Friday, August 12, 2005
This week, the Siren also watched James Cagney in Great Guy, a low-budget crime drama produced by Grand National in 1936, when Cagney was on suspension from Warner Brothers. He plays an inspector for the Bureau of Weights and Measures. See how innovative movies used to be? You don't catch screenwriters nowadays tapping the dramatic value inherent in, say, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Our man unmasks a crime syndicate that seeks to cheat families by shorting them on things like bags of strawberries. Cagney gets a scene where he compares the amount lost to scams with the national debt. Sounds silly until you consider the Depression, or even Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickle and Dimed. The highlight in Great Guy comes early, when Cagney busts up a grocer's after he discovers lead weights in the chicken. This movie is no classic, but you could do worse than watching Cagney toss a plucked chicken around the store. Mae Clarke, of everlasting grapefruit fame, plays the love interest. What you really notice in an admitted antique like Great Guy is the dialogue. Here's a B picture from a Poverty Row studio, and you still get great lines like this one, from Cagney: ""My best friend gets hit by a streetcar, there's Civil War in Spain, we have an earthquake in Japan--and now you wear that hat!"