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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Robinson Reads Riot Act


I Am The Law (1938) Calls For Swift Justice

Edward G. Robinson is here at crossroad between tough customers and character leads (or strong support) he'd play in a 40's decade to come. I Am The Law pleases for being precisely the Eddie we like, an intellect handy with fists when needed. As a law professor drafted to clean up rackets, he begins naive, then picks up street smarts at pace sufficient to make a blistering second half of ninety minutes. Columbia had being doing yearly quota of racket busting B's, so I Am The Law was mere increase of budget and care on ground they'd trod well. "Mister Big" in these situations was always charming and civilized, with often as not Otto Kruger embodying same, a good thing here as elsewhere for Kruger's capacity at shading what would be a stock character in lesser hands. Civic rights are pleasingly trampled, Eddie telling thugs in custody that he'll "beat their heads off" then and there (his words), and does just that. Charles Starrett couldn't have managed so good a slugfest as Robinson (and his double) engage here. The star had seen a slump by the mid-30's  alleviated by the hit that was Bullets Or Ballots for home-lot Warners, thus renewal of contract there and loan-out to Columbia for I Am The Law. Robinson was not a little fed up with criminal work (both as participant and opponent of), but art collecting was a drug that had hooked him, so what vehicles were tendered, he took.

4 Comments:

Blogger Randy said...

Robinson's radio series, BIG TOWN, launched in 1937 and with Robinson cast as a crusading newspaper editor, was a very big hit and doubtless an additional factor in his renewed popularity with the public.

10:28 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Randy: It's remarkable that A-list movie stars like Robinson and Humphrey Bogart were stars of weekly radio series at one time or another. These days, they seem to go to TV when the movie industry no longer wants them.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

Actually, radio shows were an ideal setup for film actors. They could come straight from their studio day jobs, do minimal rehearsal and perform from a script. Even a committed radio star like Jack Benny could work a movie into his schedule: I have one show where he talks about "To Be or Not to Be", then in production ("Poor Carole Lombard. She gets to make love to me all day, and has to go home to Clark Gable.").

Since a lot of celebrity appearances on radio were promoting films, one wonders if they got paid or this was unpaid studio overtime.

Orson Welles once claimed he'd go on the air as "The Shadow" without having seen the script first, wondering what the Shadow was going to do even as he read the lines. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce did the radio "Sherlock Holmes" concurrent with shooting the movies, which likely aggravated Rathbone's typecasting and fed-upness.

Of course this was when film shoots usually stayed on the studio lots and kept union hours, and most radio was live. And TV was rarely viable as a second job because it was generally filmed during the same hours as movies.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Lionel Braithwaite said...

@ Kevin K, actors of today also do TV in the same fashion that stars of yesterday did radio, but when they have the time and the production company of a TV show can afford them. Just recently, Liam Neeson appeared on the TV series The Orville, as did Charlize Theron in one episode, and some actors who are big are also sometimes doing TV.

3:03 AM  

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