Tuesday, July 09, 2013


Ross Alexander and Lyle Talbot work as mechanics at a Detroit taxi company. Alexander is cocky and egotistical, though his boss (William Pawley) admits he's the best in the shop. One day when Alexander comes in late yet again, Pawley fires him. They get into a fistfight and Pawley hits his head on the stone floor and dies. Alexander, fearing arrest, hops on a train and heads out west, a hungry, jobless hobo. In the desert, he helps Patricia Ellis fix her broken-down car, and later runs into her again at a nightclub where she sings. Ellis somewhat unaccountably takes a liking to the grungy, unpleasant Alexander; she buys him a meal and takes him home to her family, who give him free room and board. Under Ellis' influence, Alexander begins to straighten up and soon gets a job working construction on Boulder Dam. When a driver loses control of a truck filled with dynamite, Alexander jumps on board and tosses the TNT into the river. For a while, he's a hero, and he even gets engaged to Ellis, but Talbot shows up to work on the dam, recognizes Alexander, and threatens to blackmail him.

Alexander (pictured with Ellis) was being groomed by Warners as a Dick Powell-like performer, but even at his peak, he didn't have the easy, bubbly persona needed to fit that bill. Here, for a while, he's fairly convincing as a kind of anti-hero—despite his overly mannered delivery of dialogue, he does work up some slimy charm—but as the plot developed, I never found him sympathetic or likeable. The main thing this B-movie has to offer is the unusual backdrop of Boulder Dam, now called Hoover Dam, which was built over a five-year period and was officially dedicated just months before this film was released. I doubt there was any location shooting aside from some background footage, but the runaway truck scene and the finale—involving two men left hanging over the dam when a cable snaps—are well done. Ellis is unmemorable and Talbot, as usual, isn't given enough to do. Eddie Acuff does nicely with a small comic relief role as a fellow worker called Alley Oop. [TCM]

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