Production Company: Paramount
Top Billed Actors: George Bancroft, Clive Brook, Evelyn Brent
IMDb Rating: 7.8
*Exclusive Award Winner*
Won 1 Oscar:
Best Writing (Story) - Ben Hecht
Plot: A gangster rights a drunkard's ship, then shoots him from a window for stealing his girl.
Where this one shines on its own is the story. Some may call it "bare bones," but for its time, it is easy to see why this won the first Original Story Oscar, a category that has since been replaced by the Original Screenplay award. The plot focuses on a kingpin gangster, his prized girl, and a man he helped transform into a respectable fellow. This trio of Bancroft, Brent, and Brook (respectively) shines in the roles set out by Ben Hecht. We are treated to gun fights, parties, jealousy, and love. This all-inclusive package of a plot blazes by at breakneck speed as so much is accomplished in its short run time of 82 minutes.
However, this short run time makes the film feel somewhat rushed. I would have liked to see the jealous florist's character develop a little better, as well as more backstory on the three main characters. Hecht drops you in on the life of these three, and more context would have helped shape the film.
Overall, von Sternberg's gangster film isn't quite a masterpiece, but it is still worth a watch, even aside from providing the framework for gangster movies to follow.
My Score: 8/10