Friday, September 16, 2011

Quick Millions

1931, US, directed by Rowland Brown

Before he turned saintly, circa 1938, Spencer Tracy played many a roughneck, and in Quick Millions he provides a pre-Scarface template for a criminal rise to the top. George Raft practices for his turn in that film by playing the same right-hand-man role here, although he is in rather more loquacious form than in Howard Hawks's film. The early 1930s seem to be littered with people who have an extraordinarily single-minded attitude to success in their chosen profession, and the fast-paced style of the early talkies tend to reinforce the sense of a dizzying ascent: the to-the-point montage sequences compress events so that in no time a two-bit hoodlum is making deals with the major players, although director Rowland Brown also makes time for insightful character asides, particularly when Tracy tries to show he's qualified to hang with the city's older money. The finale intercuts scenes at a church with an outbreak of violence, a good four decades before Francis Ford Coppola alternates between the same elements in The Godfather.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States