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Racket Busters (1938)

Passed | | Action, Adventure, Crime | 16 July 1938 (USA)
Manhattan gangster John "Czar" Martin enters the trucking business in an effort to control the produce market. When he catches popular trucker Danny Jordan robbing the gang's office to ... See full summary »


Lloyd Bacon


Robert Rossen (original screen play), Leonardo Bercovici (original screen play)


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Complete credited cast:
Humphrey Bogart ... John Martin
George Brent ... Denny Jordan
Gloria Dickson ... Nora Jordan
Allen Jenkins ... 'Skeets' Wilson
Walter Abel ... Allison
Henry O'Neill ... Governor
Penny Singleton ... Gladys
Anthony Averill ... Crane
Oscar O'Shea ... Pop
Elliott Sullivan Elliott Sullivan ... Charlie Smith
Fay Helm ... Mrs. Smith
Joe Downing Joe Downing ... Joe
Norman Willis ... Gus
Don Rowan ... Kimball


Manhattan gangster John "Czar" Martin enters the trucking business in an effort to control the produce market. When he catches popular trucker Danny Jordan robbing the gang's office to provide for his pregnant wife Nora, Martin forces Jordan to join him. As the other truckers come around Martin appears to have won. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


WARNER BROS' TIME BOMBSHELL! (original poster-all caps) See more »


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

16 July 1938 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ambición rota See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


When Czar and his men are walking through the produce area of town, the boom mike's shadow is visible as they stroll toward their new building. See more »


Joe: It's awfully big.
John 'Czar' Martin: Not so big that we can't take it.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits: Based upon official court records of the special rackets prosecution of the trucking racket in new york city. See more »


Referenced in The Bookworm (1939) See more »

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User Reviews

Bogart muscles in on the trucking industry !
24 July 2011 | by gullwing592003See all my reviews

This was the first Humphrey Bogart movie I ever saw when I was a young kid growing up in the 60's & 70's. I first discovered Bogie on "Humphrey Bogart Theatre" on TV. I was very impressed with his portrayal of a mafia style crime boss. Gangsters were once Bogarts specialty, he was good at it, this movie pre-dates "On The Waterfront" & is almost as good. The film opens with Bogart bent on wanting to take over the entire town & muscle in on the trucking business. "I got plans & I got organization", "nothings going to stop me", "I'll make this whole town pay off from blue-backs to bankers".

This is Bogart playing the lead role as John "Czar" Martin, Manhattens most powerful gang chief, Bogie is very cold & ruthless in this one & it's clear he is the main character even though he's not in every scene, most of the film focuses more on the George Brent character as one of the truckers who complies with Martins underworld organization after Bogie's henchmen sets Brents truck on fire. Eventually he & Allen Jenkins rally all the truckers against Bogart in a free for all. It's a propaganda movie showing why unions were needed & organized in the 1930's but it also shows how corrupt unions can get by bribery & intimidation by the syndicate.

The absence of Bogarts character doesn't really weaken the film but creates an interesting mystique for his character is much talked about but hardly ever seen which heightens & magnifies Bogarts exciting screen presence. Like in "The Petrified Forest" Bogie played a famous celebrated John Dillinger style outlaw. He doesn't enter the film until the 2nd half of the movie but his character is mentioned consistently from the very beginning of the film creating this mystique. Kind of a sense of mystery so you just sit & watch the movie just waiting in suspense to see when "Duke Mantee" first enters & dominates the movie from that point on.

"Racket Busters" does a similar thing with Bogart's character as "Czar" Martin & the gimmick works & for once Bogart doesn't get killed in the end unlike his other gangsters where he gets bumped off. Sometimes less is more, a character that lays low or not seen much makes the character that much more interesting & desirable. In "The Maltese Falcon" Floyd Thursby was a character much talked about all through the entire movie..... but never seen. I have a bootleg copy of "Racket Busters" & I don't think it's out on DVD yet, it should be because it's not too bad, it's a standard programmer & it's worth watching if you're a fan of Bogart & gangster films like I am. Racket Busters is the precursor to On The Waterfront. What more can be said ?

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