Here is a movie with a split personality; any scene with James Cagney in it is captivating: Cagney plays a generally unlikable race-car driver with his usual brand of fanatical intensity, and the wonderful tics that make Cagney Cagney: physically and psychologically manhandling the men and women around him, adjusting his tie and jacket with a formal roll of his shoulders, spitting out lines like a machine gun. Wonderful stuff! But when he is off screen, you may or may not care that much. The pace is fast, with classic Warner Brothers 1930's dialogue, but... Ann Dvorak gets tiresome with her endless weeping and paranoid, irrational devotion to a man (Cagney) who mistreats her so...and Eric Linden, as Cagney's little brother, is just plain not appealing, and his harsh New York City accent doesn't help. Joan Blondell is his girlfriend. It doesn't work, because she is a beautiful mature woman, and Linden looks to be about 14 years old.
There are some interesting things to look for in this film. Frank McHugh, Cagney's best and most ubiquitous Warner's supporting actor, plays, unusually, a wise married man, rather than his normal unattached, not too bright hanger-on. He does still get to do famous high-pitched "ha...ha" laugh a couple of times.
Being a pre-Code film, look for unmarried couples in the film living in sin! And as noted by other writers, the old racing films are quite fascinating, but the endless close-ups of Cagney, Linden and NcHugh pretending to drive in front of obviously fake projection screens are tiresome indeed.
Cagney's work toward the end of the film, when he plays a contrite and humbled Joe Greer, is extremely appealing, probably the best scenes in the movie. There is something quietly awesome about this little man with a critical mass of energy, desperately hanging on to a last thread of self-respect and dignity. These are beautifully acted indeed. And the scene where his tightly-wound emotions finally bubble to the surface and he collapses in sobs is definitely a highlight moment, one that I can watch over and over again.
Keep your eyes on Cagney, and you won't be disappointed. And in these little throwaway movies that Warner relentlessly pumped out in the 30's, does the plot even really matter? Just give me more Cagney!
0 out of 0 found this helpful