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Saturday, June 29, 2013

JIMMY THE GENT (1934)

This dandy James Cagney comedy is so darn entertaining, you don’t want to write it up, you just want to write snappy ad-copy. Jimmy is Fast, Furious & Funny as a mug who hooks up phony ‘heirs’ with unclaimed fortunes. Bette Davis, in one her best early roles, gives as good as she gets as an ex-assistant who decamped for a classier firm. (Platinum blonde here, Bette’s quite the dish once they figure out her hair.) Her new boss (Alan Dinehart) is also hilarious, suavely pawing Davis between tea breaks. Plus, a gaggle of tasty Warners regulars to play the grieving chiselers & wiseguys, with Allen Jenkins getting the best gags as Cagney’s chief stooge. Michael Curtiz slams his way thru in a neat 67 minutes and doesn’t put a foot (or a camera) wrong. And he manages this breathless pace without dropping a gag, plot reversal or character bit, all without a speck of background score to help move things along. The main event has Cagney locating the real heir to a mystery fortune, but forced to finagle since the ‘lucky’ heir is hiding out on a murder charge. For a change, the screwy plot mechanics really add up, but it’s the push-and-pull squabbling of Davis & Cagney that gives this that something extra. Makes you wanna go to the movies!

DOUBLE-BILL: When Davis hit the heights with MARKED WOMAN/’37, one Warners exec called her the female Cagney. But Warners didn’t like using their top two assets on the same project, so their only other film together was THE BRIDE CAME C.O.D./’41, a coarse comedy they plow their way thru. The big drama they didn’t share was 20,000 YEARS IN SING SING/’32. Cagney was in the middle of a contract dispute, so the part went to Spencer Tracy on loan-out; the only time those two were paired.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: This was released just months before the Hollywood Production Code clamped down. So, we still get dialogue like this - CAGNEY to Golddigger: Look baby, what would you do for 500 bucks? GOLDDIGGER: Umm, I’d do my best!

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