20 May 2018 | boblipton
Spencer Tracy & Claire Trevor!
Spencer Tracy is an amiable prohibition beer baron who likes to get his picture in the paper, particularly when pal Claire Trevor is writing the story. However, the end of Prohibition is in sight and while he's happy to retire, right-hand man J. Carroll Naish thinks there are plenty of other swell rackets to get into, like kidnapping, which Tracy won't stand for; he's a businessman. So Naish arranges for Tracy to wind up in prison for five years -- and tries to kill him on the way there -- and sets up a snatching ring. Tracy is let out to hunt them down, with plastic surgery so no one will recognize him, while matters get really nasty.
It's a thoroughly competent programmer from Fox in this period, with some nice Pre-Code touches and great performances by Claire Trevor and Matt McHugh and Ralph Morgan in support -- even if the lines didn't always make sense. Tracy is fine in the early scenes, although I was distracted by his make-up after his "plastic surgery", which looked like his prosthetics from DOCTOR JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. Irving Cummings' direction is, as always, impeccable, although given the straitened circumstances of the studio, no money was wasted on the production.
Cummings was one of those directors who could turn his hand to anything and crank out a fine movie, from spectacles like THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD to Shirley Temple vehicles to reshooting most of IN OLD ARIZONA after a jackrabbit had put Raoul Walsh out of commission. If he's not well remembered these days, I think it's because critics and film scholars like to be able to identify an auteur easily and Cummings suited his methods to the movie, rather than the other way around. Foolish man!