The Bette Davis Project: Jimmy the Gent (1934)

Jimmy the Gent (1934)Synopsis:

Jimmy Corrigan (James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy) is a vulgar swindler who makes his living from fraudulent enterprises. Corrigan’s girlfriend, Joan Martin (Bette Davis), who doubles duties as his secretary, is tired of the con artist’s shady business so she goes to work for a highly respected man, Charles Wallingham (Alan Dinehart, Sweepings). When Jimmy finds out that Joan has left him, the resourceful swindler comes up with an elaborate scheme to win her back.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Jimmy the Gent, written by Bertram Millhauser, directed by Michael Curtiz (Yankee Doodle Dandy and Mildred Pierce), is best remembered as the first of the two films Cagney and Davis made together.

The film has its defenders, but I’m not one of them. It’s never boring, but frankly, I was expecting a whole lot more from the momentous teaming of Warners’ greats. Interestingly, cinema’s most intense dramatic actors only worked together in comedies, a genre that neither one excelled. That’s why I think that the potentially explosive pairing fails to generate any sparks.

The title role was specifically written for Cagney. Needless to say, he is particularly good delivering the fast-pacing dialogue. And I do like some of his mannerisms here (I love his swagger!). Cagney has one hilarious sequence in which his character tries to be a bit more sophisticated. However, no matter how hard he tries, and believe me, he tries very hard, Cagney is no William Powell — he’s too edgy for comedies.

The same thing can be said about Davis. She is not bad either (she too can spit out dialogue like machine-gun fire), but yes, temperament-wise, I think she was ill-equipped for screwball comedies. Carole Lombard she is not. Davis did much better with black humor (e.g. The Anniversary). Director Curtiz keeps the story moving at lightning fast speed, and that helps a great deal.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Overall, entertaining but a waste of two truly gigantic talents. With Mayo Methot (Marked Woman), Alice White, and Allen Jenkins. Watch for Dennis O’Keefe (The Leopard Man and T-Men) in a small role. B&W, 67 minutes, Not Rated.

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