21 December 2006 | jltournier1
A rarely-seen gem, catch it if you can!
I am always on the lookout for the products of the Golden Age of Hollywood, especially ones that I haven't seen before. In a lifetime of watching classic films, I had never seen this one. The opening credits indicate that this film was based on a story called *Robber Barons,* which gives you some idea of the subject matter. The three anchoring parts are played by Edward Arnold as Jim Fisk, Cary Grant as his partner Nick Boyd, and Jack Oakie as Luke, seeming a bit "country bumpkinish" I thought in the company of the other two bons vivants. The love interest, in the form of showgirl Josephine Mansfield, is filled by lovely Frances Farmer. I must give a special mention to old reliable supporting actor Donald Meek - usually seen as a fixture in MGM features. Here he is given one of the ripest supporting roles I have ever seen him in as Bible-spouting, aphorism-quoting, shipping magnate "Uncle Daniel" Drew. I will say no more for now, so as to avoid spoilers, but I found his performance truly wonderful. The film is lensed beautifully in stunning black and white, features smooth direction by *Son of Frankenstein* and *Tower of London* director Rowland V. Lee, and most especially the cast are supported by a literate, witty script featuring some of the juiciest dialog that has been my pleasure to indulge in in years. This film is right up there with such classics of the era as *His Girl Friday* (*The Front Page*), with the difference that the effervescence takes place in the historical setting of the latter half of the 19th. Century. I am not surprised to find out that the film takes liberties with the facts - but with such polished actors and literate script, it presents an idealized version with consummate technique. Since it really is a star vehicle and tour de force for Edward Arnold rather than Grant, I am left wondering why he wasn't given more such opportunities to steal the show - which he does rather handily.