Clancy Wiggum, Springfield’s ineffective police chief, is one of the dozens of Simpsons characters voiced by actor Hank Azaria. Although Edward G. Robinson is best known for playing gangsters who have little regard for the law, Azaria has said that the voice he created for Chief Wiggum is basically his imitation of Edward G. Robinson. In the season 5 episode “Bart Gets an Elephant,” the writers included a joke about the inspiration for this character’s voice.
Nick Venizelos (Edward G. Robinson) runs a barbershop by day, but has a reputation for being a very shrewd gambler by night. Known as Nick the Barber, he runs games out of the back room of his barbershop along with his friend Jack (James Cagney) and a lot of his friends believe he could win big if he went into the city and got into a game with some other big name gamblers. They’re even willing to chip in money for Nick to go to the city to gamble with.
Armed with $10,000, Nick takes a train to the city and gets to work at finding out where the action is. If there’s one thing Nick can’t resist, it’s a pretty blonde and when he sees hotel employee Marie (Noel Francis), he’s drawn to her like a magnet. She tips him off about a big card game and when he arrives, Nick thinks he’s playing with notorious gambler Hickory Smart. The only problem is that Hickory Smart is serving a prison sentence in Florida and Nick ends up losing big time to conman Sleepy Sam (Ralf Harolde). When Nick finds out what’s going on, he tries to win his money back, but gets beaten up and he vows to get even with them someday.
Nick goes back to being a barber, but within a few months, he’s ready to get his revenge. Not only does he successfully con the con men, his reputation as a gambler quickly grows. He even gets to finally play cards with Hickory Smart — and wins! He becomes infamous for being one of the biggest gamblers around, which doesn’t go unnoticed by the District Attorney. But Nick soon realizes his new position is being jeopardized by a woman he’s been trying to help.
Smart Money isn’t one of the all-time great gangster movies, but it’s enjoyable enough. The most interesting thing it has going for it is that it showcases two of Warner Brothers’s biggest stars right as their careers were starting to really take off. Edward G. Robinson had just recently had his career breakthrough with Little Caesar and Cagney was working on Smart Money at the same time he was working on The Public Enemy. The Public Enemy ended up being released first, so although Cagney is a supporting actor in Smart Money, he became an A-lister by the time it was released (which explains why Cagney gets equal billing with Robinson.) Smart Money was also, surprisingly, the only movie the two actors made together. It’s really too bad Cagney and Robinson didn’t do another movie together where they both really got to be on equal footing.
Not only does Smart Money have Cagney and Robinson as they were on their way up, it also features a very brief appearance from another rising star, Boris Karloff. Smart Money was released shortly before the public saw his iconic performance in Frankenstein. Keep an eye out for him in the beginning of the movie as one of the gamblers in the backroom of Nick’s barber shop.
Happy December, everyone! With 2014 in its final days, TCM is ending the year on a high note and there’s much to be excited about this month. December starts with a day of Joan Crawford and Cary Grant movies and ends with a night of movies featuring The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and in between, there’s a lot of musicals and, of course, Christmas movies, so this is truly my kind of month.
December’s Star of the Month is the eternally suave Cary Grant and his movies will be highlighted every Monday night this month.
Friday Night Spotlight will be showcasing movies directed by Charles Watlers. If you’re a big fan of musicals, you’re going to love Fridays this month.
Since it is December, of course there will be plenty of Christmas classics coming up. If this is what you’re looking for, be sure to keep an eye on the schedule for December 4th, 11th, 18th, 23rd, 24th, and 25th.
Happy April, everybody! TCM has a pretty fun schedule this month, but it’s organized a little differently than usual. Usually things like the Star of the Month nights get one night each week. But this month, those nights are all in one week from Monday to Friday. Doris Day is the April Star of the Month so her movies will be on every night from April 2-6. TCM will also be doing a spring break week this month from April 16-20, so every night will be fun, beachy movies like Gidget and Frankie and Annette Beach Party movies. Now, onto the schedule:
We’re down to the last month of 2011 already! TCM will be closing out the year in top form. December’s star of the month is William Powell, which I am very excited about since I’m a big fan of his. It also means we get two nights of movies featuring him with Myrna Loy, one night being the entire Thin Man series and another night featuring their other collaborations. His movies will be showcased every Thursday night this month. TCM will also be celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens a little early (his birthday isn’t actually until February) by devoting Monday nights to showing various film adaptations of his work. And of course there are Christmas classics galore to look forward to!
After World War II, Mr. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson) is hard at work rounding up Nazi war criminals and seeing that they are punished. One Nazi in particular who has evaded his reach is Franz Kindler (Orson Welles). In hopes of finding Kindler, Wilson releases Kindler’s old friend Konrad Meinike thinking that Meinike will go to see Kindler, wherever he is. Sure enough, he does and Wilson follows him to Harper, Connecticut where Kindler has assumed the identity of Professor Charles Rankin and is engaged to Mary Longstreet (Loretta Young), the daughter of a Supreme Court justice.
In fact, Meinike and Wilson arrive in Harper on the day Mary and Charles are set to be married. Meinike knows he’s being followed and evades Wilson long enough to find Charles, but obviously, this is not a happy reunion. Meinike has seen the error of his ways and tries to convince Charles to turn himself in, but Charles isn’t about to give up his new life so easily. He strangles Meinike and buries the body in the woods before going on with the wedding. But what Charles doesn’t realize is that Meinike had talked to Mary about where to find him. Over the next few days, Wilson does some investigating and concludes that Charles is really Kindler. He even recruits Mary’s brother Noah (Richard Long) to help him nab Charles. But the only person who can definitely tie Charles to Meinike is Mary. Meanwhile, there’s someone else posing a threat to Charles’ new identity — Mary’s dog. When Charles takes Mary’s dog for a walk in the woods, it starts digging at the area where Charles buried Meinike, so he poisons the dog. When Noah finds the dog dead, he and Wilson start investigating more and Meinike’s body is found.
Charles really starts getting nervous when Wilson questions Mary about whether or not she’d seen Meinike. Charles tries to keep her quiet by concocting a story about how Meinike had been trying to blackmail him so he killed him to protect her. Mary desperately wants to believe her husband and protect him, but it gets harder when Wilson shows her horrifying footage from concentration camps and tells her about how her husband was responsible for all that suffering. Even then, Mary doesn’t want to believe this about her husband. But Wilson knows that Charles is very likely to try to kill Mary next and he’s right. At last, Mary is able to accept the awful truth about the man she married.
There isn’t a single thing about The Stranger that I didn’t like. The cast was great all around. Loretta Young totally nailed the innocence and naivety her character needed. It’s got plenty of suspense, I didn’t think there was a dull moment in the movie. I know Orson Welles didn’t think very highly of this movie, largely because he wasn’t given as much creative control as he would have liked. But I think this is a case where limitations may have worked to the film’s advantage. There were about 20-30 minutes worth of scenes that Welles had wanted in the film that were cut by the studio. Although I’d love for those lost scenes to surface someday, I thought the movie was just right in terms of length. For how outstanding The Stranger is, it’s a somewhat underrated Orson Welles movie. It’s awfully hard not to be overshadowed by The Third Man, Citizen Kane, or The Lady From Shanghai and I wouldn’t put The Stranger on par with any of those, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fantastic movie.