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Bordertown (1935)

Approved | | Crime, Drama | 23 January 1935 (USA)
Embittered when prejudice cuts short his nascent law career, once-idealistic Johnny Ramirez leaves his home in Los Angeles and ends up in Mexico. He quickly becomes the invaluable ... See full summary »

Director:

Archie Mayo (as Archie L. Mayo)

Writers:

Laird Doyle (screen play), Wallace Smith (screen play) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Paul Muni ... Johnny Ramirez
Bette Davis ... Marie Roark
Margaret Lindsay ... Dale Elwell
Eugene Pallette ... Charlie Roark
Robert Barrat ... Padre
Soledad Jiménez ... Mrs. Ramirez (as Soledad Jimenez)
Hobart Cavanaugh ... Harry
Gavin Gordon ... Brook Manville
William B. Davidson ... Dr. Carter (as William Davidson)
Arthur Stone ... Manuel Diego
Vivian Tobin ... Mrs. Garner
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Carmen Gould Carmen Gould
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Storyline

Embittered when prejudice cuts short his nascent law career, once-idealistic Johnny Ramirez leaves his home in Los Angeles and ends up in Mexico. He quickly becomes the invaluable second-in-command to Charlie Roark, the owner of a border-town casino. But Roark's wife falls hard for Johnny and goes to great lengths to make him hers, which sets in motion more perilous events. Written by Determined Copy Editor

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

23 January 1935 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Barreira See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

At first Paul Muni wanted Carole Lombard or Lupe Velez as female co-star, but after her success in Of Human Bondage he chose Bette Davis. See more »

Goofs

When Dale and Brook leave the Olvera Street cafe, the camera follows them down the street. Several objects and people pass between them and the camera, and the shadow of the camera falls across several of these. At one point, the shadow of a technician wearing a cap (presumably the camera operator) is plainly visible against a flat surface. See more »

Quotes

Marie Roark: The only fun I get is feeding the goldfish, and they only eat once a day.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Hollywood and the Stars: The Angry Screen (1964) See more »

Soundtracks

Noche Criolla
(1933) (uncredited)
Music by Agustín Lara
See more »

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User Reviews

The Production Code Asserts Itself
23 October 2009 | by dougdoepkeSee all my reviews

As a poor Mexican-American boy, Muni labors to get a night-school law degree, but can't make a professional living in such a poor neighborhood. Ambitious and tough, he works his way into heading a gambling casino. Though a financial success, he loses his way in a white- dominated social world.

It's 1934 and the notorious Hollywood Production Code has just kicked in. Few studios were more affected than Warner Bros., the home of the uncompromising gangster films of Cagney, Robinson, and Muni. There are elements of the typical rags-to-riches gangster theme in this movie, but the tone and content have altered from the pre-Code product. Note the complete absence of gunplay, dead bodies, brutality, and other staples of such pre-Code classics as Public Enemy (1931), Little Caesar (1931), and Scarface (1932).

Technically, this is not a gangster movie-- Muni may be shady, yet he's no criminal. But that too, I believe, results from trying to get right with the new Code. Note how business rivals try to buy out Palette's casino instead of just muscling-in in classic gangster fashion. And though the girls sport some pretty revealing gowns, Muni refuses Davis's overtures, while remaining unclear on his relationship with Lindsey. Such compromises likely result from the producers not wanting sexual relationships to cross racial lines. Contrast this with the strong hints of incest, no less, in the free-wheeling Scarface.

In short, the movie has the trappings of a gangster film, yet departs in ways that I think are traceable to the newly installed Code. Among others, the new strictures were supposed to end public enthrallment with the underworld by deglamorizing it. Thus, Bordertown lacks many of the risky elements that made Warner Bros. such a riveting and dynamic studio during its classical period.

Now, this is not to say the movie is without interest or entertainment value. It took some guts to make Muni's central character a Mexican-American and cast him in a sympathetic light. In fact, the only thoroughly dislikable character is Lindsey's snobbish white boyfriend (Manville). At the same time, I agree with others who think Muni's performance is too florid, along with an accent that sort of comes and goes. He looks the part, but never gets past the impersonation stage. On the other hand, Davis's one scene of nervous frustration while alone in a room is a little gem of mounting hysteria, and makes me appreciate how well she emoted with her expressive eyes. However, it's Margaret Lindsay who walks off with the movie, at least in my view. Her devious upper-class lady is compellingly natural and unaffected, an interesting contrast to Muni's undiluted staginess.

Anyway, the movie may be a come-down from Warner's pre-Code product, but still includes a couple of good twists (e.g. the first courtroom scene). It's also worth a look-see for anyone interested in the evolution of the gangster movie.


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