(director: Josef von Sternberg; screenwriters: Wells Root/story by William A. Ulman Jr.; cinematographer: John Seitz; editor: Conrad A. Nervig; music: William Axt; cast: Wallace Beery (Sgt. Shaun Madden), Tom Brown (Albert ‘Al’ Boylan, Jr.), Alan Curtis (Dennis Madden), Laraine Day (Eileen Daly), Fay Holden (Mary Madden), Marc Lawrence (‘Piggy’ Ceders), David Gorcey (‘Punchy’), Marion Martin (Charlotte), Etta McDaniel (Dove, maid), Horace McMahon (Philadelphia), Charles Trowbridge (Commissioner); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: J. Walter Ruben; Loew’s (MGM); 1939)
“Turned out better than expected.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An insufferable B-film moral cop story from Josef von Sternberg(“The Scarlet Empress“/”The Last Command”/”The Shanghai Express”), that should have been filmed by Warners and with a different director. It was the esteemed auteur’s only film for MGM (he was removed from I Take This Woman by the studio, which was the other film he was contracted by MGM to do). The bad film was his worst, a film in which he hated the script and didn’t think much of its star Wallace Beery. I also doubt if this is the kind of common man’s film that was in von Sternberg’s DNA to direct. It’s based on a story by William A. Ulman Jr., and is adequately written by Wells Root.
Sgt. Shaun Madden (Wallace Beery) is a straight-arrow respected Irish beat cop in NYC. The cop awaits the day his son Dennis (Alan Curtis) and his adopted son Albert (Tom Brown) will follow in his footsteps and join the force. Dennis marries the sweet Irish lass Eileen (Laraine Day, film debut), who was abandoned by mom and pulled off the streets by Shaun and then he reunited the child with her impoverished mom and gave her financial aid to take the kid back with her to be raised in the old country.
Dennis was a belligerent kid, who wishes to get fast promotions on the force. He acts with brutality and small-mindedness walking his dad’s old beat, and undermines the good will from dad. Because of his lousy attitude to police work, Dennis is not popular with either his police brothers or the public. In one case, he unnecessarily guns down a youngster (David Gorcey) for stealing a fur coat. This shooting pisses off the local gangster “Piggy” Ceders (Marc Lawrence), as the vic was his moll’s (Marion Martin) brother. Piggy thereby conspires to frame Dennis for bribery and he’s sent to Sing Sing. Just as Shaun gets Piggy to change his story, Dennis escapes and goes into hiding. When the cops corner him, he kills a cop in a shoot-out. The disgraced Shaun quits the force, but fear not because his adopted son is there to carry on in his footsteps as an honest cop.
What can be said about the crime drama considering the star and director were arguing throughout and the studio never backed the acclaimed director is that the stylish minor film though mawkish, turned out better than expected.
Fay Holden plays Beery’s good wife.
REVIEWED ON 6/28/2015 GRADE: C+