“I’ll show you! A false alarm, am I?”
A mild-mannered clerk (Edward G. Robinson) named Arthur Jones — who happens to look exactly like the murderous bank robber “Killer” Mannion (also Robinson) — is apprehended by police, released with an identity certificate, and commissioned to ghost-write Mannion’s memoirs for the local newspaper. Meanwhile, Mannion takes advantage of Jones by blackmailing him into sharing the identity certificate, and secretly plotting to have Jones take the fall for his crimes.
Directed by John Ford and based on a story by W.R. Burnett (author of the novels which Little Caesar, High Sierra, and The Asphalt Jungle are based on), this clever gangster spoof makes perfect use of both Robinson’s menacing screen persona and his (mostly) untapped comedic talents. As noted in TCM’s article, Ford managed to slip this one past Production Code censors given its status as a satire, but some fairly dark elements emerge by the end (I won’t say more at risk of spoiling the fun narrative). Robinson and Arthur are both at the top of their acting games, and Ford’s direction is spot-on. Check this one out if you can! It would make a great double-bill with A Slight Case of Murder (1938), another enjoyable gangster spoof starring Robinson.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Edward G. Robinson as Arthur Jones and “Mannion”
- Jean Arthur as Miss Clark
- Effective cinematography and “special effects”
Yes, for Robinson’s virtuoso double-performance.