“Living is an art; it’s not bookkeeping.”
A champagne-drinking armchair-philosopher named Joe (James Cagney) holds court at a San Francisco saloon whose owner Nick (William Bendix) encourages people to “come in as they are”. During his lengthy stay at Nick’s Saloon, Cagney mentors a lost young man (Wayne Morris) who caters to his every whim, and helps Morris woo a down-and-out prostitute (Jeanne Cagney); meanwhile, other characters who stop by include a hungry pianist (Reginald Beane), a tap dancing would-be “comedian” (Paul Draper), a pinball fanatic (Richard Erdman), a love-struck young man (Jimmy Lydon), a world-weary cop (Broderick Crawford), a yarn-filled cowboy (James Barton), and a wealthy socialite (Natalie Schafer) looking for local color.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Broderick Crawford Films
- Ensemble Cast
- Jimmy Cagney Films
- Play Adaptation
- William Bendix Films
This adaptation of William Saroyan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1939 Broadway play was a family affair for Jimmy Cagney, whose brother Will produced and sister Jeanne co-starred.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t stood the test of time very well, coming across as a well-meaning yet insistently quirky snapshot-look at diverse lives in San Francisco, all centering around an annoyingly self-satisfied “central hub” (Joe) — presumably meant to represent Saroyan himself. Joe micro-manages every movement made by mentally challenged Morris while attempting to save the life of a suicidal prostitute (Jeanne) and milking the remaining characters’ tales and woes for his own enjoyment. This is fine as long as one enjoys dipping into these particular individuals’ travails, but they’re not overly compelling; an exception is Barton’s wonderfully loquacious cowpoke with a penchant for, shall we say, exaggeration — he lights up the screen.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- James Barton’s energized turn as “Kit Carson”
- James Wong Howe’s cinematography
No; you can skip this one unless you’re curious to check it out.