(director: Michael Curtiz; screenwriters: from the play by R. Gore Brown and J.L. Hardy/Laird Doyle; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Thomas Richards; cast: William Powell (Capt. Bill Tennant), Colin Clive (Capt. Andrew ‘Andy’ Kerr), Edna Best (Norah), Hobart Cavanaugh (Homer, Tennant’s Aide), Halliwell Hobbes (General C.O. Furlong), Donald Crisp (Peadar Conlan), J.M. Kerrigan (O’Duffy), Anne Shirley (Flower Girl), Arthur Treacher (Lt. Merriman, Furlong’s Aide), Gertrude Short (Evie a Barmaid), Henry O’Neill (Dan); Runtime: 71; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Presnell Sr.; Warner Bros.; 1934)

“Depicts gallantry among the Black-and-Tans during the Irish revolution of 1920.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

So what if the plot device is not believable and the story is leaden, it’s still an exciting action pic that depicts gallantry among the Black-and-Tans during the Irish revolution of 1920. Director Michael Curtiz (“The Sea Hawk”/ “Casablanca”/”Mildred Pierce”) gets the most out of this contrived love triangle melodrama, with the war between the Irish and English atmospheric as a backdrop. It’s based on the London play by R. Gore Brown and J.L. Hardy, and is written by Laird Doyle.

In 1920, in Dublin, the Black-and-Tans are sent in by the British to impose martial law after the Irish demands for home rule turns violent because of the Sein Fein and its fiery leader Conlan (Donald Crisp). Andy Kerr (Colin Clive) is a dedicated captain in British Intelligence, who married three years ago the lovely Norah (Edna Best). Capt. Bill Tennant (William Powell) is the adventuresome, brave, debonair, bon vivant playboy soldier who arrives from abroad to join the Black-and-Tans and rents a room in the same building as Andy and Norah. It turns out he’s an old pal of Andy’s and, unknown to Andy, was Norah’s lover before she met him. That she’s still smitten with him even though he dumped her, becomes the story’s key point.

During a nighttime raid, Andy captures Conlan and is applauded as a national hero. When he returns home, he finds his wife in the bedroom with Bill. Upset that his wife wants to leave him, he goes out to a pub and the Sein Fein spot him and take him prisoner. Through a Sein Fein sympathizer, the noncombatant O’Duffy (J.M. Kerrigan), the British general is told that if Conlan is executed so will Andy. Bill, feeling guilt-ridden, comes up with a Hollywood way of saving Andy. But that means his military career is over, nevertheless it shows he’s really not such a cad after all.

Stefania Sandrelli in La chiave (1983)