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  • Chester Morris started as a teenager in the silent films, and by the 1940s had the role of "Boston Blackie" locked up. This film "I Promise to Pay" was a couple years before he got the Boston Blackie gig. The film opens by showing us how hot the city is, and Morris is Eddie Lang, who is short on money for his wife and kid. Keep an eye out for Thomas Mitchell, the only other big name in here that I recognize - he was in about half the movies made in the 1930s, usually the father or the president of the company. In this one, he plays the D.A. Leo Carillo is the big mob boss "Farra" on the take, squeezing folks for money when they take out loans, and of course, our hero Lang becomes one of his "customers". Lang and his family go off on vacation to a lodge on a lake, but as of today, the filming locations aren't listed - too bad. Pretty good, for a Columbia Pictures shortie, at only 68 minutes. It's almost like a long episode of Dragnet. Good way to kill an hour.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I thought this was a pretty nifty drama - almost like a feature length "Crime Does Not Pay" entry. "Crime Does Not Pay" was a MGM short subject series that kicked off in 1935 with "Buried Loot". It was a series that not only tried to keep youth on the straight and narrow (the series started when America was in the midst of the "Public Enemy" era) it also gave starts to future Hollywood stars ie Robert Taylor in "Buried Loot".

    The city is going through the worst heat wave in years and Eddie Lang (Chester Morris), who is counting on his bonus coming through in a couple of weeks, goes to his manager for a $50 loan. He wants to take his family away from the city heat but his boss says no!! He is finally tipped off about a loan company who will be pleased to give him the money - all he has to sign is a "I Promise to Pay" slip. He takes his family on a great holiday, but of course, when he returns, there is no bonus. He is now in the clutches of loan sharks who insist on repayments of $10 a week. He goes to the police but not before he makes the mistake of confiding to his friend, Al, who in reality works for the loan sharks. Ed steals from petty cash and is sacked from his job. The family can't escape from the vicious punks - even in a new town, with a new job, Eddie is tracked down and severely beaten.

    Chester Morris had the ability to lift up whatever film he was in - even a programmer like this, and give it a touch of class. His finest moment is when he is making his impassioned speech to the "little guys" - all the victims of loan sharks, who have been too afraid to come forward. Interestingly Henry Brandon, who played the educated foreman and victim of the "Black Legion", in this movie was on the wrong side of the law playing one of Farra's henchmen - "Fancyface". The one person who didn't ring true was Leo Carrillo as loan shark kingpin Farra - his giggling didn't really instill fear - it made me think he must have yearned to be in a comedy. Marc Lawrence more than made up for Carrillo's shortcomings. Was there ever a badder bad guy than Lawrence - here he played a very evil henchman, "Whitehat", who wants to take little Judy and her brother "for a ride". Helen Mack was also excellent as Eddie's helpful wife.

    Highly, Highly Recommended.
  • samhill52153 November 2009
    I think I watched this film for Helen Mack. I had just seen her in "Girls of the Road" and her performance stood out in that mediocre attempt. What struck me was the chemistry between her and her co-star, Chester Morris. Their portrayal of a married couple still in love after eight years was so genuine I felt drawn in to their lives, felt their misery and disappointments, and sympathized with the gut wrenching decisions they had to make on a daily basis regarding the basic necessities of life. Yet in spite of their hard lives, or perhaps because of them, they stayed devoted to each other and very much connected. Whenever they were on screen the chemistry between them was unmistakable. They made me believe they really loved each other and that's what I found unusual. The rest of the movie is OK. Leo Carillo is a standout as the loan shark but the plot follows a more or less predictable path to a predictable ending. If it weren't for the scenes with Mack and Morris it would be entirely forgettable.
  • The film begins with Chester Morris trying to get an advance from his boss. However, the boss tells him that it's against company policy to do this. Instead of waiting a few weeks for his anticipated bonus, Morris borrow the money from a loan shark!! Then, seeing him throwing away this money uselessly tells you he is playing a giant idiot! When this bonus does NOT materialize, he cannot pay back his debt on time--a very bad idea when dealing with this sorts of people. And, to top it off, he continues to make one stupid decision after another! Despite the writer making Morris just a bit too dim, where the film goes next is very exciting, as the gang starts to put the squeeze on Morris...and his family. This makes for a very tense and interesting film--and improves as the film progresses. The writing, action and direction all improve as the film progresses--making it better than the average B-movie. Well worth seeing.
  • In the 1930s if you wanted am exciting drama that exposed a social ill, you thought of Warner Brothers. Columbia tried its hand at several, but usually they turned into routine programmers, clearly derivative and often too polite to show the grime. This movie, aimed at the loan sharks, makes a good effort at discussing the problem centering around the usual facile performance of Chester Morris, giving a little-guy performance that, as usual, slides between smart-alec humor and straightforward, believable emotion. Thomas Mitchell moves through his small but key role with his typical excellence. Leo Carillo is little short of great as the head of the loan sharking syndicate. Marc Lawrence also gets a terrifying few moments as he tries to kidnap a child.

    For the first forty-five minutes I PROMISE TO PAY shifts uneasily between domestic comedy and office oppression. While some of this is, indeed, necessary to flesh out the story, it goes on too long. It may take the casual movie-goer an effort to sit still until the movie takes off; even then the good part lasts only twenty minutes until it moves back into workaday movie-making. Even so, that's far more than most.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This very well written and acted social drama features veteran actor Chester Morris in a great role as your typical worker bee, trying to support wife Helen Mack and their two children, caught up in a loan shark scheme and desperate to pay it off before his family is threatened. He steals $10 from petty cash at work, loses his job and goes to work for the WPA where his name is listed in a public accessible file. After being found and brutally beaten, Morris agrees to testify, cooperating with tough D.A. Thomas Mitchell to bring down Leo Carrillo, head of the racket.

    This is one of the best films which most people have probably never heard of, because it comes from Columbia Studios, best known in the 1930's for it's Frank Capra feel good dramas, Grace Moore musicals and Irene Dunne screwball comedies. Warner Brothers put out films like this by the dozen, and the ones Columbia did usually paled I comparison. However, that's not the case here, a genuine hidden classic that 82 years later is as good as it was back then.
  • Chester Morris, low paid office guy with a cheap flat in the city, a wife and two kids, wants a vacation to escape the worst heat in years. When he signs on the dotted line with a shady loan outfit, he soon finds that he has said "I PROMISE TO PAY" far more than he can afford. Will Chester and his family escape his debt to Leo Carillo's new-style, can't miss racket?

    Despite a script that seems downright naive in spots, probably because of our exposure to numerous loan sharks in the movies, this a rather good programmer, that answers the question posed by many a Boston Blackie movie -- Is it possible for Chester Morris to put in a good performance? In this one, Morris' customary cockiness is only an aspect of his character (rather than his raison d'etre), and is mostly subordinated in his depiction of a decent but quietly desperate guy in a dead-end job who just wants to give his wife and kids a week in the country. The depiction of Morris' disintegrating life is contrasted, in best 30s fashion, against the over-the-top vulgarity of Carillo's mob-fueled wealth. Eventually, because movies like this had to have a happy ending in the 30s, the plot spins into a d.a. vs. mobsters vs. witnesses that won't talk that's resolved in favor of law and order. But until that point is reached, this movie is better than most of that era in showing the trials and tribulations of the lower middle class, and how a family copes with slowly creeping financial disaster.

    Well worth seeing, both as a decent Warner's style crime drama, and a depiction of the 30s socially conscious mindset.
  • sol-kay1 November 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    **SPOILERS** With a major heatwave hitting the city office worker Eddie Lang, Chester Morris, want's to take his wife Mary, Helen Mack, and two young children to the country for the week vacation that's coming him from his employer Rushmore inc.

    Needing a cash advance Eddie is steered to this loan shark Richard Farra, Leo Corrillo, by one of his friends Al Anslie, John Gallaudet, who secretly works for Farra in getting him new suckers or customers. As things turn out the $50,00 that Farra, through a local candy store owner, loaned Eddie had a 20% interest-or vig-thatched on to it! The 20% vig was not just annually or even monthly but weekly! This means by the end of the year with Eddie paying $10.00 a week in paying off Farra's loan he'll end up paying an astounding $520.00! That amounts to some 1,000% over what Farra loaned him!

    Realizing he's way over his head in paying his entire weekly saleary,$10.00, to Farra just to keep it above water Eddie tries to pay just $2.00 weekly until the loan is paid off. This leads to Eddie and his family getting threatened with psychical violence by Farra's hoods if he doesn't pay up! Desperate Eddie robs his office to make his weekly loan payment which has him being fired, or laid off, from his job after confessing his crime, and paying back the stolen money, to his very understanding boss B.G Wilson, Willis Clark. Moving to a cheaper apartment and getting a new job at the US Government sponsored W.P.A. Eddie finally thought he was through with Farra and his debt collectors! As things turned out Eddie troubles with the loan shark was just beginning!

    ***SPOILERS*** Shocking expose of the brutal loan shark racket and how it turns decent and law abiding citizens like Eddie Lang into desperate criminals! Eddie finally realizes that the only way to get Farra off his and his family's backs is go to the D.A's office and turn evidence against him. The trouble is that to get Farra Eddie and the D.A. will have to find a link in the Farra crime syndicate that's close enough to both finger and turn states evidence against him! Eddie who doesn't consider himself to be any kind hero becomes one by, with Farra ordering a hit on him, setting himself up as a target for Farra's hoods. Who in the end warn't that loyal to their boss to go to the eclectic chair for a murder he ordered them to commit!