“I came from the gutter, and I guess you can still smell it on me.”
A reformed Chicago gangster (Edward G. Robinson) heads to Santa Barbara, where he falls for a society dame (Helen Vinson) from a corrupt family while renting a house from a poor but kind young woman (Mary Astor). Will ‘Bugs’ (Robinson) achieve his dreams of “legitimate” social success, or will his sordid past come back to haunt him?
- Cross-Class Romance
- Edward G. Robinson Films
- Mary Astor Films
- Roy Del Ruth Films
- Social Climbers
Roy Del Ruth directed this gangster-comedy which starts off somewhat predictably but builds to an enormously satisfying conclusion. Robinson’s ‘Bugs’ is established right away as such a genuinely good guy (he says goodbye to his moll by giving her $25K in appreciation, without a hint of condescension), it’s hard to watch him being so instantly duped and taken advantage of by “high society”. With loyal Astor by his side, we know it’s only a matter of time before he recognizes who’s really right for him — and thankfully, that all plays out nicely. I’m sure Depression-era audiences were thrilled to see corrupt socialites and money-men get their due. Meanwhile, there are numerous zingy pre-Code moments and lines to enjoy:
“Three days, and we don’t even get a tumble.”
“Polly — she’s been a sister-in-law to the world.”
As DVD Savant writes, “You’ll be throwing the remote into reverse to make sure you heard some of these lines correctly.”
Note: Robinson would spoof his gangster-persona again in A Slight Case of Murder (1938) and Brother Orchid (1940).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Edward G. Robinson as ‘Bugs’
- Mary Astor as Ruth
- Many racy Pre-Code moments
- A satisfying finale
Yes, as an unexpectedly enjoyable “good show”.