Ordinary man-in-the-street Arthur Ferguson Jones leads a very straightforward life. He's never late for work and nothing interesting ever happens to him. One day everything changes: he oversleeps and is fired as an example, he's then mistaken for evil criminal killer Mannion and is arrested. The resemblance is so striking that the police give him a special pass to avoid a similar mistake. The real Mannion sees the opportunity to steal the pass and move around freely and chaos results.Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
I don't think there's anyone who's ever seen The Whole Town's Talking and doesn't believe this was a film intended for Frank Capra. The mere fact that the screenplay was co-written by Robert Riskin who won an Oscar together with Capra for It Happened One Night the year before should give ample indication. If Capra had a choice between this and Broadway Bill he chose wrong.
Although this kind of comedy is not usually what is found in John Ford films, Ford does OK by it. I don't think he ever directed again anything that could be remotely classified as screwball comedy.
Edward G. Robinson who would make his second and last appearance in a Ford film 34 years later in Cheyenne Autumn, plays a dual role. He plays Killer Mannion in the tradition he established as Little Caesar and also A.L. Jones a meek, mild mannered clerk a type Robinson would play later in Mr. Winkle Goes to War.
Mannion's escaped from prison and there's a manhunt on for him, similar to the kind that was on for John Dillinger a year earlier. The police will simply shoot to kill. Bad luck for a guy that looks like Mannion and worse luck when Mannion finds out about his doppleganger and tries to make use of him.
Robinson is fine in his dual performance, but the film was a milestone for Jean Arthur who plays Robinson's fellow employee and despite his being a milquetoast, she sees something in him. Up to this point Arthur had played a lot of ingénues and loyal wives to leading men. This is her first role in a screwball type comedy that she became known for, in fact what she's remembered for mostly. Of course a year later, Harry Cohn did team her with Frank Capra and they certainly made some cinematic history.
My favorite two supporting parts are Etienne Girardot as Robinson's officious little office manager and Donald Meek another milquetoast who originally mistakenly turns in the clerk as the gangster and stays on the 'case.'
Though he's not in his element John Ford serves a nice piece of entertainment.
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