A self-described businessman, Jimmy Corrigan (James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy), makes his living from fraudulent enterprises. Jimmy’s girlfriend, Joan Martin (Bette Davis), is tired of the con artist’s shadiness. When Jimmy finds out that Joan has left him, the swindler comes up with an elaborate scheme to win her back.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“(Jimmy), you’re the greatest chiseler since Michaelangelo!”
Directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca and Mildred Pierce) from a script by Bertram Millhauser (Tokyo Joe), Jimmy the Gent is best remembered as the first (and best) of the two films James Cagney and Bette Davis made together.
Jimmy the Gent has its defenders, but I’m not one of them. The film is never boring, but frankly, I was expecting a whole lot more from the momentous teaming of Warners’ greats. Interestingly, cinema’s most intensely dramatic actors only worked together in comedies, a genre in which neither actor excelled.
The title role was specifically written for Cagney. Needless to say, he is particularly good at delivering fast-paced dialogue. Cagney has one hilarious sequence in which his character tries to be a bit more sophisticated. However, regardless of how hard he tries, Cagney is simply too edgy for screwball comedies.
The same can be said about Davis. She is not bad — she too can spit out dialogue like machine-gun fire — but yes, temperament-wise, I think she is ill-equipped for screwball comedies — Carole Lombard she is not. Davis was better suited for black humor, something she demonstrated in the satire The Anniversary. Anyhow, director Curtiz keeps the story moving at lightning-fast speed, and that helps a great deal.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Overall, Jimmy the Gent is an entertaining little film. It is, however, a waste of two truly gigantic talents. Also with Mayo Methot (Marked Woman), Alice White (Picture Snatcher) and Allen Jenkins (Ball of Fire). Watch for Dennis O’Keefe (The Leopard Man and T-Men) in a small role. B&W, 67 minutes, Not Rated.