When a crusader against rackets is murdered, a grand jury battles the rackets by promoting McLaren to be in charge of the cleanup. He fires NYPD Detective Blake, who punches him and joins the racket.


William Keighley


Seton I. Miller (screen play), Martin Mooney (story) | 1 more credit »





Complete credited cast:
Edward G. Robinson ... Johnny Blake
Joan Blondell ... Lee Morgan
Barton MacLane ... Al Kruger
Humphrey Bogart ... 'Bugs' Fenner
Frank McHugh ... Herman
Joe King ... Capt. Dan McLaren (as Joseph King)
Dick Purcell ... Ed Driscoll (as Richard Purcell)
George E. Stone ... Wires Kagel
Joseph Crehan ... Grand Jury Spokesman
Henry O'Neill ... Ward Bryant
Henry Kolker ... Mr. Hollister
Gilbert Emery ... Mr. Thorndyke
Herbert Rawlinson ... Mr. Caldwell
Louise Beavers ... Nellie LaFleur
Norman Willis ... Louie Vinci


After police captain, McLaren becomes commissioner, former detective Johnny Blake knocks him down convincing rackets boss Al Kruger that Blake's sincere in his effort to join the mob. "Buggs" Fenner thinks Blake is a police agent. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Speeding to the screen on a wave of headlines! The torrid timed-to-the minute revelations of the new dictatorship of Gangdom. (Trade paper ad). See more »


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


First film of Rosalind Marquis . See more »


Early in the film while Johnny Blake (Robinson) is sitting at a table with Joan Blondell talking, one of the old "mugs" he'd sent to Sing Sing prison walks over to him and smarts off. Without standing, he kicks the mug in the leg and punches him to the floor. While leaning over and chastising the unconscious mug, you can see that Blake's (Robinson) hair has moved forward on the right side and is messed up. In the next shot, when he leans back up to the table to talk to Joan Blondell, his hair is perfectly neat and combed. See more »


[first lines]
Al Kruger: What time does the crime picture start?
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The Lady in Red
(1935) (uncredited)
Music by Allie Wrubel
Whistled by Edward G. Robinson
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User Reviews

mostly bullets
10 December 2009 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

Edward G. Robinson stars as a tough detective, based on a real character, in "Bullets or Ballots," a 1936 film also starring Joan Blondell, Humphrey Bogart, Barton MacLane, and Frank McHugh.

Robinson plays Johnny Blake, modeled after a real police officer, Johnny Broderick, who worked in New York City. As in the film, the character has a highly public firing so he can work with an organized crime group running illegal games.

Bogart plays an ambitious gang member who intends to get rid of anyone in his way of taking over the organization - he starts with a newspaperman and goes from there.

Warners made such great use of its character actors, using their versatility to great advantage. Cagney, Robinson, Bogart, all started out as villains but branched out into other kinds of roles.

Strong performances by Robinson and Bogart - a good gangster flick.

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Release Date:

6 June 1936 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bullets or Ballots See more »


Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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