At a Mayor's convention in San Francisco, California, ex-longshoreman Steve Fisk meets Clarissa Standish from New England. Fisk is Mayor of Puget City, and is proud of his rough and tumble ... See full summary »
Bootlegger/cafe owner Ralph Bellamy recruits crude working man Wallace Beery to join his gang which is masterminded by crooked criminal defense lawyer Lewis Stone. Beery eventually takes over Bellamy's operation, beats a rival gang, becomes wealthy and dominates the city for several years until a secret group of 6 masked businessmen have him prosecuted and sent to the electric chair with the help of rival crusading newspapermen Clark Gable and Johnny Mack Brown. Waitress Jean Harlow is torn between her love for the honest newsman Brown and her financial dependence on her generous boss, Beery.Written by
Although supposedly set in Chicago, after the shoot-out in the bar, as the gangs drive off on the rear-projection in the background can be seen the large vertical sign for the Metropolitan Theater in Los Angeles (at the corner of 6th and Hill Streets). That footage was also shot in 1929 or before as during that year Paramount bought the theater and renamed it "The Paramount). The distinctive 5-globe Llewellyn Iron Works streetlights are also a giveaway those shots were done in L.A. See more »
[Comparing his slaughterhouse job to a life of crime]
I'd rather have a belly full of guts, anytime, than a belly full of lead.
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I saw this recently on TCM and was quite impressed. This film came before the better known gangster movies of that era-- "Little Caesar," "Public Enemy," and, the greatest of them all-- "Scarface." It was also made at a time when sound recording technology for motion pictures was very new and still in development. The first talkie gangster movie, which happened to be the first all-talkie movie, was "Lights of New York," made in 1928. In that film the equipment was so clunky that the actors had to speak loud and slow and stay close to the microphone. By 1931, several improvements had come along, but it was still a difficult technical achievement to make a film like this.
There is a scene towards the beginning where Ralph Belamy, who does a great job as a sinister hood, fires a tommy-gun in a night club and kills a guy. Then, he and his cohorts run out and jump in a car. The rival gang pursues them, firing their own tommy-gun. Finally, the rivals crash. But during the chase scene, we are taken through city streets, with the cars running fast and the machine guns blazing. Granted, this was done much better a year or so later in "Scarface," but this film set the precedent.
The film is also worth seeing for the Clark Gable role. He shows the charm that made him a star. Harlow is also great as the moll. For a film made that long ago-- at the very beginning of the sound era-- it is well worth viewing whenever it appears again on Turner or any other channel.
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