After the smashing success of LITTLE CAESAR, Warner Bros. decided to team its two hottest stars, Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney, in a crime picture guaranteed to do big business--it was the only time the two "tough guys" would ever appear on film together. Robinson plays a
barber-shop owner in a small town. He has a penchant for gambling, booze, and women, and he exercises his vices by running a gambling den in the back room. Cagney, a barber in Robinson's shop, also serves as his enthusiastic right-hand man. One day, Boris Karloff, a seedy gambler, shows up to try
his luck at Robinson's poker table. Despite Karloff's cheating, Robinson wins and then kicks the bum out. The barber's friends marvel at his luck and skill in games of chance and, with Cagney's encouragement, they raise $10,000 to stake Robinson in a big-time syndicate poker game in the city.
Robinson decides to try his hand against the big boys, and on his way to the train station he is met by Karloff, who gives him an additonal $1,000 to gamble with. In the city, Robinson is wooed by a pretty girl, Noel Francis, who steers him to a game run by Ben Taggart--a disaster in which
Robinson loses everything. Realizing the whole thing was a setup engineered by Francis, Taggart, and one of the gamblers, Ralf Harolde, Robinson vows revenge. He sends for Cagney, and they both get barbering jobs in the city and work out their scheme.
The SMART MONEY script provided Robinson and Cagney with a fast-paced story a bit different from the ones they had previously starred in (more humor and much less violence--the original story was nominated for an Oscar). The film shows the studio's commitment in its top-notch production values.
The supporting cast is solid, with an appearance by Karloff, who would soon go on to do FRANKENSTEIN for Universal and reach superstardom of his own. Robinson was a proven star by the time SMART MONEY went before the cameras, and Warner Bros. knew just by watching the rushes from THE PUBLIC ENEMY
that Cagney would score big with moviegoers. (Cagney worked on both films at the same time, running from one soundstage to the other.) This isn't to say that Warner Bros. wasn't hedging its bet on the young actor. His role in SMART MONEY is relatively small when compared with Robinson's, and he is
totally absent from the middle of the film. THE PUBLIC ENEMY proved to be a smash when released--it's too bad that Cagney's part isn't bigger in SMART MONEY. Meanwhile, Robinson, who still hadn't fully comprehended his popularity in the wake of LITTLE CAESAR, was sent by the studio to New York to
attend the premiere of SMART MONEY at the Winter Garden Theater. There his star status became abundantly clear to him when, in order to get into the theater, he had to hide on the floor of the car from throngs of his overzealous fans.
Cast & Details See all »
- Rating: NR
- Review: After the smashing success of LITTLE CAESAR, Warner Bros. decided to team its two hottest stars, Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney, in a crime picture guaranteed to do big business--it was the only time the two "tough guys" would ever appear on film toge… (more)