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Monthly Archives: March 2018

Movie Crash Course Extra

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When people find out about the Crash Course, they’re curious about what I’ve seen.  Most of them are pretty unfamiliar with the things I’ve seen; there’s been a few people who heard of Birth of a Nation or Dracula and Frankenstein, maybe some sci-fi buffs heard of Metropolis, and some people have seen the still of the moon with the rocket in its eye from Voyage Dans La Lune. For the most part, though, people are kind of out of touch with older film.

But apparently, there’s a speech from Chaplin’s Great Dictator that every so often makes the rounds of social media, with a preface declaring it “The Greatest Speech Ever Made” or something like that.  It’s having a Moment of sorts, and the Youtube channel “React” recently featured it in one of its own videos, showing it to a series of college students to get their reaction.

Most have heard of Charlie Chaplin, don’t worry (this isn’t an “oh gosh those ignorant kids” kind of clip).  They’re also pretty astute in their assessment of how timeless a speech it was.  The hosts ask the kids if they’re going to track down more contemporary film, but I’m hoping at least one or two of them delves back into older film; because, yes, some of this is timeless.


Movie Crash Course: Le Million

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Back to the Crash Course!


I suspected – rightly – that Le Million was by Rene Clair, who brought us A Nous, La Liberte.  There’s the same gentle comedy, the same moments of screwball chaos, the same moments of people randomly bursting into song. Seeing the actor who played Louis in A Nous, La Liberte turn up in a cameo as a luckless cab driver confirmed it.  And…I think I really like Rene Clair now.

This time we’re following the story of Michel, a starving artist living in an atelier in Paris.  His girlfriend Beatrice, a ballerina, lives across the hall; his buddy Prosper, another artist, comes to assist now and then; sometimes with the art, but mostly to keep Michel’s landlord and creditors from catching up with him.  But they’re fed up, and have gathered to storm Michel’s studio and get their money for once and for all. Michel manages to get past them, leading them on a wild goose chase through the building.

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Beatrice cowers in her apartment during the chaos – and an old man, himself on the run from the police, climbs in through her window and begs for help escaping.  The sympathetic Beatrice sees a jacket Michel’s left in her apartment and urges him to put it on; when the police come by, the man keeps his back turned and Beatrice insists that no, there’s no one else here but her grandfather!  She tells him he can keep the jacket as the police leave; her grateful guest tells her to call him “Grandpa Tulip” and pledges to return the favor before slipping back out the window.

Michel is meanwhile still on the run from his creditors, who are all called to a halt when the newsboys announce that there’s a lottery winner somewhere on that very street.  Michel grabs a paper and consults the winning numbers – and what luck, discovers that he’s the winner!  Hooray, he can pay his creditors!   And then some!  The mob, now turned into a party, heads back up to Michel’s apartment to get the ticket.  He searches for it, then realizes – he left it in the pocket of the jacket he left with Beatrice.

The same jacket she gave Grandpa Tulip.

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Meanwhile, Grandpa Tulip is back at his thrift store, where he puts the jacket up for sale – and it is almost immediately sold to the opera singer Ambrosio Sopranelli, who thinks it’s a perfect addition to his costume for that night’s performance.  But Beatrice is a backup dancer in the show, so maybe she can help Michel and Prosper get it back?….

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Clair finds opportunities to hang all sorts of utterly delightful comedic moments on that frame – a pair of society matrons try to throw Sopranelli a bouquet onstage but have terrible aim. Michel finds himself in jail briefly and is confronted with the world’s slowest desk clerk and the weirdest other offenders.  Sopranelli is an enormous diva who keeps picking fights with his costar.  Michel and Beatrice get caught onstage during Sopranelli’s big duet and are forced to cower behind the scenery.

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There’s also a moment that plays up Clair’s inventiveness with sound. Clair started out in silent film, and like some other directors, he was dubious about sound technology when it was introduced. But he ultimately decided to play around with it a little. He tries out a few ideas in Le Million –  now and then, Michel or Prosper are addressed by an unseen voice, which we soon learn is their conscience.  There’s also a moment when a whole gang of people gets caught up in an all-out game of keepaway with the famous jacket – a scene which is underscored by the sounds of a rugby match.

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This was completely charming – there are zany, Marx-brothers moments throughout (and some scholars suggest that A Night At The Opera may have been influenced by this film), there are moments of surreal humor, and there are moments of endearing romantic comedy with Michel and Beatrice (watch what they do when they’re stuck onstage).  It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s got a happy ending, what more can you ask?

(Welcome to the Non-English Blogathon visitors!  This previously-posted review is part of my ongoing project to watch all of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die – a project that will soon be moving onto its own blog soon.  Stay tuned, and thanks for visiting!)

Fragile Threads

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I’m stepping away from the Movie Crash Course a moment, if I may, to talk about two other movies: one I watched, and one I wrote.

My senior year of high school, a friend was enrolled in my school’s TV production class (I’ll call her “Kathy”) and persuaded her teacher to let her do an “independent study” in the TV room during her study hall.  Kathy told him she needed me and one other friend to “work with her” as a ruse to rescue us from our own study halls as well.  After a week of the three of us watching videos of M*A*S*H reruns in the editing bay, we all admitted that “y’know, we’re probably going to have to produce something…”  About a week later Kathy approached me with the story idea, we spent a weekend hammering out the plot, and I wrote the script over the course of a few weeks.

We cast a handful of our classmates, the crew was made up of some of the same classmates when they weren’t on camera, and we filmed in a corner of the cafeteria after school and on weekends.  At some point we lost half our footage when someone stole a bunch of tapes out of the TV classroom, and held a marathon all-day shoot one weekend to replace it; one of our leads had started growing out his hair for the school play by then, and you can amusingly see his hairstyle grow and shrink in circumference throughout the finished film.  I was also in it, and gave my character a moment where I recited the “To Be Or Not To Be” speech from Hamlet; a move which I came to regret (there’s probably a tape somewhere with about 20 takes of me saying “To be or not to be, that is the question….whether t’is nobler in the mind to…to suffer the slings and arrows of for-no, of outrageous fortune, or…to…crap, what’s the line?”).  My only other indulgence was stealing a lyric from a Sting song for the title; his album Nothing Like The Sun had just been released when I started writing, and it provided the soundtrack to all my writing sessions.

Our film absolutely won’t win any Oscars, but given the circumstances it wasn’t half bad.  The film’s premiere was at a party Kathy threw at her house, where we also laughed through the blooper reel she’d assembled (charitably, she left out my Hamlet fluffs).  There were a couple other screenings – one at a church, and one in one social studies class – before it was permanently enshrined in the school library.  We also gave a screening for the entertainment editor of my hometown’s local newspaper, as somehow he was persuaded to give it a review.  He was encouraging, but fair – pointing out some of the obvious flaws (my script was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayy too talky) but praising the sophisticated message that was being raised by a bunch of high school students.  And while there are indeed moments from the script and my own performance that make me cringe, there are also moments here and there that make me think “y’know, the writing’s pretty good there.”

You will note that I haven’t yet mentioned what this film was about.

The title, nicked from Sting’s “Fragile”, was “How Fragile We Are”.  The idea Kathy brought me dealt with something we were both concerned about – nuclear war. The characters our friends played were a bunch of kids, strangers to each other, who had been safely brought to a bomb shelter right at the outbreak of a full-on war, where they were told that if they left they would face certain death – but were still offered the choice to leave if they wished.  The talkiness came from the characters each deciding what they’d do (and some chose to leave).  The reason I had my character recite from Hamlet is that that was how she explained her reason for staying alive.

So, no, this was no fun rom-com we were making.  We were sixteen and seventeen-year-olds who were frightened for our very lives, and desperate for someone, anyone, to listen and do something.  I actually see a lot of us in the Parkland Students, and their desperate message that “we are the kids, you are the adults – do something to save us.” 

We were up against a bigger force than the NRA, however. And we were well aware of it.

For all the laughing we did while filming – and we did a lot – I learned later that there was a fair amount of private crying going on.  In a few cases, kids went from hoping that nuclear war wouldn’t break out to accepting that it would, and it was just a question of when. I hit that point about midway through writing; while working on the script, I’d remind myself of the world of the play with a litany of destruction: “okay, it’s War. Stuff is gone. There is no more Hartford, no more New York, no more Los Angeles. Cape Cod is gone. England is gone. Ireland is gone…”

Once, as I was writing, listening to Sting and going through my Arya-Stark litany, the album reached my favorite part of another song.  And it hit me – in the world I was writing, my characters were never going to be able to hear that song again. It wasn’t just England and France and San Francisco that were going to be gone, but also chocolate, and puppies, and Sting albums, and violets, and my cousins’ Christmas stockings, and fresh peaches, and bikes, and my uncle’s model trains, and old library books, and, and, and…

I sat there stunned a moment, the totality of loss sinking in. Then I put down the pen, moved to a spot on the floor right in front of my turntable, and put the needle back to the beginning of the song, huddling the speakers around me as it started up again.  I spent the next several minutes curled up on the floor between the speakers, listening to the song and weeping bitterly over the death of the world.

I was seventeen.

The other movie I’m thinking of had an unusual effect on Kathy at one point. While we were still writing, sometimes those of us in the TV study hall watched anti-nuke films as “research” – we tracked down copies of The Day After, and Dr. Strangelove, and Testament.  We made note of how each one dealt with the science, the geopolitics, and how they wove that in with the characters’ stories.

….then we watched a film called Threads. Much like The Day After, Threads was more what you’d call a “TV event” than a proper movie; it was produced by the BBC in 1984, and like The Day After on American TV, it was meant to show how a full-on nuclear war and its aftermath would affect the lives of a handful of characters in a mid-size city.  But Threads didn’t have to pull any punches, the way that The Day After did for American broadcast standards.  So what they show is far more accurate – and thus, far more violent, far more graphic, and far, far bleaker.

We were fine through the opening scenes, and fine – if a bit grim – during the scenes depicting runup to the war.  When the bomb actually hit, the three of us watching sat there, slackjawed, staring at the screen.  After a moment, Kathy suddenly stood up and walked into the next room, sat down in a chair and stared at the wall, not saying a word. I watched her a couple seconds, then followed her out. “y’alright?” She shook her head. “Wanna talk about it?” Another head shake. “…Want me to leave you alone?” A nod. I think I patted her shoulder or something, then went back into the editing bay; she came back in a moment later.  We never said any more about it.

Blessedly, just two years after our film, the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall came down. Gorbachev and Reagan started talking about cutting back on their nuke stockpiles.  Boris Yeltsin did even more.  Obama did yet more after that.  And all of us in our film did what all us Gen-X Cold-War 80s babies did – we grew up, got jobs (where we could) and went on with our lives.  Many of us had been having vivid nightmares about nuclear war in the late 80s and early 90s; over time, those nightmares started fading, and stopped altogether in a few years.  We went on.

The nightmares started again for me last year. It’s just been one so far; all I remember of it now is me and one of my old roommates desperately trying to shore up a basement room for our safety, building a wall of sandbags along one inner wall before the bomb hit, trying to stack them tall enough to block out the one tiny window.  But suddenly a huge burst of light came through that window and my old roommate threw himself on top of me, knocking me to the ground and shielding me from the obvious blast.  “It’ll be okay,” he kept telling me over and over, just before I woke up and out of the dream.  “It’ll be okay, we’ll be okay….”

My nightmares about war were always that specific, always had that element of the everyday.  I would be standing around in my yard at home with friends and we’d suddenly look up to see bombers overhead or missile trails arcing over us.  We would be rehearsing for the school play and suddenly we would all be herded into a fallout shelter in the basement of the school that we hadn’t ever known about.  In one dream, all that happened was that I was watching TV and Jane Pauley interrupted the show to announce an attack – and paused mid-sentence at one point to blink away tears.  In all cases, I’d wake up from these dreams with heart pounding, and sit alone in the dark for well over an hour after, literally too afraid to go back to sleep.

The specificity and the imagery of my dreams, I think, came from Threads.  Not that it was giving me new information – I had already been aware of how destructive a nuclear attack might be.  What Threads showed me was not “what could happen”, but “what this thing you are afraid of might look like.”  It is the small details in Threads that linger – the staff of a museum carefully packing away their Rembrandts and Picassos into crates for protective storage.  A dazed woman holding the charred corpse of an infant after the bombs, staring blankly.  A panicked boy hides crying in his brother’s aviary just before the bomb.  Threads also chronicles events for several years after the bomb – we see one of the leads fighting with others to claim handfuls of spilt grain drifting in the wind.  Someone gives birth alone in an abandoned barn, using her own teeth to cut the umbilical cord.  A group of orphans sit in workroom patiently unweaving the threads from old cloth so it can be reused.  Surgery and amputation is done in makeshift open-air hospitals, with patients biting on rags instead of receiving anesthetic.  Starving people eat the corpses of sheep killed by radiation poisoning.

I am not the only one whose nuclear nightmares have returned.  A couple of us from How Fragile We Are have admitted the same.  I’m assuming the same is true of that roommate I recently dreamed about – although, he now lives in Hawaii, and had the far-worse living nightmare of a nuclear attack false alarm.  At the same time – perhaps fortunately – Threads also seems to be making its own comeback.  The film was released on Blu-Ray just last month, and I’ve been seeing more and more pop-culture web sites and newspaper columns talking about the film and how frightening it was.

It’s a fair argument that one reason we’re talking about Threads so much again now is in response to current geopolitics.  We have a hawkish, trigger-happy president, one who reportedly once asked his cabinet why we didn’t use nuclear weapons.  He regularly taunts the North Korean president, who is busy conducting his own nuclear tests.  Our news reports lately have been showing maps displaying the range of North Korea’s various missiles, pointing out the ones that can reach as far as the continental US.  Those maps look very like the ones I regularly saw when I was sixteen.  Back in January, the Pentagon suggested that we use nukes as a counter-attack to cybercrime. And now, John Bolton has been appointed as the country’s latest National Security Advisor to the President – a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations who publicly stated that the only purpose of the United Nations was to serve the United States’ own interests.  A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal also posted an opinion column by Bolton, in which he declared that the United States should engage in a preliminary strike against North Korea.

I’ve been here before.  Those of us who made our movie, we’ve been here.  So have countless other former students who either feared the nukes or accepted our own early deaths, then rejoiced when we were saved, then began to forget.  We had to try to forget to go on – but I’m thinking it’s time to remember.  It’s said that for everyone who saw Threads, their attitudes towards nuclear war were profoundly changed; their politics changed as a result.  There is even a rumor that Ronald Reagan’s own policy towards the Soviet Union changed after a screening of Threads in the White House.

If you haven’t seen Threads, watch it.  If you have seen it, watch again if you can bear it (no shame at all if you can’t).  We need to remember what we are up against, we need to be frightened into action again, and we need to do whatever we can– be it make our own movies (or write our own blog posts), stage our own demonstrations, start our own letter campaigns, run for office, anything it is we can do to bring the world back from the brink.

Movie Crash Course: Napoleon

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Jumping back a bit to 1927, for Abel Gance’s Napoleon.  Which was certainly as ambitious as its subject.

This particular film only covers Napoleon Bonaparte’s early years; his childhood, his early notoriety in the French military, his first Italian campaign at the age of 26, his budding romance with Josephine.  Director and filmmaker Abel Gance intended for this to be the first in a six-part series covering Napoleon’s entire life.  Production costs and technical difficulties made him reconsider, however. Gance also faced pushback from distribution studios, who took one look at Gance’s original five-hour movie and made their own cuts, trimming out an hour or two here or there, so they could release it.  Miffed, Gance then released his “director’s cut” – a nine-hour extravaganza.  Studios understandably balked and kept the shorter version.  Gance did release other films, but kept tinkering with Napoleon throughout his career, or served as a consultant when yet other filmmakers tried their own hand at re-edits (Francis Ford Coppola did his own cut in the early 1980s, with an orchestral score by his father Carmine).

There is indeed some impressive technical work.  Gance wanted a film that moved, and came up with some creative ways to get a camera into the middle of the action; strapping cameras and their operators to sleds, horses, boats, or wagons.

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During an early sequence depicting the young Napoleon in a pillow fight with the boys in his military academy, he tied the camera directly to the operator and sent him running around in the midst of the chaos.  Another sequence has Napoleon alone in a boat during a storm, with some impressive shots of the waves and the swells that must have been filmed live.

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Gance also uses double exposures for emotional impact, much as he did in his earlier La Roue – such as when a lovestruck Napoleon imagines he sees Josephine’s face in a globe, drawing laughs from onlookers when he “turns her face” to kiss “her cheek”.

The biggest challenge, though, came at the end; a triptych sequence showing Napoleon reviewing his troops before their initial invasion of Italy. Gance felt that the average movie screen wouldn’t give a good idea of the scope of the army; so he came up with the idea of three screens in a row, each showing part of a three-screen panorama.  He simply shot the sequence with three cameras side by side, each filming their own piece of the full panorama.

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….This is probably where the home viewer like me is at a disadvantage.  In a movie theater, with the film suddenly widening on either side into a panorama wrapping around me, this would have been stunning; but at home, the image on my screen started shrinking, like an iris closing, leaving me baffled until the image was small enough for the two extra parts of the triptych to be added on either side.  Even so, as small as the triptych was, I was still impressed at how well-coordinated it was; you can see the seams between each image, but the panoramas are almost perfectly lined up, leading to one grand moment with Napoleon galloping a horse the full length of the triple screen.

But the triple screen also gets used for some Symbolism later on.  And this is the biggest problem I had with the film; every so often, Gance throws in some poetic license or some camera trickery in the service of mythologizing his subject.  In one scene, just before his Italian Campaign, Napoleon visits the empty French Convention Hall and sees the ghosts of Danton and Marat urging him on.

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In the scene just before Napoleon is at sea in a storm, the film shows how he got there – he is fleeing some soldiers during a civil war in his native Corsica, and comes upon an old fisherman’s dinghy, missing its sail.  But he just so happens to have a French tricoleur flag with him, and uses that to fashion a sail and make his escape.

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The final few minutes of the film start with Napoleon simply looking out into the distance and imagining his future, before the triptych screens come up again, showing us an explosion of images – marching troops, a spinning globe, Josephine’s face, maps, scenes of battle, a tumult of images repeating over and over and bouncing from one screen to the other for a moment – and then the two side screens change color, one to red and one to blue, creating a huge tricoleur upon which Napoleon is watching his destiny unfold.

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I mean, it’s technically impressive. But I’m probably too much of a 21st-Century cynic to give into this kind of mythologizing, and found myself rolling my eyes at some of the more egregious moments.  I am still curious about how a full-theater experience would be different however; these days, you can occasionally find special screenings of Gance’s film with Carmine Coppola’s score performed live, and I may attend.

Movie Crash Course: M

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Boy, did I like this one.

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I have a bit of a soft spot for police procedurals – born of watching countless actor friends go on to be single-scene extras on Law and Order – and that’s exactly what M is, is a police procedural.  Or, rather, it’s a police procedural where the mob also takes on its own separate investigation to catch the real bad guy.

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We’re plunged right into the story from the start – the story’s set amongst the lumpenproletariat in a German city, where everyone’s on edge because of an ongoing series of child murders. The parents are keeping a sharp eye on their kids. The kids have made up gruesome jump rope rhymes. People are giving their more suspicious-looking neighbors the side-eye. The city is plastered with posters warning parents and promising a reward.  And a girl on her way home from school is stopped by a man in a trenchcoat, who buys her a balloon and leads her away to parts unknown, as her mother sits at home and starts to fret when her daughter is late home from school.

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In their desperation to catch the killer, the police are bearing down hard on the city’s low-lifes, conducting near-nightly raids on all the pawn shops, speakeasies, brothels, bars, and other dens of ill repute.  Which gives one of the city’s criminal masterminds an idea – if they can find the child killer and turn him over to police, maybe the police will finally get off their back.  So while the police are assembling forensic scientists, fingerprint experts, and graphologists, the city’s criminals are enlisting beggars, pickpockets, and streetwalkers to spot, follow, and ultimately corner and catch the culprit.

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This was Lang’s first work with sound, after a career full of silent films, and he uses it in some fun ways. There are a few sequences where one character’s speech becomes narration for a separate sequence – such as when the police commissioner is on the phone to the mayor, and as he complains about how tired his men are from their investigations, we see a slow stream of very tired-looking officers returning to their squad room at days’ end, nudging awake still more officers asleep at their desks.  Or when the mother of the missing girl starts to realize she’s gone; we hear her desperately calling for her daughter as we see a series of still scenic shots – her building’s empty stairwell, the attic of their apartment, the empty sidewalk in front of the girl’s school – all places where presumably a search party would have looked.

And then there is the sound that introduces us to our killer.  Fortunately we don’t see any of the actual murders; but as he leads his first victim away, he is whistling an air from Peer Gynt.  There is another sequence later that really caught my eye, though, when he sees another little girl playing alone on the street, he starts to whistle that same tune again…only to be thwarted when her mother comes out of a store and hurries her inside.  He scurries to an outside café and orders two shots, desperately knocking both back, and then sits back in relief – only to start whistling Peer Gynt again, before getting up to seek out another child.

We spend just as much time with our killer’s trackers, though, and the different paths they’re following to find their culprit.  One minute, we’re watching the police puzzle out that a packet of cigarettes in their suspect’s room matches the brand on the butts left behind at one crime scene; in another, we’re seeing the crime bosses meticulously assigning each of the various beggars different blocks to monitor.  While the police are heading for a stakeout at the killer’s boarding house, the criminals are breaking into an office building where they suspect he may be hiding.

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We hear very little from our killer until the very end, when he is dragged before a kangaroo court the criminals have set up in an old warehouse and he is ordered to account for himself and his actions.  Peter Lorre is our killer, and desperately begs for mercy on the grounds that he is suffering from an irresistible compulsion.  He’d very much like to not kill, but sometimes the urge is too strong to resist.  Some of the criminals listening are sympathetic, others less so, and the kangaroo court starts to argue what to do….Lorre’s pretty impassioned here, but I found him equally as expressive when he was on the run from the criminals he’d figured out were chasing him – and wasn’t saying a word.  This may have been Fritz Lang’s first sound picture, but he still knew how to work with silence.

Movie Crash Course: The Public Enemy

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For some reason my mental impression of James Cagney before this was almost entirely from his turn in the film Yankee Doodle Dandy, where he bizarrely takes on the life of Broadway songster George M. Cohen.  He gave it a good, energetic go, but his singing is….kind of….not.  In The Public Enemy, he brings that same energy to what is to my mind a much better fit – that of Tom Powers, a young Chicago gangster.

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He’s actually one of a pair, two childhood friends who went bad early. Tom and his buddy Ed live next door to each other, getting into the usual mischievous kid scrapes and dodging Tom’s father and goody-two-shoes older brother; but also earning pocket money by petty theft, selling their prizes to a Fagin-esque criminal named “Putty Nose” who runs a sort of Boys-Club-gone-bad; when he’s not making backroom deals with the kids, Putty Nose entertains them on the piano.  Putty Nose enlists the pair into a breakin at a nearby furriers’ when they’re a bit older, but when the deal goes bad, Putty Nose flees, abandoning Tom and Ed to their fate, and for a few years they go legit, getting low-level jobs for extra cash.  Good thing too – since Tom’s brother Mike has enlisted in the First World War, and he insists someone should take care of their mother.

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But their jobs – truck drivers for a local brewer and distiller – catch the eye of bootlegger Paddy Ryan, who enlists them back into the mob.  In a few short years, Tom and Ed are living large, spending most of their money on suits and cars and girls.

Tom does occasionally try to give dear old Mom some money now and then, but brother Mike – now home from war – won’t let Mom accept Tom’s “blood money”.

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Eventually the pair are caught up in a mob war, when their boss “Nails” is killed in a horse riding accident, and other mob bosses rush in to take over.  During a shootout, Tom is seriously wounded and taken to a hospital, where his brother, sister-in-law and mother rush to his side.  Tom and Mike patch things up, with Tom proclaiming he’s seen the error of his ways and wants to reform.  The family promises to help him get on his feet when he’s discharged.  But after Tom’s family goes home, he has some further guests, with some less-helpful aims in mind….

In typing all that out, it does feel a little melodramatic and cheesy. But Cagney’s energy carries it along nicely, making the whole story crackle and zing.  The story is a bit more realistic than Little Caesar – Tom and Ed do rise up high in the mob ranks, but at least it looks like they’ve earned their way up with actual bloodshed as opposed to simple bluster.

….I would be remiss in not at least acknowledging the film’s most famous scene, where Tom gets into a spat with one of his girlfriends as they eat breakfast; to silence her, Tom makes use of a grapefruit.

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The scene was thrown in by director William Wellman, who was undergoing a little bit of a rough patch with his wife.  At the time often fantasized about doing exactly the same thing during their own arguments, but always stopped himself; only to have the urge come up again.  He was hoping that by putting it into the film, it would get the urge out of his system.   Not only does it seem to have done so, in later years it proved a salve to the ex-husband of the actress involved, Mae Clarke; he and Clarke had divorced either just prior to or during filming, and when he saw the scene, he very carefully noted exactly what time the scene took place in the film.  Then, whenever he needed cheering up, he would show up at a theater box office about five minutes before the scene happened, buy a ticket, enter the theater, watch only that scene, and then cheerfully leave.