games, social workers handing out treats and everyone getting along like one big happy family! No wonder Tracy and Hymer didn't mind being sent back to prison!!
The plot has been discussed in other reviews, so I'll leave it to them. I do need to point out, though, that there is a serious problem with the quality of the movie. Because it was old and mostly forgotten, the print shown on Turner Classic Movies is still absolutely horrid and probably beyond restoration because repeatedly bits and pieces of the film are simply missing. As a result, scenes are often VERY choppy and you miss a lot of the dialog. It looked as if they'd decided to just randomly chop out about 5 minutes of the film and do it in 10 or 20 second bursts! TCM almost always shows the very best available prints, so I'd assume that the DVD of this film which was just released in the John Ford Mega-set is also choppy and difficult to watch.
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