19 March 2011 | AlsExGal
If you like William Powell you'll like this early talkie
Jim Montgomery (William Powell) has an evening out with a lovely neighbor (Agnes Moorehead as Ethel) and he is hoping for a nightcap and maybe a little more than that when they arrive back at her front door, she seems nervous about letting him in and should be - an angry jealous man awaits her inside. Jim excuses himself not knowing if the man is a husband or a gangster or both. Later the neighbors can hear the man yelling and slapping Ethel around. Dressed in her nightclothes, Ethel runs into Jim's apartment and begs for his protection, but the angry man is right behind her and intends to continue the beating. Jim intervenes and tries to contain the man, and in the process the unknown man loses his balance and falls from Jim's apartment window to his death. Ethel mentions something about how she cannot have a scandal, and runs away - as in packing her things and vacating the apartment before the police even get there.
Without anyone to back up his story, Jim faces murder charges and gets life. He spends three years in prison before the warden makes him head con at the machine shop. He uses this opportunity of trust to escape by packing himself into one of the crates slated for shipment. Two years after that Jim's old cellmate, Pete, finishes his sentence and comes to where Jim is at Jim's request, a textile plant in North Carolina where Jim is now known as John Nelson. He is supervisor of the plant and practically engaged to the daughter of the plant's owner. Nobody there knows who he really is . Jim says that he's tired of hiding and wants to live out in the open but can't do so unless the mysterious Ethel agrees to an affidavit saying Jim is really innocent. He's hired private detectives who have found her but he needs Pete to go to her and convince her to speak up. He can't go himself for fear of risking arrest. Plus there is a police detective that is still looking for Jim after all these years since Jim is the only escaped con he ever trailed that he could not find. Jim gives Pete five thousand dollars to sweeten the pot for Ethel to tell the truth. Pete is an ex-con - will he take the money and run? If he doesn't can he convince Ethel to return with him? And what was so special about her identity that she wouldn't come forward in the first place? Watch and find out.
I honestly don't know why this one has such a low rating. William Powell plays his familiar dapper self although it is a bit of a shock seeing him minus his trademark moustache and in prison garb for about 15 or 20 minutes of the movie. Natalie Moorehead plays the mysterious femme fatale so well as she does in so many of these early talking films. The only bad thing I could say about it is the final showdown of the film - if you watch it you'll know what I'm talking about - is just talked about by a third party. You never see it happen, and that makes the ending somewhat unsatisfactory. Also, besides Powell and Moorehead and a cameo appearance by Regis Toomey all of the other actors in the film were pretty much unknowns. I'd say this is definitely worth your time if you like William Powell.