The Big Shakedown


1h 4m 1934
The Big Shakedown

Brief Synopsis

A racketeer breaks into black-market medicine.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Shakedown
Genre
Drama
Crime
Release Date
Jan 6, 1934
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
First National Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
First National Pictures, Inc.; The Vitaphone Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 4m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7 reels

Synopsis

New Yorkers Norma Nelson and Jimmy Morrell plan to get married just as soon as their neighborhood drugstore starts to make money. The opportunity presents itself one day when former bootlegger Dutch Barnes stops in for a headache powder. Jimmy is out of the brand Dutch requests, but offers to make up one just like it. On learning that Jimmy can make up duplicates of everything in the store for less money, Dutch offers Jimmy a job manufacturing counterfeit toothpaste. Although he doesn't like the idea, Jimmy decides there is no real harm in it and agrees. Dutch branches out into cosmetics and once again Jimmy participates despite Norma's disapproval. Jimmy balks, however, when Dutch asks him to make a popular antiseptic, explaining that he is unable to get the essential ingredient. Dutch offers him a bonus, which enables Jimmy to marry Norma, and he reluctantly agrees. Meanwhile, Dutch's former girl friend, Lily Duran, jealous over his attentions to another woman, gives evidence against him, and the antiseptic company prosecutes. Sheffner, the chemist who invented the formula, makes a personal visit to Jimmy to warn him, and Jimmy agrees to sever his association with Dutch. To prevent this, Dutch makes sure that Jimmy is involved in Lily's murder. Now that there is no witness, the company is forced to drop their lawsuit. With this new hold on Jimmy, Dutch forces him to make fake digitalis. Norma is given some during childbirth and loses her baby. Vengefully, Jimmy goes after Dutch, but Sheffner gets there before him. He shoots Dutch, who falls into a vat of hydrochloric acid. Jimmy tells everything to the district attorney. Dutch's men go to prison, Jimmy is exonerated, and he and Norma go back to running a simple neighborhood drug store.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Shakedown
Genre
Drama
Crime
Release Date
Jan 6, 1934
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
First National Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
First National Pictures, Inc.; The Vitaphone Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 4m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7 reels

Articles

The Big Shakedown


One of several movies made by Bette Davis in 1933, The Big Shakedown (1934) is considered the runt of the litter - if only because the actress is stuck playing the good girl role of fiancé (and later wife) to pharmacist hero Charles Farrell while fourth-billed Glenda Farrell, as a racketeer's moll, gets to have all the fun. (Worse yet, the bleach-blonde Davis gets to play no part at all in a wild hair-pulling catfight between Farrell and Renee Whitney, which seems a missed opportunity.) Based on an original story by screenwriters Niven Busch and Samuel Engels titled "Cut Rate," The Big Shakedown finds New York bootlegger Ricardo Cortez shifting business models from bathtub hooch to the growth market of imitation pharmaceuticals - a scam that runs the gamut from knock-off toothpaste to a useless substitute for digitalis. (The film marked the last directorial effort of John Francis Dillon, who succumbed to, of all things, a fatal heart attack in July 1934.) One of the last Hollywood movies produced before the institution of the Production Code, The Big Shakedown climaxes with one of cinema's first acid bath demises, foreshadowing in its own indirect way an extreme of movie violence that would not again be permissible onscreen in America for at least thirty years. On the horizon for jobbing actress Bette Davis was a 1935 Academy Award nomination for Of Human Bondage (1934) and a 1936 Oscar for Dangerous (1935).

By Richard Harland Smith
The Big Shakedown

The Big Shakedown

One of several movies made by Bette Davis in 1933, The Big Shakedown (1934) is considered the runt of the litter - if only because the actress is stuck playing the good girl role of fiancé (and later wife) to pharmacist hero Charles Farrell while fourth-billed Glenda Farrell, as a racketeer's moll, gets to have all the fun. (Worse yet, the bleach-blonde Davis gets to play no part at all in a wild hair-pulling catfight between Farrell and Renee Whitney, which seems a missed opportunity.) Based on an original story by screenwriters Niven Busch and Samuel Engels titled "Cut Rate," The Big Shakedown finds New York bootlegger Ricardo Cortez shifting business models from bathtub hooch to the growth market of imitation pharmaceuticals - a scam that runs the gamut from knock-off toothpaste to a useless substitute for digitalis. (The film marked the last directorial effort of John Francis Dillon, who succumbed to, of all things, a fatal heart attack in July 1934.) One of the last Hollywood movies produced before the institution of the Production Code, The Big Shakedown climaxes with one of cinema's first acid bath demises, foreshadowing in its own indirect way an extreme of movie violence that would not again be permissible onscreen in America for at least thirty years. On the horizon for jobbing actress Bette Davis was a 1935 Academy Award nomination for Of Human Bondage (1934) and a 1936 Oscar for Dangerous (1935). By Richard Harland Smith

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Sam Engels and Niven Busch's story was entitled "Cut Rate." The film's working title was The Shakedown.