Tuesday, March 27, 2012

DVD Review: Jimmy the Gent (1934)

Jimmy the Gent (1934)

(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:

Lyinaround 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 Gent”. 

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 Civil Hospital!  They just brought in an old bachelor!

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?”

CORRIGAN:  Doc Prescott’s FIFTEEN FOOT BOOKSHELF!”  Could he possibly mean THIS? 

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.

 Jimmy the 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 Gent”:  (02:24)

Cue the usual on-screen hype: 

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!” 


Jimmy the Gent is on the hunt for blondes, but here’s one blonde he can’t catch up with – Bette Davis!”

Meet Jimmy’s pals – just a couple of boids in a gilded cage: Allen Jenkins and Alice White.”

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 adoreA 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”

·         Hobart Cavanaugh as “Wellington”.  (Phony Southern Heir) 


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! 

Jimmy the Gent” was based on the story “The Heir Chaser”, by Larry Doyle and Ray Nazarro.

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.

Jimmy the Gent” 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 filmmaking. 


Chris Barat said...


Actually, "Michael Angelo" is just an alternative spelling of "Michelangelo." I've seen it in other places. So the "sic" may not be necessary.

Any explanation as to why the movie poster has Jimmy dunking a donut? Are any COPS given prominent roles in this film?


Joe Torcivia said...

Really? And I thought it was just a joke, in keeping with the rest of the trailer’s text.

You know, like a “sic” joke? (Pardon!)

Honestly, I DID think the WB copywriter was merely having a little fun with us. (...or our 1934 counterparts)

As for the donut dunking, notice his PINKIE was extended – symbolizing his newly manufactured titular gentility!

…Then again, what would a ‘30s Cagney film BE without some cops!

Ryan Wynns said...


Yet again, one of your reviews has proven a fun and interesting way to learn about a `30's Warner Bros. movie!

If twisted, the lurid subject matter (crooked, scheming "investigators" taking advantage of the deaths of rich folk) has a certain intrigue, and seems to have facilitated, shall we say, colorful characterizations (with Corrigan seemingly catered to be played by Cagney!) Is there more black humor similar tothe "doctor that tipped me off" line? It seems called for.

It's certainly a curiosity that, though both Corrigan and Wallingham are of the exact same, er, "profession", from what I can tell, Corrigan is characterized as a scrappy underdog hero and Wallingham as a sophisticate, and implicitly "worse"!

Quote: 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.

At first, I misunderstood this to be created for and edited into the film for this DVD! Rereading it now, it's apparent that it was originally part of the film. *phew*

One question: is the blue menu screen that you included a still of "the old standard, stark dark blue Warner Archives menu"? It seems to match the description, of course! But from the way it follows your description of this film's individualized menu, and the still's caption not saying where the image is from, I wasn't sure. This is probably just me, though! :)


Joe Torcivia said...


Always enjoy your comments!

The Warner Bros. films of the period are probably my favorite of all – especially those with Cagney, Bogart, or Robinson. Indeed, in my opinion, Warner Bros. made the best films of the ‘30s and ‘40s – and the best cartoons of the ‘40s and ‘50s. (Though I also like Universal’s films a good deal more than I appear to indicate in these posts, as well! Warner is more the “Top of the Line” for me, and Universal more of the “Guilty Pleasure”, I suppose.)

As for Corrigan and Wallingham, click on the link in this post for the Cagney film “Picture Snatcher”, and catch my analogy of Cagney to the 1930s Floyd Gottfredson comics “Mickey Mouse”!

Far more so than the concurrent animated shorts, the comics Mickey was every bit the “scrappy underdog” that Cagney was (though purer of heart and intention, than Cagney sometimes was). Expanding on that, we might say that Corrigan was “Mickey” and Wallingham was “Mortimer”.

No, no! Even in their decline – from the best DVD producer of them all, to the no-frills Warner Archive Collection – WHV would NEVER blatantly edit something “into” one of its movies. That was a character introductory device of the time – and, I feel, a good one!

The “Blue Menu Screen” illustration was to represent the OLDER version of what the Warner Archive disc menus were. Because I could not find a scanned image of the NEWER menu online – and, since WAC discs do not play on my computer, I could not do a screen capture of one – the NEWER menu design must (alas) remain unseen – at least, for the time being.

I can see how that might seem unclear, and I’m sorry for that!

Cagney Rules!


Dana said...

Joe, there were a few Warner Theaters, and one still stands in L.A.'s port district (San Pedro)


Joe Torcivia said...


I wish I had a digital image of the building to post – but, since Warner Archives DVDs do not play in a computer, I’ve been unable to do a screen-capture of one to post.

I wonder if the image they use is an ACTUAL building, or a process shot. Hopefully, I’ll find one to include with a review someday.