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HIGH PRESSURE (director: Mervyn LeRoy; screenwriters: Joseph Jackson/from the story “Hot Money” by S. J. Peters/based on the play by Aben Kandel; cinematographer: Robert Kurrle; editor: Ralph Dawson; music: Leo Forbstein; cast: William Powell (Gar Evans), Evelyn Brent (Francine Dale), George Sidney (Colonel Ginsburg), John Wray (Jimmy Moore), Evalyn Knapp (Helen Wilson), Guy Kibbee (Clifford Gray), Frank McHugh (Mike Donahey), Oscar Apfel (Mr. Hackett), Ben Alexander (Geoffrey Weston), Harold Waldrige (Gus Vanderbilt), Charles Middleton (Mr. Banks), Harry Beresford (Rudolph Pfeiffer), Frank Darien (Oscar Brown – Realty Agent), Andr√© Luguet (Senor Rodriguez), Alison Skipworth (Mrs. Miller), Ben Taggart (Attorney General’s Officer); Runtime: 74; MPAA Rating: NR; Warner Bros.; 1932)
An amusing Depression-era con-man farce.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An amusing Depression-era con-man farce, based on the 1931 Broadway play by Aben Kandel and the story “Hot Money” by S. J. Peters. It’s cleverly written by Joseph Jackson. Mervyn LeRoy (“Five-Star Final”/”Little Caesar”/”I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang”) has a good ear for directing comedy, as he lets star William Powell play the fast-talking hustler role to the hilt of absurdity and the born to play this part actor carries the main load though helped considerably by a funny supporting cast–especially George Sidney as the greedy businessman with a heavy heart about the business.

Scam artist Gar Evans (William Powell) tells his girl Francine Dale (Evelyn Brent) he’s going out for a Bromo-Seltzer and five days later he’s located dead drunk in a speak easy by his con-man pal Mike Donahey (Frank McHugh) and the Jewish businessman Ginsburg (George Sidney). They sober Gar up and get the so-called greatest promoter in the world all excited about promoting, for a controlling fifty-one per cent interest in the company, an artificial rubber product made of sewage, that Ginsburg financially backs. The German inventor, living in New Jersey, Rudolph Pfeiffer (Harry Beresford), for $300 sold his invention to Ginsburg.

The recharged Gar gets cleaned up and bestows the fake title of colonel on Ginsburg and gets him to put up $25,000 for a spacious office on Manhattan’s prestigious Park Avenue, as a front for the unknown company to look important and to become the company headquarters for hiring and training its newly hired personnel. The bustling with ideas hustler, whose motto is ‘every good deal must have romance in it,’ names the company the Golden Gate Artificial Rubber Company, begs his good luck charm long-suffering girlfriend Francine to forgive him and come work for him, hires a con-man bum (Guy Kibbee) to be the company president because he looks the part of a CEO in the swell clothes Gar buys him, hires a sweet secretary (Evalyn Knapp) to actually work but who is dogged by her ‘untrusting of the boss’ jealous boyfriend (Ben Alexander), and starts issuing phony stock until stopped by the lawyer for the rubber companies, Mr. Banks (Charles Middleton), who gets the Attorney General’s office to serve Gar an injunction to stop selling stock until he can prove his claim of making rubber from sewage. Problem is the inventor can’t be located and when finally found turns out to be a crackpot.

If you can excuse the unmerited contrived happy ending, this is an entertaining film that seems the just right comical antidote for the economic indigestion of the 1930s.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”