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I Am the Law

I Am the Law(1938)

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teaser I Am the Law (1938)

Alexander Hall's I Am the Law (1938) may be a straightforward 1930s programmer, but no studio cranked out harder-hitting B-pictures than Warner Bros., and they always knew how to showcase their talent, especially James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. In this instance, it's Robinson who gets the hardboiled treatment, and, as usual, he runs with it.

Very loosely based on the career of New York Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey, I Am the Law isn't particularly believable but Robinson pulls it off. He plays a special prosecutor named John Lindsay who's recruited to rid the local government of shady characters with mob connections. A former professor, Lindsay quickly gathers a group of loyal law students who help him find any mob-connected types at City Hall. You've obviously never watched one of these potboilers if you think they fail in their quest.

Robinson wrote in his autobiography, All My Yesterdays, that he was trying to convince Warner Bros. he should be allowed to star in Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939) when I Am the Law was put on his plate. Unfortunately, the studio wasn't interested in the Nazi picture at that point, even though it owned the script and had partially prepared it to be filmed. Robinson accepted I Am the Law simply because he was contractually obligated to do so. (Robinson would get his wish and go on to star in Confessions of a Nazi Spy a year or so later. Reflecting his openly Leftist leanings, it would be the first anti-Nazi picture released by Hollywood.)

Robinson, a politically-aware actor if ever there was one, also noted in his book that his character in I Am the Law was named John Lindsay, and had become a prosecutor in the hopes of eventually being elected mayor of New York. In real life, John V. Lindsay was elected mayor of the Big Apple in 1966, a coincidence that obviously delighted Robinson. It seems unlikely that I Am the Law had anything to do with it!

Director: Alexander Hall
Producer: Everett Riskin
Screenplay: Joe Swerling (based on a story by Fred Allhoff)
Photography: Henry Freulich
Editing: Viola Lawrence
Music: Morris Stoloff
Art Director: Stephen Goosson, Lionel Banks
Costumes: Kalloch
Art Direction: Babs Johnstone
Sound: Lodge Cunningham
Principal Cast: Edward G. Robinson (John Lindsay), Barbara O'Neil (Jerry Lindsay), John Beal (Paul Ferguson), Wendy Barrie (Frankie Ballou), Otto Kruger (Eugene Ferguson), Arthur Loft (Tom Ross), Marc Lawrence (Eddie Girard), Douglas Wood (District Attorney Beery), Robert Middlemass (Moss Kitchell).

by Paul Tatara

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