The taxi business can get pretty cutthroat in New York City. Pop Riley (Guy Kibbee) is an independent cabbie who for the past six years has laid claim to a choice corner outside of the restaurant where his daughter Sue (Loretta Yong) works as a waitress. When rival Consolidated Cab Company decides they want his spot, they’re willing to stop at nothing to get their way. First they try telling him to go someplace else. Then while Pop is having lunch one day, someone working for Consolidated intentionally drives a truck into Pop’s cab, completely demolishing it. Pop is so furious that he pulls out a gun and shoots and kills the person responsible for it. He is sentenced to ten years in prison, but soon becomes ill and dies.
One cabby who isn’t willing to be pushed around by Consolidated is Matt Nolan (James Cagney). He becomes a leader to the other independent cabbies and tries to rally them to overthrow Consolidated. Although Sue hates Consolidated for what they did to her father, she can’t stand violence anymore and tries to stop them. At first, Matt is upset that she isn’t helping them, but since she’s pretty, he decides to ask her out on a date anyway. Although Sue loves Matt, the only thing she can’t stand about him is his awful temper. They can’t go anywhere without him trying to start a fight with somebody.
After Matt and Sue get married, they go out to a nightclub with some friends and Matt’s brother Danny to celebrate. As it turns out, Buck Gerard, head of Consolidated, is also at the same club with his girlfriend Marie. Buck is pretty drunk and tries to start trouble with Matt. Marie also doesn’t like it when Buck tries to start fights, so she pulls Sue aside and tells her to just ignore Buck to avoid problems. But when Buck questions whether or not their wedding was a shotgun wedding, Matt can’t resist punching him. Danny tries to get Matt away, but Buck pulls a knife out and accidentally stabs Danny to death. Now Matt really wants revenge. Marie has been hiding Buck and has found a way for him to sneak down to South America, but needs money to get him there. Since she knows Sue wouldn’t want Matt to kill Buck and be sent to prison, she asks her for it. Sue gives her the money, taking it from the money Matt was saving to buy Danny a headstone. But when Matt’s friend spots Marie talking to Sue and finds out about the money, he storms over to Buck’s apartment to settle the score before he can get on the train to South America.
Taxi! isn’t bad, but isn’t particularly memorable either. My biggest complaint about it movie is that I just don’t understand why Sue wouldn’t call the police when she knows exactly where the man who killed her father and husband’s brother is hiding. But if you’re a big James Cagney fan, it’s worth seeing. This movie was released a little less than a year after The Public Enemy had made Cagney a star and Taxi! is definitely pure Cagney. Not even five minutes into the movie and he’s already beating somebody up. Not only do we get to see Cagney the tough guy, it also gives us a glimpse at Cagney the dancer, which we got to see more of later in Footlight Parade and Yankee Doodle Dandy. There’s also an interesting scene where Cagney speaks Yiddish to a passenger. So really, this is a showcase for a lot of different sides of James Cagney. Loretta Young isn’t bad in it, either, but she actually wasn’t Warner Bros.’ first choice for the part of sue. When I was looking for a picture to use for this post, I stumbled across an old Carole & Co. post that talks about how they originally wanted Carole Lombard for the part. I would have loved to have seen Carole and Cagney together, but I liked him and Loretta well enough.