I’m a fan of Robert Armstrong and watch a lot of his movies before and after 1933’s “King Kong.” This one is a gangster donut with a soap opera hole. The combination doesn’t work but I still get a kick out of the early talkies.
A drunk violinist is playing some classical music on a street corner. Kids are harassing him and asking him to play “Button Up Your Overcoat.” Mehaffy the beat cop wants to take him in for vagrancy. Just then gangster Mahlon Keane (Robert Armstrong) comes along and puts fifty bucks in the violinist’s pocket. A cab pulls up and Mehaffy wants to put the man inside. There’s already a female fare. She recognizes the man and they both ride off.
Mahlon has to take care of some business. He and his henchman Gus go inside a house and the first up is The Rat. Mahlon put up five thousand dollars bail for him and he skipped to Chicago. Now he’s back asking for another favor and Mahlon has him taken away. Next is Bernie Weber. He’s going to pull a bank job. Mahlon warns him not to. Then the police commissioner calls. Someone stole his car from in front of the police station. Mahlon tells his chauffeur Squid to get it back.
That night it’s Monte Carlo night. Mahlon set it up as a fund raiser for an orphanage. Coming in to the function is Rhoda Philbrooke (Carole Lombard). Some aren’t glad to see her. She ditched her millionaire husband for an alcoholic musician and ended up without a dime.
She sits down at the poker table where Mahlon is the banker. She hands him a fifty. He recognizes it as the one he stuffed in the musician’s pocket. Then he realizes Rhoda was the woman in the cab. Rhoda is winning but now the streak is coming to an end. She cheats to win. Mahlon sees her do it but covers for her when another player calls her on it.
The next day Rhoda is nursing Tony Vaughan. He gives her a number to call for a doctor. At the door is Mahlon. He says how impressed he was with her last night and doesn’t want anything from her. The doctor comes in and Mahlon recognizes him as a bootlegger. Tony goes nuts because he wants a drink. Mahlon knocks him out and tells the bootlegger to get out. Mahlon sends Tony off for a cure.
Meanwhile Mehaffy braces Squid about a murder. He says he just happens to have the bottle the guy was hit over the head with and it has fingerprints on it. He tells Squid one day he’ll want an answer to a question. If he doesn’t get it he’ll find the bottle.
Tony is all better and he and Rhoda are at Mahlon’s Long Island home. He gets a couple telegrams. One confirms a concert in New York for Tony. The other says Bernie pulled the bank job after all. Mahlon orders him hit.
The movie now piles on the suds. Lombard is really stiff and obviously doesn’t know how to adapt to the talkie format….at least not yet. Almost all the other actors, except Armstrong, are the same way.
It’ still an interesting movie to watch especially to catch Lombard before she exploded as a superstar.