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21 user 7 critic

King of the Underworld (1939)

After the killing of her husband by friendly fire during a police raid, Dr. Carol Nelson tries to find gangster Joe Gurney to clear her name with the medical board.

Director:

Lewis Seiler

Writers:

George Bricker (screen play), Vincent Sherman (screen play) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Humphrey Bogart ... Joe Gurney
Kay Francis ... Carol Nelson
James Stephenson ... Bill Stevens
John Eldredge ... Niles Nelson
Jessie Busley ... Aunt Josephine
Arthur Aylesworth ... Dr. Sanders
Raymond Brown Raymond Brown ... Sheriff
Harland Tucker Harland Tucker ... Mr. Ames
Ralph Remley Ralph Remley ... Mr. Robert
Charley Foy ... Slick
Murray Alper ... Eddie
Joe Devlin ... Porky
Elliott Sullivan Elliott Sullivan ... Mugsy
Alan Davis Alan Davis ... Pete
John Harmon ... Slats
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Storyline

Niles and Carol Nelson are married doctors who save one of gang lord Gurney's men. Gurney exploits them, then kills Niles leaving Carol to take the fall. He next kidnaps writer Bill Stephens to write his biography. Knowing Bill will be killed when the biography is finished, Carol takes matters into her own hands. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Don't Kill This Killer! Bring Him Back Alive! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

14 January 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Unlawful See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

Kay Francis's popularity had dipped by 1939, but she still commanded a pricey payday for her films ($200,000 annual salary). Studio head Jack L. Warner schemed to get Francis to break her long-term contract, thus saving his studio her hefty salary, by casting her in this film. Warner was convinced that Francis would refuse to act in a lurid crime drama and breach contract. Much to his chagrin, Francis accepted the role and remarked that she would "mop the sound stages" as long as she was paid her fee. See more »

Goofs

The night scenes of the raid on the Gurney hideout are mismatched. It goes from day-for-night to what appears to be genuine darkness. See more »

Quotes

Dr. Carole Nelson: I still have two weeks to convince the medical board that I'm innocent, and until that time I'm a licensed doctor!
Dr. Sanders: [Self-righteously] But, you have no call to start up in a respectable town like this. If the sheriff did his duty, you'd be locked up in a cell!
Dr. Carole Nelson: If the state did its duty, YOU'd be locked up in a cell - a padded cell!
[the sheriff explodes in laughter]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Diese Drombuschs: Abschied im Zorn (1990) See more »

Soundtracks

Jezebel
(1938) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Warren
Played when Joe receives the telephone call before the operation
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Kay Gets The Drop On Bogey
18 September 2008 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Although Humphrey Bogart got star billing in King Of The Underworld, I'm willing to bet he didn't thank Jack Warner for it. In fact this film was one hollow crown.

King of the Underworld was supposedly a remake of the Paul Muni film, Dr. Socrates, but given Humphrey Bogart was in the cast, the character is written more like Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest. He even has an English writer along in the person of James Stephenson.

Kay Francis and John Eldredge are a pair of married doctors and Eldredge pulls off a tricky bit of surgery on one of Bogart's henchmen. Bogey's a man who appreciates good work done on his behalf and gives Eldredge $500.00 and there's more where that came from if he plays his cards right. Eldredge who has a gambling problem sees a good way to get some undeclared income.

But when he's killed in a raid on the gang's hideout, Francis is also thought to be involved by the law and the American Medical Association no matter how much she protests her innocence. It's no good and she and her aunt Jessie Busley move to a small town to get away from the notoriety.

Of course the notoriety and Bogart and an itinerant Leslie Howard like writer in Stephenson all meet up with her again. But Kay is plucky and resourceful to say the least.

Bogart's character was ridiculous, no wonder the poor guy was screaming for better parts. He's a gangster who both shoots down people without mercy and gives his henchmen hotfoots just for laughs. He's concerned about his image and therefore kidnaps writer Stephenson to ghost write his autobiography and of course confesses enough to burn him in all 48 states. And then let's Kay Francis completely outsmart him, hard to believe he was king of anything.

Definitely one of the lesser works for either of the stars.


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