“You’re lucky your boyfriend ain’t mixed up in no racket.”
The daughter (Sylvia Sidney) of a racketeer (Guy Kibbee) goes to prison after he shoots his boss and hands her the gun. When Sidney’s sharpshooter boyfriend (Gary Cooper) gives up his dreams of a circus career to earn money working for her new boss (Paul Lukas), Sidney worries about their future — especially when Lukas expresses more interest in her than in his jealous moll (Wynne Gibson).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Gary Cooper Films
- Paul Lukas Films
- Rouben Mamoulian Films
- Sylvia Sidney Films
Rouben Mamoulian’s follow-up to his visually innovative talkie Applause (1929) was this early gangster film, based on a short story by Dashiell Hammett. Sidney is luminous in her breakthrough role, nicely inhabiting a complex female character far removed from her portrayal the following year as a doomed factory worker in An American Tragedy (1932).
Her character here is first introduced through a complicit wink she exchanges with her father (Kibbee, solid in his part):
before insistently nagging Cooper to join her in a life of crime.
She remains solid as steel while taking the rap for her ‘Pop’, only gradually revealing her softer side. Mamoulian (assisted by DP Lee Garmes) once again displays highly evocative visuals, as well as a unique voiceover while Sidney is in prison; this one is worth a look despite the disappointingly far-fetched ending.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Sylvia Sidney as Nan
- Lee Garmes’s cinematography
Yes, once, for Mamoulian’s innovative direction and Sidney’s performance.
- Noteworthy Performance(s)