(director: Lloyd Bacon; screenwriters: Abem Finkel/Robert Rossen/Seton I. Miller; cinematographer: George Barnes; editor: Jack Killifer; music: Leo F. Forbstein; cast: Bette Davis (Mary Dwight), Humphrey Bogart (David Graham), Jane Bryan (Betty Strauber), Eduardo Ciannelli (Johnny Vanning), Isabel Jewell (Emmy Lou Egan), Mayo Methot (Estelle Porter), Lola Lane (Gabby Marvin), Rosalind Marquis (Florrie Liggett), Ben Welden (Charlie Delaney), Damian O’Flynn (Ralph Krawford), William B. Davidson (Bob Crandall); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Louis F. Edelman/Hal B. Wallis; Warner Bros.; 1937)
“Bristling crime drama torn from the day’s headlines.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Lloyd Bacon (“42nd Street”/”Gold Diggers of 1937″/”Invisible Stripes”) directs this bristling crime drama torn from the day’s headlines (in 1936, Special Prosecutor Thomas E Dewey put Lucky Luciano behind bars on prostitution charges). It’s given the full Warner Bros. treatment. Writers Abem Finkel, Robert Rossen and Seton I. Miller keep things heated up, as the prostitutes who testified against their ruthless clip-joint boss are sympathetically portrayed.
Racketeer Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Ciannelli) takes over the Club Intime where Mary Dwight (Bette Davis) and her roommates, Gabby Marvin (Lola Lane), Emmy Lou Egan (Isabel Jewell), Florrie Liggett (Rosalind Marquis) and Estelle Porter (Mayo Methot), are working. The connected mobster creates a clip-joint, making the girls hostesses. He intimidates the girls to either work for him or else he’ll make sure they don’t work in any nightclub.
When Vanning’s henchman, Charlie Delaney (Ben Welden), bumps off Ralph Krawfurd (Damian O’Flynn) for not paying his gambling debts, Mary is implicated when her address is found on the victim. Mary’s arrested and Prosecutor David Graham (Humphrey Bogart) believes he has convinced Mary to testify against the gangsters. But when he puts her on the stand, she changes her testimony and Vanning is acquitted.
Mary’s younger sister Betty (Jane Bryan) unexpectedly visits from college, and learns Mary’s secret life. She remains in New York and accompanies Emmy Lou to one of Vanning’s parties. There Betty is approached by Bob Crandall (William B. Davidson), and when she resists his advances, Vanning slugs her and she falls down a staircase to her death.
The ruthless mobster and his henchmen frighten the girl hostesses into obeying his marching orders without a peep. When Mary wants answers to who killed her sis, to keep her from the law she has her face cut and marked by the mob–hence the title. Afterwards Mary and her girlfriends get brave and become state’s witnesses. They provide the vital testimony to the crusading Prosecutor to get the mobster sent to the electric chair and end the gambling/prostitute operation.
REVIEWED ON 12/11/2009 GRADE: B-