Monday, June 14, 2010


In a "Mission: Impossible"-style opening, diplomat William Powell is caught stealing secret papers from the French government; the State Department must disavow any knowledge of his actions, so he is deported (on a cattle boat). He takes a job with the desperate, drunken detective Arthur Hohl, who has specialized in low-rent divorce cases. They become "dog stealers," nabbing dogs off the street and returning them to their owners, as though found by chance, for a small reward, but soon Hohl agrees to front for gangster Gordon Westcott and business begins booming. Society woman Margaret Lindsay has been winning too much at Westcott's gambling den and he wants to dig up some dirt on her, so Powell tries to, without quite knowing why, but he falls in love with her. Westcott sets Lindsay up to force her to shoot him in self-defense, though he has the gun loaded with blanks, but Hohl then has Westcott killed for real (by a nervous coke addict). Powell steps in and solves the case, gets his career back on track, and, of course, rights things with Lindsay. This crime caper has some wild plot twists here and there, but is otherwise par for the course. Powell gives the proceedings a touch of class; Lindsay is fine. The references to cocaine use clearly mark this as a pre-Code effort: the word "snowbird" is used to refer to the killer, and Hohl tells his thugs to "lay off that snow." The always amusing Ruth Donnelly has a small role. [TCM]

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