Sunday, April 14, 2002


Spoilers below!!
Spencer Tracy plays a reporter whose specialty is juicy murder cases. He's also apparently going to seed, spending too much of his off time getting and staying drunk (there's a memorable scene of Tracy sleeping off a bender on a merry-go-round). Virginia Bruce is a secretary at the paper who is sweet on Tracy. His latest case involves a shady businessman who is suspected of bumping off his equally shady partner--the two have bilked dozens of people out of their life savings and even driven a couple of people to suicide. It's fun to watch Tracy dig up evidence, lead the cops around by the nose, and then write up his headline stories just as the cops are making their moves. The business partner is found guilty and sentenced to death. In a twist which is not totally out of the blue (it's clear that there's more to Tracy's character than meets the eye), it turns out that Tracy committed the murder for revenge--his wife was one of the people who got bilked and killed herself. At almost the last minute, Tracy comes clean, making his confession his last big scoop before going to the police. It's intimated in the last line of the film that a jury may be lenient with him.

Tracy and Bruce are good, as is Lionel Atwill in a rare turn as a good guy, but Tracy's character is underdeveloped; we are *told* things about him but we don't see much of anything happen so the twist feels hollow. On the one hand, we're supposed to accept that his drinking is a real problem; on the other hand, it doesn't seem to have hurt his career much or lessened whatever charm he held for Virginia Bruce. It's only 70 minutes and was probably intended as a second feature, which may explain the lack of characterization. This is also notable as James Stewart's feature film debut as a Jimmy Olsen-type reporter. I wonder if Tracy's character was one of the first anti-hero vigilantes of the Production Code era?

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