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Sunday, August 23, 2009


Inane, but entertaining James Cagney vehicle is like a Warner Bros. Pilgrim’s Progress in 74 snappy minutes. In New York, Jimmy is a wise-ass movie usher who’s fired, and then ‘taken’ by some crooked card sharps. He turns tables on these mugs and soon has them all working for him, running a fancy gambling den. But a murder screws up his quick success and he goes on the lam to Chicago with moll Mae Clarke. (Yep, the doll who got the grapefruit in the kisser in PUBLIC ENEMY/’31.) Cagney’s old pals set him up for the murder rap and he flees to L.A. Deserted and ‘on-the-bum,’ he’s spotted by a studio man who’s cruising local dives for movie extras with ‘character.’ Cagney’s a natural on camera and he’s soon being groomed for stardom when . . . his old crooked pals come to pull him back in. Helmer Roy Del Ruth manages the first two acts smoothly, but we seem to be watching an entirely different film after Chicago. It’s fun to see how untamable Cagney’s character is, even when he hits the big time in Hollywood, but sad to see his fine rapport with Clarke scuttled for nice gal Margaret Lindsay who does little for Jimmy. Production Code junkies should note that Cagney gets off scot-free even though he’s an accessory to two (count ‘em, 2) murders; including a cop!

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