Two-Fist Jim Is Barbary Bound in Frisco Kid (1935)
A Warner photo finish on Samuel Goldwyn's
Barbary Coast of earlier in 1935 and occasion when their legal dept. must have
sat waiting for action based on plagiarism that, far as I know, never came.
Maybe in a business run by pirates, it didn't do to call out a man, or company,
for piracy. Dollars were spent on Frisco Kid ($419K being WB's 1935 idea of
generous) and at mere 77 minutes, it's got a lot more on the ball than Barbary Coast. A final third bogs down in one mob
marching out afteranother and back again, sheer numbers slowing a till-then
merry pace. James Cagney was and had been a guarantor a profit, but only at
dynamo setting he had long tired of. This was an actor with habit of backing
off things he was best at. So what if Frisco Kid was "that stinking piece
of junk, made up of tissue paper and spit," as Cagney described it to John
McCabe? Worldwide rentals of $1.4 million suggested boxoffice appetite for whatever stink or spit Cagney and Warners served up.
Tenderloin topics were a natural for actioners,
period setting not beyond memory for many attending first-runs. 1935 with its Goldwyn and Warner
models would take back seat and stay there onceMGM spoke final word with San Francisco the
following year. For all of talk in the first two about "cleaning out"
SF's waterfront element, it was Metro that would level, then burn it to the
ground with nature's own moral compensation of earthquake and fire, San
Francisco a sort of movie the Code was meant to generate. Whatever points
Barbary Coast and Frisco Kid bungled or missed, San Francisco would get right to tune of $5.2
million worldwide. Frisco Kid relies then, on Cagney, him sailing into fights against
larger opposition, notably hook-hand Fred Kohler, a donnybrook many would
remember long after balance of pic was forgot. There were five Cagney films
released in 1935; given Warners' druther, he'd have done three times as many
with a bed and wash basin on sets so as to minimize breaks. No wonder JC staged
a walkout at first excuse.