Wednesday, 14 September 2011

“Yeah, put a muzzle on that ‘attaboy’, lingo.”

I am pretty sure that you all have heard of Damon Runyon.

In case your memory needs some refreshing or you are new to classic films: He was a journalist and wrote some stories which became movies – I think the best known is GUYS AND DOLLS (does that ring a bell?) – but there are so many, many more..

Let’s have a look at some of the things which are supposed to be not used in today's film:

In the 1930s Runyon paired up with Howard Lindsay to write a comedy play about a gangster who tries to become legitimate after prohibition is finished. The play opened in September 11, 1935 – with unknown actor José Ferrer playing a policeman.. Warner Brothers payed $ 50,000 for the rights of this play - which with a bit of rewriting by Earl Baldwin and Joseph Schrank as well as non-credited Mary C. McCall jr., the appearance of one of the most popular gangster performers at that time and also Lloyd Bacon as director became one of Warner’s biggest hits in 1938:


In a nutshell:

1933. The 13 years of prohibition are over and speakeasies are history. Remy Marco (Edward G. Robinson) – a big shot mobster making a lot of money with selling his beer (he just ruled the city – so there wasn’t any alternative for drinkers and barkeepers) – decides to go legitimate. From now on his mobsters are supposed to be salesman, talking refined and having a daily (..) shave – not to speak of clean shirts.. But due to the fact that his beer is really awful (Remy doesn’t know about that because he drinks no beer) he soon gets into financial troubles and money lenders Post (John Litel) and Ritter (Eric Stanley) are trying to overtake his brewery.

~ Remy Marco breaking to his boys that from now on they're legitimate. ~

Then his daughter Mary (Jane Bryan) comes back from the fancy Parisian (yeah - Paris, France..) school she was sent to – and the Marco’s are going to spend some months in their new bought summerhouse. With them come Remy’s personal staff Mike (Alan Jenkins), Lefty (Edward Brophy) and Guiseppe called “Gip” (Harold Huber) - besides that orphaned brat Douglas Fairbanks Rosenbloom (Don’t you just adore that name!?! – he is personated by Bowery Boy/Dead End Kid Bobby Jordan) is with them. Since Remy left the orphanage of Mrs. Cagle (Margaret Hamilton) he wants to help the orphans – so he takes the worst boy for the summer..

~ Bobby Jordan and Edward G. Robinson - and Margaret Hamilton's back!!


Actually there is a slight problem with the summer house: Four other gangster are sitting in the guestroom - shot during a card game.. No good timing – especially because Mary’s fiancé Dick Whitewood (Willard Parker) - he just joined the state troopers - appears with his upperclass father (Paul Harvey) and Remy’s wife Nora (Ruth Donnelly
) wants to make a good impression on them.

~ Everyone carries about father Whiteman.. ~

Soon after Remy and his boys got rid of the corpses they find out that there is a high reward for those now dead hoodlums - so they have to get them back - and discovered without getting in trouble - they are after all now legit, see?

Oh - and there is the killer - with the lovely name Innocence (Joe Downing) - still running around the house trying to get a bag of money back he left there.

~ Innocence - looking not sooo innocent at all.. ~

Watch out for:
  • George E. Stone, one of my favourite supporting players as Kirk - remember Toothpick Charlie from SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959), Otero from LITTLE CAESAR (1931) or Andy Lee from 42ND STREET (1933)? He was a close friend of Damon Runyon’s .

  • Harry Wilson as Butch, one of Remy’s gangsters, who is told to have a manicure.

  • Carole Landis in a bit role leaning towards the piano in the party scene.

  • Betty Compson as Loretta in the party scene.

  • The statuette of the Great Dane in Remy's anteroom - soo 1930's.. Just gorgeous..

  • Before he started acting Willard Parker was a professional tennis player under his actual name Worster von Eps. His most popular role was Ranger Jace Pearson in TV series TALES OF THE TEXAS RANGERS (1955-1958). He had a height of 6'5'' (1,96 m) - just as a comparison: Edward G. Robinson had a height of 5'5'' (1,65 m) and Ruth Donnelly a height of 5'6'' (1,68 m)..
  • Ronald Regan was tested for the role that later went to Willard Parker.
  • The German title VIER LEICHEN AUF ABWEGEN could be translated into „Four corpses going astray” – it wasn’t shown in Germany untill 1979 – then it was premiered in TV.

A REAL case of slight murder:

Hymie Miller (please don't mix him up with the boxer by the same name..) – one of the bit players who performed as one member of Marco’s gang was reportedly shot at the age of 30 in 1938 – three months before the film was released.

~ Hymie Miller listening to Edward G. Robinson.~

After closing the delicatessen he co-owned and arriving home he went to bed - there he was shot in his sleep. – Though his nose was shot off and many other parts of him were badly hurt (let’s skip those details..) he was still conscious and able to tell the police that he didn’t know the assailant.

He died in the hospital. Later it came out that he and his partner (with whom he owned the deli) were actual small-time gangsters, who like appearantly many others worked in bit parts in films.

The deli was a popular meeting place for shady fellas.. The night clerk of the house Miller lived in was able to identify the murderer from photos as Johnny Fisher – another not so kosher extra with whom Miller reportedly had a quarrel about a girl.. – Fisher was arrested just while working on the tournament scene in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) – and apparently the police just marched through the merry men to arrest him… must have been a lovely mix of outfits..

You should watch this film if you

  • … love gangster flicks – esp. LITTLE CAESAR (1931).
  • … like 1930 party scenes.
  • … adore Ruth Donnelly, Alan Jenkins, Jane Bryan and Edward G. Robinson - like yours Irene does..

  • ... want to learn how to open a beer bottle and in the same second misuse a piano..

~ Bobby Jordan is mighty thirsty in this flick.. . no wonder: they keep taking all bottles away from the poor, poor kid.. ~

Know your stuff:

  • Like Rico in LITTLE CAESAR (1931) Remy Marco is always speaking of himfelf in third person:

"Make over, mug, make room for Marco."

Neverending story:

There is a remake of 1952 with Broderick Crawford and Claire Trevor.

~ classic mobster boudoir style - please notice the elegantly placed guns.. ~

Let’s face the music:

Take a deep breath – there is a lot of music in this:

    • The film starts with “HOW DRY I AM” – well, what better song to end prohibition??

    • When Remy Marco is going to get “his orphan” the orphans sing for him: “HOW DO YOU DO, MR. MARCO?”

    The lyrics go like:

    “How do you do, Mr. Marco, how do you do?
    All the happy little orphans are welcome you.
    We are glad that you are here
    ‘cause you always bring us cheer.
    How do you do, Mr. Marco, how do you do?”

    ~ awww... I love the "all the happy little orphans" part... ~

    • You can hear “KINDERSZENEN” by Robert Schumann when Remy and Nora are looking at the apparently sleeping Douglas.

    • At the very lively party you can hear – some of them not directly because the storyline leaves the party scene then:









Quite a soundtrack isn't it?

~ Remy worried about Douglas health, Douglas worried about his beer, Nora worried about the piano.


(not in the picture)


orried that no one is called Douglas Fairbanks Rosenbloom anymore. ~

Scene to watch:

Absolutely every scene with Alan Jenkins, Edward Brophy and Harold Huber – also every scene with the incomparable Ruth Donnelly is more than worth seeing. And I simply love the scene in which Remy makes his mob drink his beer – after he himself learned about how awful it tastes, of course – another scene you really, really should watch – because Edward G. Robinson is just awesome!

Gip's (Harold Huber) explanation why he looks greenish after testing Remy's beer:

I always turn a little green this time of the year, boss."

~ Mike and Gip seem to be not very anxious to follow Lefty's example and test the beer.. ~

Have a look:

Here Remy Marco tells his boys that from now on they have to be legitimate:

Quotes corner:

Yeah, they’re always passing laws interfering with people.

I love the humor of this film - the dialogues are great - a lot of gangster talk - I LOVE that!!

And I also love how Bobby Jordan greets Jane Bryan when they are introduced:

Hiya, toots!

This film is made with a marvellous cast - including some of my favourite 1930s actors like Edward G. Robinson, Ruth Donnelly, Alan Jenkins, George E. Stone and of course my beloved Margaret Hamilton.

Oh – and Jane Bryan just looks stunning – when she comes down the stairs with that shiny, slinky dress to greet her fiancé – well.. I would call that positively breathtaking..

~ I wasn't able to find a proper picture of Jane Bryan from this flick - so you'll get this one.. ~

What I also love about this film is the pairing of Edward G. Robinson and Ruth Donnelly.

~ publicity still of Ruth Donnelly for A SLIGHT CASE OF MURDER ~

Not only because they work so well together – I also like the fact that Mrs. Marco is no classic gangster moll – you know them from several other films:

the Gloria Grahame type - gorgeous looking a bit sneaky etc. ..

No, Nora Marco is Remy’s partner. In the moment she learns that he had lost his money she immediately suggests to sell her jewels – just to be told that she is wearing phonies for months now – just because Remy was ashamed to tell her about his failure.

Thank you all for listening,

yours truly


and remember:

“Now, stay kosher, keep your nose clean..”

~ and better stay away from Remy's beer for now... ~


  1. What a great post Irene. I can't wait to see this movie. It sounds great. And another excellent post once again.

  2. Oh - love that film, Monty! Hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do!!

    And: Thank you again!

  3. I'm a huge/huge fan of Edward G. Robinson, so I kinow I will love this film. Thank you for writing such a wonderful post.

  4. Oh, Dawn! ME TOO!! I am pretty sure you'll like this film - it's just wonderful!

    And: thank you for the nice comment(s)!


I really appreciate your comments - I'll read them all and if I can think of an answer I'll post it. :")