Dennis suggests Smart Money (in Classics). Videoport just brought in three classic gangster films last week (you’re welcome) and this one, featuring the only ever team-up between genre icons Edward G. Robinson and Jimmy Cagney was calling to me, so I popped it in during yesterday’s lunch hour which, along with a couple of fifteen minute smoke breaks (I don’t smoke anymore) was enough to take in all 81 minutes of its glory. Edward G. plays Nick the Barber, a, um, barber who likes to gamble and has a gaggle of loyal cronies/customers (Jimmy C. is the loyalest) who decide to stake him as he tries to take down a big game in the big city. Well, things don’t go his way, and then they do, and before you know it (perhaps because of some primitive editing techniques) he’s running a posh gambling club and living the high life while he dodges the sneaky D.A. Edward G. was an odd-looking dude, even this early when
he was fit and trim and dapper (he sort of looks like a tiny Babe Ruth, with his fish lips and his beady little teeth) but, man, could he hold the screen. His Nick is all patter, natty waistcoats, and tough-guy decency as he takes no guff, shows his soft side, and waddles around, the king of the world. Sure, he’s in tune with his times, what with him rubbing his sycophantic black employee’s head for luck (and surreptitiously doing the same to a passing hunchback) and, at one point, planting a swift boot in the rear of a spying blonde floozy, but, what can I say, the guy makes it lovable. Cagney is playing utility infielder at this point in his career but he’s magnetic as Nick’s fiercely, pugnaciously loyal right hand man (watch how he slugs that cop during a raid!) and his relationship with Robinson is funny, chummy, and weirdly, intriguingly homoerotic in a sly, pre-code way. Robinson and Cagney, doing their thing on the same screen, friends; you can’t get any better than that.