Friday, July 26, 2002

TAXI! (1931)

An early James Cagney film, short and peppy and great fun; at a little longer than an hour, it is packed with chuckles and thrills and never stops moving. Cagney is a taxi driver who is caught up in a city-wide struggle between the independent operators and a big company (Consolidated) that is threatening to put the little guys out of business. Loretta Young is a waitress at the Fish Grotto (a wonderful looking restaurant!); her father, cabbie Guy Kibbee, is arrested in an altercation with the "bad" taxi company and dies in prison. Cagney vows revenge and romances Young at the same time. When Cagney's own brother also winds up a victim of the same people, revenge takes priority.

After the first 20 minutes, the taxi plot takes a back seat to revenge and romance, as Young tries to tame Cagney's quick temper. David Landau is the hotshot from Consolidated who, for some unstated reason, falls on hard times, and winds up on the run from Cagney in the end. A nice non-gangster part for Cagney, with a memorable opening scene in which Cagney carries on a conversation in Yiddish, much to an Irish cop's surprise. Despite some dark turns along the way, the movie stays fun. One line I won't forget: Lelia Bennett, playing one of those plucky sidekick gals that were omnipresent in 30's movies, tells her boyfriend, "I feel like being bored and you can do the job better than anyone I know!"

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