Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


LADY KILLER (1933). Director: Roy Del Ruth.

Fired from his job as usher, Dan Quigley (James Cagney) falls in with a gang of con artists who later take to robbing houses. Although Dan doesn't want anybody to get killed, the worst happens, and everyone takes it on the lam to California. There Dan becomes a movie extra, and then a star, until his old gang members show up to cause trouble. Lady Killer is another of those cheerfully amoral comedy-dramas with Cagney -- who is excellent -- playing another of his unpleasant if charismatic characters. The two ladies in his life are gang member Myra (Mae Clarke) and actress Lois (Margaret Lindsay of Dangerous); both women give very good performances, and Douglass.Dumbrille [A Life at Stake] is another cast stand-out as the leader of the gang. A repulsive scene has a bullying Cagney cornering a movie critic in a rest room and forcing him to literally eat his review. Cagney would probably have wanted it to be believed that Lady Killer is more or less his life story, but of course most of this is pure fiction, including the bit with the studio wanting to dump Quigley when news of his past leaks out (the studios tended to cover up for their assets). Dan doesn't turn on the gang because they're bad guys but because they threaten his livelihood, but the picture makes him out to be some kind of hero (not to mention he'd be in serious hot water even if he didn't kill anyone because he helped plan and execute the robberies). Still, this is fast, snappy and for the most part, fun, if morally questionable. One highlight is when the director insists Dan eat garlic before his love scene with poor Lois. Leslie Fenton is also in the cast. Clarke and Cagney were famously teamed in The Public Enemy two years earlier.

Verdict: Cagney is on top of his game even if the script is (literally) all over the lot. **1/2.

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