Two Endings For Bullets Or Ballots
Just watched Warner’s excellent new DVD of Bullets Or Ballots and hope I won’t spoil the party for too many readers when I reveal that Eddie Robinson dies at the end. Well, he does in the ending they released, though it seems an alternate final scene was filmed (with Joan Blondell), and as shown here, he survives the final staircase showdown with Humphrey Bogart to be reunited with Blondell in a hospital room. Warners may have tested both with preview audiences, and they opted for the downer. Audio commentator Dana Polan mentions the possibility of the two endings, having seen mention of them in Warner’s original production file. I don’t think Production Code influence entered into it, however. "Pretend" gangsters going undercover didn’t have to die. Look at all the variations on this story that WB later did --- Across The Pacific, Springfield Rifle, Northern Pursuit. None of those guys perished at the end. I think what finishes Eddie here is the fact that he violates his own code of the streets by not "playing square" with mobster Barton MacLane, and all the signals are up when MacLane makes a point of crediting Eddie with having done so in the past. In fact, there are several scenes where the gangsters pay tribute to Robinson’s being a straight shooter among lawmen, never taking unfair advantage or double-crossing them. When he goes undercover with MacLane’s mob, he does precisely that, and for such a breach, he must die. This was less a matter of observing a morality code than a writer’s code. Being on the "right" side of the law doesn’t entitle you to bring down your opponent in such underhanded fashion, even if he’s otherwise got it coming. To let Robinson live at the finish would have left a slightly bitter taste in the viewer’s mouth, and that’s why I think the ending we got was the appropriate one.