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

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Robinson and Hopkins

BARBARY COAST (1935) Director: Howard Hawks.

Mary Rutledge (Miriam Hopkins), known as "Swan," arrives in San Francisco during the gold rush, fully expecting to find a fiancee and a million bucks waiting for her. Instead she winds up at a crooked roulette wheel in a casino-saloon owned by Luis Chamalis (Edward G. Robinson). Chamalis is a racketeer who runs the town with the aid of killer Knuckles (Brian Donlevy), who's fond of shooting people in the back. Swan becomes rather hardened by her life and Chamalis' persistent and unwelcome wooing of her, but she's softened a bit by an attractive and kindly young prospector, Jim (Joel McCrae), but their next encounter is quite unpleasant ... Hopkins and Robinson make an interesting team -- more interesting than Hopkins and McCrea -- but that's not enough to save this picture, whose basically light tone is at odds with the grim subject matter. Despite some good performances from the leads and the supporting cast -- Frank Craven (In This Our Life) as a colonel who starts a newspaper is especially noteworthy -- the movie is a mediocre mish mash, and not one of Robinson's better pictures. Walter Brennan offers another of his bizarre portraits as the cackling "Old Atrocity."

Verdict: Begins promisingly but goes in too many dull directions. **1/2.

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