Glad I saw this pre-code Cagney film. As usual, Jimmy was more than alive, with his rapid thinking, speech and action, bringing comedy as well as drama to the screen. True, the plot is sometimes rather trite, but the actors make up for that deficiency.
Jimmy, as Danny, is being discharged from Sing Sing, initially heading for his old gang, of which he is the leader. But, they're surprised when he tells them he's quitting the gang and going straight. He wants to be a newspaper reporter. The only local newspaper that might take him is the gossipy Graphic News.
Danny's first assignment is to grab a picture of a distraught fireman, who has barricaded himself in his house, with a shot gun to keep people away. Danny sneaks in the back way and introduces himself as the insurance adjuster for the fire that partially burned down the house. Danny steals his wedding picture, which is acceptable to accompany the news article on the man. So, he's labeled a picture snatcher.(So, why didn't they just give him a camera??).
Danny is rewarded by being made photojournalist for the paper. His next assignment is even more challenging: Sneaking a camera into Sing Sing to take a picture of the first execution of a woman by the electric chair. No cameras are allowed, but Danny has one tied to his ankle, with a cable leading to his waist. This was essentially a reenactment of a similar trick used at the historic first execution of a woman(Ruth Snyder)by the electric chair. He passes this test.
His third 'assignment', after he quite this newspaper, is to capture or photograph the leader of his old gang: Jerry, the Mug. Dan guesses correctly where Jerry is hiding out after killing 2 policemen in a robbery. He enters his apartment, a few floors up(Just walked in?). Jerry has a bunch of firearms, but Danny convinces him that he's on his side. Somehow, the police were tipped off where he was, and a police raid soon materializes. Jerry shoots at the cops, but they have much greater firepower, making his apartment look like Swiss cheese. Eventually, they kill him, without harming Danny. Danny takes a picture of Jerry as he is falling and after he fell. He hopes some newspaper will buy his photos, and maybe give him a job. Danny tells the police that he was with Jerry as an undercover agent for policeman Casey, who goes along with this lie.
Two women become involved with Danny. Pat(Patricia Ellis) is one of several journalism students who visit the Graphic News. Danny is immediately attracted and asks her for a date. Her father, policeman Casey, catches them making out in the hall, and recognizes Danny as the gangster he shot and arrested, resulting in his stay at Sing Sing. He doesn't want his daughter dating such a guy. Throughout the film, Danny occasionally does something that pleases or disturbs Casey, with repercussions on his relationship with Pat. Clearly, Pat is typecast as the "good" girl, in contrast to Allison(Alice White) as the bubbly, knockout blond floozy, but who happens to be the girlfriend of Danny's boss and pal Al(Ralph Bellamy). She soon takes a liking to Danny, as the new dynamic "kid" in the office. She arranges for Danny and herself to be alone in her apartment. She literally throws herself on Danny, kissing, hugging, etc. Wow, some scorching hot chick! Only in pre-code Hollywood would this scene be allowed!.. Patricia Ellis was only 17, while Alice White was nearly 30, though she seemed younger.