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Bullets or Ballots (1936)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 6 June 1936 (USA)
3:00 | Trailer
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


The story of the "G-Men's" new job!...The year's most sensational hit! (Trade paper ad). See more »


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Did You Know?


In the film, it is suggested that Joan Blondell's character got the idea of the numbers racket from her assistant, "Nellie". In reality, the numbers racket was pioneered by black gambling racketeers in Harlem. The "Nellie" character was based on Stephanie "Madame Queen" St. Clair (Nellie scoffs at being called "Madam Nellie"). As in the film, the numbers racket was eventually taken over by Dutch Schultz and 'Lucky Luciano' (the Humphrey Bogart and Barton MacLane characters, respectively). See more »


When Blake returns to his residence, he runs into Wires sitting in the lobby reading a paper. Blake knows that Wires is a wiretap specialist and rightfully so becomes suspicious. But it makes no logical sense to also use Wires as a lookout after bugging Blake's room thus inviting a red flag. They could have just used a different person to spot Blake or have Blake run into him in the elevator or something as Wires was leaving. The illogical scene disrupts the flow of the story. 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
See more »

User Reviews

Edward G. Robinson: A Tough Guy With A Heart
23 December 2006 | by ccthemovieman-1See all my reviews

This turned out to be a decent '30s gangster movie, not a lot different from a few others I've seen where Humphrey Bogart plays the bad guy and is the main adversary of the hero. Several films had James Cagney up against him; here it was Edward G Robinson.

Robinson plays policeman "Det. Johnny Blake," who goes underground, so to speak, by posing as a gang member to get the goods on them. (It's based on a real-life character.) Robinson, as usual, is very interesting to watch and is a tough guy BUT with a soft heart. In fact, he even feels bad about betraying the head crook because he has such principles of being a "straight shooter" that he doesn't feel right lying to anybody, even the gang leader "Al Krueger" (Barton MacLane).

Bogart plays "Nick Fenner," Al's number-one guy and is more of the villain than his boss. Joan Blondell gets second billing but that's not right because she's at least fourth in the amount of screen time and lines. There really is no real love interest in this movie; it's strictly a crime story.

When I first saw this movie, a little over a decade ago on VHS, I wasn't that impressed but last week, watching this on DVD, not only was the story better than I remembered but the picture was excellent. The blacks, whites and grays in here are beautiful. This was part of the "Tough Guys" DVD package and they did a wonderful job on the transfer.

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Release Date:

6 June 1936 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Balas o votos See more »


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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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