THE BIG SHAKEDOWN
(director: John Francis Dillon; screenwriters: Rian James/Niven Busch/story ‘Cut Rate’ by Sam Engel & Niven Busch; cinematographer: Sid Hickox; editor: Thomas Richards; music: Bernhard Kaun; cast: Charles Farrell (Jimmy Morrell), Bette Davis (Norma Nelson), Ricardo Cortez (Dutch Barnes), Glenda Farrell (Lily Duran), Allen Jenkins (Lefty), Dewey Robinson (Slim), Henry O’Neill (Sheffner), Renee Whitney (Mae LaRue); Runtime: 64; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Samuel Bischoff; Warner Bros.; 1934)
“A so-so crime drama about nasty racketeers in the pharmacy industry.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A so-so crime drama about nasty racketeers in the pharmacy industry, making life miserable for the greedy innocent couple lured into the rackets and unable to quit after promised them much. Director John Francis Dillon (“Man About Town”/”Call Her Savage”/”Sally”), in his last film, as he died shortly after from a heart attack, keeps the routine programmer moving along. It’s based on the story ‘Cut Rate’ by Sam Engel & Niven Busch. It’s set in NYC.
Norma Nelson (Bette Davis) and Jimmy Morrell (Charles Farrell) are engaged and run a neighborhood drugstore. When former bootlegger gangster Dutch Barnes (Ricardo Cortez) drops into their drugstore as a customer, he’s pleased Jimmy can duplicate making from scratch product brands and offers him a job manufacturing counterfeit toothpaste. Jim takes the offer despite Norma’s objections. He soon gets enough money to marry, as he stocks the store with fake items that he sells for less money. Jimmy rationalizes his crime by telling himself he’s helping his poor customers.
Dutch’s former girl friend, Lily Duran (Glenda Farrell), jealous that he fools around with another broad, Mae (Renee Whitney), squeals on his racket to the law and he gets threatened with prosecution. The chemist who created the toothpaste formula, Sheffner (Henry O’Neill), warns Jimmy to stop making it as a knock-off brand and Jimmy breaks his relationship with Dutch. But Dutch bumps off Lily and ties Jimmy to the murder, and blackmails him to continue making the bogus products.
How things get resolved in an acid bath seems contrived to fit the film’s message “that crime doesn’t pay.”
The film’s best scene was a hair-pulling catfight between Gloria and Renee.
REVIEWED ON 9/5/2014 GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/