We started including this film in our Christmas watchlist several years ago, and it now is a solid member. We have sometimes made it part of our “Christmas Capers” themes – crime during the holidays, but this year it has the added feature of a solid New York setting, not to mention the screwy comedy and seeing Edward G. Robinson play a comic criminal instead of his stereotypical gangster.
“Pressure” Maxwell (Edward G. Robinson) and his pal Jug Martin (Broderick Crawford) have completed their prison sentence and are now looking for a new semi-legitimate scheme, purchasing a dog track in Florida. When the bank refuses them a loan, the crooks buy a luggage store next door to a bank and secretly tunnel into the vault. Robinson is a natural entrepreneur and soon realizes how much pleasure he gets from selling luggage and organizing the neighboring shop owners. Another crook (Anthony Quinn) has broken out of prison and takes over the bank robbery scheme. Robinson rescues the shop owner (Harry Davenport) and gets a reprieve for his heroism and then embarks on another entrepreneurial scheme.
NEW YORK CONNECTION
Except for the opening portion of the film set in prison, most of the film takes place in Manhattan. There are scenes in front of Grand Central Station and then the streets of Manhattan. In one key sequence, we see the streets torn up for construction of the subway, using the “cut and cover” method, which gives Robinson the idea to buy a luggage store and dig into the adjoining bank’s vault.
The story concludes on Christmas Eve and features a delightful sequence with a cigar-smoking Edward G. Robinson in a Santa suit walking the streets.
Jack Carson, the luggage wholesaler, appeared in over 100 films and TV shows. Perhaps his best known roles are in Mildred Pierce and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Edward Brophy appeared in The Thin Man and It Happened on Fifth Avenue. Grant Mitchell appears in It Happened on Fifth Avenue and The Man Who Came to Dinner.
Jack Carson appeared in Carefree with Fred Astaire. Edward G. Robinson appeared in an Actors Equity benefit show with Fred Astaire in 1922.
WHY WE LOVE THIS MOVIE
The many charming character actors, Edward G. Robinson’s comic talents, and seeing a young Jackie Gleason in one of his earliest screen roles as a soda jerk.