Thursday, July 1, 2010

Picture Snatcher (1933)

Any film that starts with Cagney in a lavender bath is gonna be good.

Fun, speedy little picture, starring our bathing beauty as Danny, a ne'er-do-well gangster ready to "make good", and Ralph Bellamy as McLean, the editor who gives him that chance - little knowing what was in store.  You can take the man out of the business, but you can't take the business out of the man:  Cagney states that his camera "works just like a gun, trigger and all".  (Uh oh.)  Alice White is the love interest here, and I remember reading she was being marketed as the new Clara Bow (who was breaking down by this time); she's cute, and appropriately vivacious, but she's no Clara.   Patricia Ellis plays the "good girl", the one for which Cagney wants to better himself, and she does so with aplomb. 

Quick-thinking, fast-talking (this was early 30s Warner Bros after all), tense and exciting and smarmy as hell.   A moment of sweetness amongst the grit:  watch Cagney towards the end, when he's alone in the apartment.  He fills this brief wordless scene with such beauty of movement it's almost like dance.

For those confused by the movie's last line, it's "vass you dere, Charlie?", a catchphrase from a popular radio show of the time.  James Lileks goes into detail about it in his review, which is much better (and funnier) than mine.

Highly recommended. 

I give this one: 


Artman2112 said...

IMO, this is one of Cagney's best pre code films! i love the fast pace, snappy dialogue and top notch cast, but of course Cagney is the main reason to watch this and he is truly a marvel of hyper-kinetic energy!

we must however make sure to mention the other love interest played by Patricia Ellis :)

yeah Alice White was great, very cute, had style to burn and was a good actress but she was certainly not Clara Bow. i wonder how many starlets of the early 30's were being hyped as the "new" Clara Bow??

this and many other really enjoyable WB films from that era was directed by one of the unsung and forgotten greats, Lloyd Bacon.

Avalon76 said...

Patricia Ellis! She was quite good in this - how could I have left her out?! *smacks self* I'm gonna amend that right this second.

Artman2112 said...

ok now i can sleep tonight ;)

ever see "The St Louis Kid" with Cagney and Patricia Ellis? she's really good in that too!

Jump_Raven said...

Saw this one a couple of years ago and loved it. Blonde Crazy and some of Cagney's other pre-codes are pretty good as well. Cagney was ahead of his time as an actor. I wouldn't say he was a method actor, but he didn't just put on a mask like many of his contemporaries.

Artman2112 said...

yes blonde crazy is hilarious and so is ladykiller, hard to handle, taxi, and a bunch more!,
Cagney was by all accounts a 9 to 5 kind of actor, came to work, did his job and went home leaving his work at work. i will agree he was way ahead of his time though. he, more than any other male actor of that era i think, left the stage theatrics far behind almost from the start and helpd to define "film" acting in its own right. he as also extremely lucky to wind up at WB where his enormous talent and style were so well-suited to their types of films. i guess in a way they helped define each other through the 30's and early 40's. one might imagine if Jimmy had ended up at MGM, how different his career would have been, if he would've had one at all??