The Big City was perhaps the most "normal" of the Lon Chaney-Tod Browning collaborations. Minus makeup, Chaney plays gangster boss Chuck Collins, who despite his ruthlessness is a basically decent fellow. Collins is plagued by a rival gang, led by deceptively boyish Curly (James Murray), who has been stealing jewelry from the rich and famous. Our "hero" tricks the other crooks into turning the gems over to him, intending to use them for his own profit (he throws the cops off track by hiding jewels in a plate of spaghetti!) But sweet heroine Sunshine (Marceline Day) eventually persuades Collins and his cohorts to turn honest. Betty Compson, who'd co-starred with Chaney in his breakthrough picture The Miracle Man, provides romantic contrast as Collins' hard-bitten gun moll. Director Browning had hoped to capture the "flavor" of Manhattan night life by hiring entertainer Sophie Tucker for a guest spot, but negotiations fell apart when Tucker demanded an impossibly high sum for her services. As it turned out, Chaney's star-power enabled Big City to score a box-office success to the tune of $387,000 in profits.
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