Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Fairly routine Warners crime melodrama which wastes the talents of Bette Davis. She plays a drugstore clerk, engaged to store owner Charles Farrell. When some mobsters try to force Farrell to carry their beer (back in the good old days when, I guess, you could belly up to the drugstore fountain for a beer), he rebels and refuses to do it, but he does make up an effective headache powder in the backroom for mob boss Ricardo Cortez. Cortez, who wants out of the beer racket anyway, gets the idea to have Farrell make up bootleg versions of real drugstore items and sell them to local businesses under the names of the legitimate products. In order to get the money to marry Davis, Farrell agrees and for a while things work out for everyone until Cortez's girl (Glenda Farrell) gets pissed at Cortez's infidelity and snitches to Henry O'Neill, the head of an company that makes an antiseptic that Farrell is copying. O'Neill takes Cortez to court, though he offers not to go after Farrell if he quits. He tries to, but Cortez blackmails him into staying around to work on some fake digitalis, a heart medicine. Unfortunately, a doctor winds up using the bad medicine on the pregnant Davis and she has a miscarriage and almost dies. Farrell goes gunning for Cortez, but O'Neill, angry that Cortez's bootlegging is hurting the product that he invented, is also on the loose with a gun. The climax occurs in a big lab with a huge vat of acid, and course one of the strictest Hollywood conventions is that whenever there's a vat of acid in sight, sooner or later, someone's gonna fall into it. Farrell is wooden as hell, leaving Davis a bit at sea; Richard Barthelmess was similarly bad in CABIN IN THE COTTON, but Davis had more to work with in that film and she could overcome the liability of a weak leading man. Other cast members include Samuel S. Hinds and Allen Jenkins, and there's a nice catfight scene between the always reliable Glenda Farrell and Renee Whitney, playing Cortez's floozy on the side. [TCM]

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