(Released: 2010 by The Warner Archive Collection)
Another looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia
Summary: Can earnest sincerity best the facade of class – even in a backstabbing, cutthroat profession? Just ask James Cagney! He’d know…
We open with stock shots of various disasters involving speedboats, trains, ships, airplanes, and even race horses, yielding fatal results. Driving this home are newspaper headlines mourning the deaths of tycoons and other important figures with one linking detail – each has died without a clear and apparent heir to his fortune.
We’ll let Cagney’s character “James Corrigan”, self-described “Genealogist” and two-bit investigator, take it from here:
“Lyin’ around in banks, all over the country, is a lotta money! Millions o’ dollars! Wills and legal heirs that can’t be found! Well, I find ‘em! An’ for a small commission – never more than 50 % -- I put ‘em in touch!”
Understand that some of these “heirs” may or may not necessarily be rightful heirs, and you have the premise of our story.
That, and the scrappy, street-level Corrigan’s chief rival in this shady endeavor is the outwardly sophisticated (but inwardly more scummy than Corrigan) Charles Wallingham – and that Corrigan’s former girlfriend (…and the gal he loves) Joan Martin has left Corrigan’s employ (and life) to work for the seemingly aboveboard Wallingham.
Joan (Bette Davis) would like to leave the crass Corrigan and his shady little business behind for the more cultured Wallingham, who utters lines like:
“I must confess I get quite a glow when I think of some superannuated spinster, or poor harassed little clerk, to whom we shall bring the glad tidings that they’ve suddenly come into a great fortune.”
Once the set-up is established, the bulk of the film is divided into two main plots: (A:) A convoluted rivalry between Corrigan and Wallingham to get different individuals named the legal heir of a dumpster woman who died with a coat lined with stocks, bonds, cash, and jewels. (B:) Corrigan’s attempts to win back Joan by becoming a sophisticate – hence the title “Jimmy the
We’ll leave you to root out the details of each plotline on your own, and suffice it to say that, like any James Cagney film, examples of lively physicality and great dialogue abound. Here are some instances of the latter:
Corrigan mobilizes his staff to chase down disasters and deaths; in the hope some profit can be made.
CORRIGAN: “Mike, you go down to
just brought in an old bachelor! Civil Hospital
MIKE: “Is he dead?”
CORRIGAN: “No, but he WILL BE! The doctor that tipped me off is OPERATIN’ on ‘im!”
Joan shows us just how little trust she has in Corrigan.
CORRIGAN: “I’d give my RIGHT EYE…”
JOAN: “It’ll turn out to be GLASS!”
Corrigan tries to impress Joan, and become more intellectually sophisticated, like Wallingham. He gestures toward a new fixture in his office.
CORRIGAN: “Get a load o’ this! All kinds o’ EDUCATION!
JOAN: “What is it?”
’s FIFTEEN FOOT BOOKSHELF!” Could he possibly mean THIS? Prescott
JOAN: “Why, you idiot! It isn’t a FIFTEEN FOOT SHELF! It’s a FIVE FOOT SHELF!”
CORRIGAN: “Dat’s for ORDINARY people! I bought THREE o’ dem!”
Additional oddities: Being still early in the Warner Bros. cannon, and like Cagney’s earlier hit “The Public Enemy”, it begins with “Warner Bros. Pictures and the Vitaphone Corp. Present: [with the WB Shield superimposed over the Vitaphone Pennant].
Also, like Warner films of similar vintage, every featured character in the film is introduced by a non-still pose, with both the name of the actor and the character he or she plays prominently displayed. In older films, I often have difficulty in determining “who-is-who” beyond the obvious star performers. This is a nice way to remedy that – and I wish it would have been employed more often.
Gent” is a release of “The Warner Archive Collection”. Please GO HERE to read more about this
relatively new enterprise from Warner Home Entertainment. .
As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS.
It’s Warner Archives: That means virtually nothing in the way of Extra Features. No Commentary track, no subtitles, no background or “Making Of” featurette. No “Warner Night at the Movies” that I’ve loved so much in other packages! And, there is a needlessly limited choice of devices on which to play it, vs. standard DVD. But, there ARE slight improvements over previous TWAC product, as you will see in the “PROS” section.
It’s Warner Archives: That means we get a film that would probably not garner sufficient support for a general release. Given a choice between “Jimmy the Gent” as a Warner Archive Collection release, or no release at all, I’ll gladly take a TWAC version. And, they HAVE made certain improvements over previous releases – noted below:
Robo-Promos: “Robo-Promos” is my term for advertisements that play automatically before you even reach the initial menu. There are NO “Robo-Promos” on this set, in contrast with virtually ALL of the earlier Warner Archive sets. Good for you, Warner Archives!
Menu: (Singular): A nice departure from the old standard, stark dark blue Warner Archives menu. To the left, there is an attractive photo of “The Warner Bros. Theatre” (Was there actually such a thing?), with the marquee reading: “Now Playing: Jimmy the Gent”, and a large image of the DVD box cover (ALSO more nicely designed than the older “dark blue” packages) is pictured on the right of the menu. Double good for you, Warner Archives!
The options to “Play Trailer” and “Play Movie” are offered on this single menu.
Scene Selections / Chapter Skip: Again, TWAC has made improvements in what was a deficiency in earlier releases. Those releases were authored to only move forward or backward in TEN-MINUTE INTERVALS – regardless of where that ten minute jump will land you logically within the story. For “Jimmy the Gent” and certain other more recent releases, the selections fall more logically within the story, even if they aren’t pictured or listed on a “Scene Selection Menu”. Triple good for you, Warner Archives!
The Extra Feature (Singular): Theatrical Trailer for “Jimmy the
“He’s the BIGGEST CHISLER since Michael Angelo! [sic]” Over an caricature of a robed Cagney carving a dollar sign on a stone tablet.
“Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves were pikers…compared to this red-headed son-of-a-gun!”
JAMES CAGNEY. “JIMMY THE
“Jimmy the Gent is on the hunt for blondes, but here’s one blonde he can’t catch up with – Bette Davis!”
JENKINS: “Honey, you deviate me!”
WHITE: “(Giggle!) You say the cutest things!”
[ Joe’s Note: Oddly, this scene (and these lines) are NOT in the movie! I checked twice! A cut scene, perhaps? ]
“He’s the classy, sassy gentleman the girls adore… A poifect Beau Brummel, with just a dash of caveman!”
“James (“Honey Boy”) Cagney at his fastest! Freshest! Funniest!”
The Film: Another entertaining interlude with James Cagney! Does the man EVER let us down?!
The Depression-Era urban setting (New York) was the Warner Bros. stock in trade and they do it typically well, even in what amounts to a lesser film for Cagney.The Cast:
· James Cagney as “James Corrigan”.
· Bette Davis as “Joan Martin”.
· Alan Dinehart as “Charles Wallingham”.
· Allen Jenkins as “Louie”.
· Alice White as “Mabel”.
· Arthur Hohl as “Joe Rector”.
· Mayo Methot as “Gladys Farmer”
Cavanaugh as “ ”. (Phony
Southern Heir) Wellington
Okay, so “Jimmy the Gent” may not be the greatest of Cagney’s films… but that’s because the bar is set SO HIGH!
“The Public Enemy”, “TheMayor of Hell”, “Picture Snatcher”, “Angels with Dirty Faces”, “The Roaring Twenties”, “Each Dawn I Die”, “The Strawberry Blonde”, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, and so much more. It simply hasn’t a chance!
But, taken on its own, it’s good fun – and, at a remarkably short length of 1:07:29, the great Warner director Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca”, “Captain Blood”, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”) must have directed it on a lunch break!
was based on the story “The Heir Chaser”, by Larry Doyle and Ray
As a product of “The Warner Archive Collection”, and not a standard Warner Home Video release, it must be reviewed and rated by a new and different set of standards. The now-standard deficiencies are known, but we must give TWAC some points for making a few improvements over past releases. Those improvements are not just specific to “Jimmy the Gent”, but seem to be an across-the-board effort at upgrading the product line as a whole. Other releases of the same general time frame can boast similar improvements.
is recommended for fans of James Cagney, Bette Davis, urban Depression-Era
settings in general, and for those fascinated with the time period and its