Instead of a plot this is a movie about an assortment of characters that pass through Nick’s Bar in San Francisco. It’s based on the play by William Saroyan. It won the Pulitizer Prize for drama and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. It’s a Cagney family affair as James stars, brother William produces and sister Jeanne plays a pivotal part.
It all takes place in Nick’s (William Bendix) bar. The sign in the window says “Come on in and be yourself.” Taking up a table is the amiable Joe (James Cagney) who is an observer. His stooge is Tom (Wayne Morris). Three years ago Joe saved his life and now Tom runs errands for him. Some make no sense.
In walks B girl Kitty Duvall (Jeanne Cagney). For Tom it’s love at first sight. Other characters include Harry (Paul Draper), a good dancer but an unfunny comedian, Dudley Bostwick, (Jimmy “Henry Aldritch” Lydon), a boy in love with a girl named Elsie he keeps trying to reach on the phone and Wesley (Reginald Beane), a pianist who Nick feeds and then gives a job. One of the best characters is Kit Carson (James Barton). He’s a cowboy also called Murphy. Joe keeps buying him beers and he keeps telling tall stories.
In small roles are Tom Powers as the trouble making Freddy Blick, Ward Bond as a man who likes to talk, Broderick Crawford as a cop named Krupp and Natalie “Mrs.Howell” Schafer as a society lady slumming at Nick’s along with her husband.
William Bendix and James Cagney give terrific performances along with James Barton. The movie isn’t dull by any means and it never gets heavy handed or melodramatic. I could have done with a lot less of Paul Draper’s dancer. If you like movies about people check this one out.