(director: Anatole Litvak; screenwriters: Richard Macaulay/Robert Rossen/Jerry Wald/based on the play The Gentle People by Irwin Shaw; cinematographer: James Wong Howe; editor: Warren Low; music: Heinz Roemheld; cast: Ida Lupino (Stella Goodwin), John Garfield (Harold Goff), Thomas Mitchell (Jonah Goodwin), Aline MacMahon (Florence Goodwin), Eddie Albert (George Watkins), John Qualen (Olaf Knudsen), Odette Myrtil (Caroline), Robert Homans (Officer Magruder), George Tobias (Igor), Leo Gorcey (Eddie, bartender); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Hal B. Wallis/Henry Blanke; Warner Brothers; 1941)
Considering how heavy-handed this routine exploitation crime drama comes across, the final result is not bad for such a rotten film.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Anatole Litvak(“The Night of the Generals”/”The Snake Pit”/”Sorry, Wrong Number“) directs this awkwardly made dark melodrama, that’s based on the pessimistic 1938 play The Gentle People by Irwin Shaw. It was meant to be an anti-fascist film, as the stage version leaves the thug (a symbol for fascism) unpunished. The movie version ends on a more upbeat note than the disappointing stage version, as the amoral ruthless criminal gets his comeuppance at the end (the Hays Office would not allow Hollywood to let criminals go unpunished). WritersRichard Macaulay, Robert Rossen and Jerry Wald give it a comical twist, while stars Ida Lupino and John Garfield give it energetic star power. Considering how heavy-handed this routine exploitation crime drama comes across, the final result is not bad for such a rotten film.

Vicious loan shark Harold Goff (John Garfield) runs a protection racket in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn and terrorizes boat owners to pay for protection or have their boat go up in flames. The thug even picks on small-timers like chef Olaf Knudsen (John Qualen) and tailor Jonah Goodwin (Thomas Mitchell), peaceful poor workers who are partners in a small fishing boat docked at Sheepshead Bay. Goff forces the two to pay him $5 a week for boat protection.

Jonah’s disgruntled attractive daughter, Stella (Ida Lupino), a telephone operator, is unhappy with her lot in life and feels unsatisfied with her nice-guy regular boyfriend George (Eddie Albert), and becomes Goff’s girlfriend despite knowing he’s extorting her caring pop. Stella thinks the go-getter can make her life more exciting and take her away from her dead-end existence. It was hard to believe that she’s still viewed as a good girl despite her callous actions.

When the two vics try to get Goff arrested for extortion, the law sides with the criminal because they signed a loan agreement. Thereby the vics take the law into their own hands. After a struggle on their tub Goff falls overboard and drowns, and they recover his wallet with the extortion money they paid him.