Tully Marshall

Beast of the City (1932)

Jim Fitzpatrick (Walter Huston) seems to be living the all-American dream life.  He’s got a wife, children, a nice home, a good job as a police officer, and a close relationship with his brother and fellow cop Ed (Wallace Ford).  Jim takes his job very seriously, especially when it comes to putting an end to organized crime.  When the bodies of some gangsters are found, Jim immediately suspects that notorious gangster Sam Belmonte (Jean Hersholt) is the one responsible.  Sam gets off the hook easily that time, but Jim is determined to come down on him hard.

Jim’s dedication eventually ends up working against him, though, and it gets him transferred to a smaller, quieter district.  Ed, however, continues to keep tabs on Belmonte and one night goes to question Daisy Stevens (Jean Harlow), Belmonte’s stenographer.  She tells Ed that she’s through with Belmonte and the two of them spend the evening getting drunk together and begin having an affair.  Meanwhile, Jim proves to be such a success at his new precinct when he stops a bank robber that he is made chief of police.  Back at his old precinct, Jim’s top priority is breaking up organized crime and starts shutting down speakeasies left and right.  However, he is also determined to not give any officers any unfair advantages.  When Ed asks for a promotion so he could have more money to take Daisy out with, Jim turns him down.  Later that night, he goes out with Daisy and they end up running into Belmonte.  Belmonte gives Ed the chance to earn some extra money by fixing it so he can get his illegal goods into town without getting caught.

The next day, Jim tells Ed that he will be in charge of escorting a large transport of cash.  When Ed tells Daisy about this, she tells one of Belmotne’s associates and they plan to steal the truck.  Daisy tells Ed about the plan and convinces him to go along with it.  The big heist goes down, but unbeknownst to Ed, the truck has been followed by two other officers who chase the thieves down.  When questioned at the station, one of the thieves admits that Ed was in on it, too.  The case goes to trial, and shockingly, all who were involved are found not guilty.  Ed desperately wants to rebuild his relationship with Jim and sever all ties with Belmonte.  Knowing that Belmonte and his gang are all out celebrating their court victory, Ed agrees to go confront Belmonte with Jim and several police officers backing them up.  Of course, Belmonte isn’t willing to go down without a fight and insists on going out in a hail of gunfire.

Beast of the City is a great crime movie.  Super gritty and raw with excellent performances all around (be sure to keep an eye out for a very young Mickey Rooney in a small part as one of Jim’s children).  It’s kind of like The Public Enemy, but from the cops’ perspective.  With so much grit and violence, y0u might think this was a Warner Brothers film, but surprisingly, it was produced by MGM.  That big shoot-out scene at the end of the film was definitely not something you would typically expect of a 1930s MGM film.  Especially since Irving Thalberg didn’t work on it and he was the one who pushed through a lot of MGM’s edgier films during that era.  This movie actually came about when Louis B. Mayer wanted to do a movie that created a positive image of police officers, but then it ended up being so violent that he refused to let it be the top feature in double features, it could only be the second film.  But Beast of the City is definitely top-feature quality.

I picked this one to write about for The Scarlett Olive’s For The Boys blogathon because it’s the complete antithesis of the 1930s MGM women’s picture.  When MGM wanted to appeal to women, they put Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, or Greta Garbo in the lead.  They’d have Adrian come up with some fabulous gowns and have some handsome leading man for them to wind up with.  The last way those movies would end is with a violent bloodbath.  Beast of the City doesn’t really have any female characters for women moviegoers to identify with.  Jean Harlow’s character isn’t exactly the kind of person women would be rooting for.  It doesn’t have a love story, it’s ultimately about the relationship between two brothers.  These aren’t even the kind of men that women would sit in the audience and swoon over.  Although I think women could easily enjoy it, I certainly did, it’s pretty clear that they weren’t expecting women to be lining up for it in 1932.

Be sure to visit The Scarlett Olive for more on movies that mainly appeal to men, be sure to pay them a visit for more contributions.

Arsène Lupin (1932)

Detective Guerchard (Lionel Barrymore) is hard at work tracking down the burglar Arsène Lupin, who has been stealing his way across Paris.  When a robbery is reported at the home of Gaston Gourney-Martin (Tully Marshall), the police immediately suspect that Arsène Lupin has struck again and hurry over to Gourney-Martin’s.  When they see a car speeding away from his house, they stop the car and find the Duke of Chamerace (John Barrymore) tied up in the back seat, claiming that he had been robbed.  Guerchard doesn’t buy his story for a minute and suspects that the Duke is really Arsène Lupin, but when Gourney-Martin arrives, he verifies that the Duke of Chamerace is indeed the Duke of Chamerace.

The next day, Guerchard realizes that not only did he not capture Arsène Lupin, he didn’t even get any good evidence to help the case.  And to top it off, his boss is putting pressure on him to capture Arsène Lupin within a week.  When Guerchard gets a note from Arsène Lupin himself saying that he will be at a party thrown by the Duke of Chamerace, Guerchard decides to crash the party.  During the party, the Duke steps into his bedroom where he finds the beautiful Sonia (Karen Morley) sitting in his bed, waiting for her dress to be fixed.  The two begin to flirt, but neither one is who they say they are.  The Duke really is Arsène Lupin and Sonia is actually a prisoner working for Guerchard to help nab Arsène.  While Guerchard is hard at work snooping around, trying to get dirt on the Duke, several of his guests are robbed when a birthday cake is brought out and the lights are turned off.

After the party, the Duke and Sonia take a trip out to the country with Gourney-Martin. Since Gourney-Martin stores his most valuable things at his country home, the Duke thinks this will be the best place to rob him.  But it turns out there is one thing that can stop the unstoppable Arsène Lupin — an electrified safe.  Not willing to give up that easily, Gourney-Martin gets a letter from Arsène Lupin threatening to steal everything he has.  Guerchard is called in, and even on his watch, Gourney-Martin is robbed blind.  Guerchard does manage to nab several of Arsène Lupin’s partners in crime, but he doesn’t quite nab Arsène.  The Duke and Sonia run off and begin plotting to steal the Mona Lisa.  Through a series of tricky diversions, they do succeed, but not for long.  Guerchard does catch up with them, but the Duke sees to it that Sonia is able to go free.  However, Guerchard may have won the battle for Arsène Lupin, but he doesn’t win the war.  The Duke makes a break for it and escapes to start a new, more honest life with Sonia.

Arsène Lupin is a great movie, very slick, sophisticated, and witty.  Not to mention very risqué, just watch the scene where the Duke meets Sonia.  And how can you go wrong with both John and Lionel Barrymore?  I especially loved John Barrymore as the Duke/Arsène Lupin.  He was so suave and smooth, it’s easy to see how his character got away with the things he did.  This is another one that you’d probably enjoy if you liked The Thin Man.