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The Glass Key

The Glass Key(1935)

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According to a September 1932 Hollywood Reporter news item, Harry d'Abbadie D'Arrast was originally scheduled to direct this film, and B. P. Schulberg was set to produce it. According to files in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the first draft of this film was read by the Hays Office on March 24, 1931. Colonel Jason S. Joy, the Director of the Studio Relations Office of the AMPP, noted in his resume on March 25, 1931 that following a discussion between the Hays Office and producers Lloyd Sheldon and Bartlett Cormack, "elements involving the municipal and state office holders were eliminated" from the film. The film was condemned by the Hays Office, but by late 1934, was again being discussed. An inter-office memo dated December 20, 1934 from PCA official John McHugh Stuart to Dr. James Wingate, also an official, states that the film could be cleaned up by eliminating the professional gambling connection from the "Madvig crowd," and that the filmmakers had gone a long way to change the picture from the condition that had earned Joy's condemnation three years previously. The PCA wanted the film to include "a political boss without definite criminal or graft angles." The PCA wrote to Paramount executive John Hammell on December 22, 1934 warning him against the scene that depicts the brutal beatings of Ed by Jeff. In addition, the PCA asked him to delete the word "massacrist," because of connotations of sexual perversion, and warned that it is "always dangerous to shout "fire" in a theatre." An inter-office memo dated February 8, 1935 states, "Hammell and Sheldon agreed to a line saying Paul has definitely broken with the professional gambling element of his political support, [and have] eliminated line which suggests the police take orders from a political boss. Thus police regard raid on Paul's tip rather than on his orders." On May 9, 1935, PCA director Joseph I. Breen informed Hammell that a Code seal had been awarded the film based on Hammell "deleting all the business of Big Boy [Guinn] Williams punching Raft [after] the first shot where Williams hits Raft for the first time." Breen accepted the sounds of an off-stage beating that occurs later in the film, but added that he feared state censor boards would eliminate the action of Raft actually applying the lighter to the mattress. General censor board objections included the choking of O'Rory by Jeff, the beating of Raft, and the off-screen sounds of a beating. Pennsylvania censor boards eliminated a line spoken by Clarkie in reference to the killing of Sloss as reported in the newspapers: "They got Sloss. Almost tore his head off, it says." Sweden rejected the film in August 1935 and in April 1943, when the film was apparently re-issued, "because all gangster pictures are thus censored." On May 15, 1935, Mrs. Sidney Mayer of the Carthay Circle School in Los Angeles, CA, wrote a letter of protest against the film to Breen, stating: "[The film producers] are not going to get away with it again."
       Motion Picture Almanac lists this film as one of the box-office "champions" of the 1936-37 season. Several reviews refer to Rosalind Culli as Rosalind Keith. Motion Picture Herald calls Mack Gray's character "Scotty." The New York Times reviewer praises the "beautiful friendship" of Dashiell Hammett and the cinema, saying, "You May recall that when the murder films seemed in danger of being too grave in their study of the amiable art of mass slaughter, Mr. Hammett's "The Thin Man" began the cycle of what May be called the hilarious homicide school of crime fiction. Now, just when we were beginning to fear that the imitators of "The Thin Man" were becoming overly jocose on the subject of assassination, Mr. Hammett comes along with proof that murder isn't necessarily funny." The "glass key," the reviewer explains, is an underworld figure of speech for an invitation "which is motivated by expediency rather than genuine friendliness." This film was remade by Paramount in 1942 with Stuart Heisler directing and Brian Donlevy, Alad Ladd and Veronica Lake starring.