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Friday, November 14, 2014

Putting Gags To Gangland


Robinson's Mob Makes Merry in Brother Orchid (1940)

Eddie Robinson quits the rackets (what, again?), gets a heave from successor Humphrey Bogart when he wants back in. A second half of Brother Orchid puts E.G. in a monastery, about which I always had mixed emotion, but gang yarns needed variation by '40 juncture more than even crowd-pleasing, and besides, this was meant to be a comedy. A first act rehashes The Little Giant from 1933, more humor and energy evidenced there, but good moments occur throughout Brother Orchid, especially when Bogie takes Eddie for a "ride," or a sock finish where the two (or their doubles) brawl like B-westerners. We could believe in Robinson going gentle; indeed, he'd beard up to discover serums and telegraphy around a same time as Brother Orchid. This was an actor too good for formula waste, but the 40's eased Robinson to character parts in A's even as he continued packing rods for lesser leads. Warners knew by 1940 that safe route to further crime pics was tough guys on the side of law or spoofing stuff they'd done in free-wheeling early 30's. Bogart was able to extend the hoodlum's life as doomed and tragic figure, re High Sierra and humbler The Big Shot, these coming a year and two, respectively after Brother Orchid. Latter is available on DVD, and plays Warner Instant in HD.

1 Comments:

Blogger aldi said...

I always thought Eddie G was typecast as a gangster in the minds of the public after Little Caesar in 1931. But I've had the opportunity to see some of his earliest films recently and of the 7 movies he made prior to Little Caesar he plays gangsters in 4 of them, even sending his gangster image up in the 1930 comedy The Widow From Chicago.

The studios wanted him to play gangsters to cash in on the huge success he'd enjoyed on Broadway as mobster Nick Scarsi (based on Capone) in the 1927 play The Racket. It was filmed in 1928 by RKO but Eddie lost the role to Louis Wolheim although it must be said Wolheim is truly memorable in the part. It's a great film, long thought lost until discovered in the personal effects of billionaire Howard Hughes after his death The old skinflint, owner of RKO, had been keeping the movie for his own private viewing pleasure!

10:50 AM  

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