THUNDER IN THE CITY (director: Marion Gering; screenwriters: Akos Tolnay/Walter Hackett/Aben Kandel/Robert E. Sherwood; cinematographer: Alfred Gilks; editor: Arthur D. Hilton; music: Miklos Rozsa; cast: Edward G. Robinson (Dan Armstrong), Luli Deste (Lady Patricia Graham), Nigel Bruce (Duke Of Glenavon), Constance Collier (Duchess Of Glenavon), Ralph Richardson (Henry V. Manningdale), Arthur Wontner (Sir Peter Challoner), Elizabeth Inglis (Dolly), Cyril Raymond (James), Nancy Burne (Edna), Billy Bray (Bill), James Carew (Snyderling), Annie Esmond (Lady Challoner); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Akos Tolnay/Alexander Esway; United Artists; 1937-UK)
“An enjoyable snappy satire on American-British differences when it comes to doing business.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An enjoyable snappy satire on American-British differences when it comes to doing business. Dan Armstrong (Edward G. Robinson) is the archetypal hard-sell American salesman. He gets canned after working for seven years as advertising chief for the American company of Snyderling. Irked by honcho Snyder’s suggestion that his undignified sales pitch (flying blimps to promote a new product) is an embarrassment to the firm, Dan goes to visit his relatives in England to supposedly learn how to tame down his act. While in London Dan befriends starving street musicians Bill and Edna (showing he can be democratic with the lower-class types), and gets invited to the palatial old family home of his aristocratic relatives, theDuke Of Glenavon (Nigel Bruce) and the Duchess Of Glenavon (Constance Collier). They are in need of cash and believing him to be filthy rich, they try in their dignified way to sell him their mansion for a higher price than it’s worth. Instead the broke Duke sells the fast-talking scheming American salesman a worthless mine in Rhodesia for a half a million pounds, which interests Dan because the wealthy aristocratic Henry V. Manningdale (Ralph Richardson) wanted to purchase it. Dan is also interested in Lady Patricia (Luli Deste), Manningdale’s main squeeze, whom Dan instantly falls in love with as soul mates and aims to steal her from Manningdale by becoming more wealthy than the dignified Brit.
Learning that the non-functioning mine produces magnelite, known as the miracle metal, Dan embarks on high-powered selling campaign to get magnelite known throughout England. Not having the cash to meet the payments for the mine, he talks the Duke into giving him 30 days to form a company with everyone in the family given executive titles and to put its stock on the market. This succeeds, and the investors handsomely profit. But the cunning Manningdale went to France and bought the patent from a brilliant French scientist. This means that Dan’s company owns the metal but can’t manufacture it without the rights to the patent. Since Manningdale can now sit and wait, thereby causing the stock value to plunge, Dan does the noble thing and gives Manningdale control of the company. The lesson learned is that you need both dignity and a sense of ballyhoo to be a complete businessman.
Robust go-getter Robinson admirably makes his smarmy character highly likable in this sophisticated comedy of manners (Robinson’s first role in a comedy). It’s directed in a breezy manner by Marion Gering, and satisfies as along as you don’t think too much about how the charming huckster is a fraud.
REVIEWED ON 5/7/2005 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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