Cast & Crew
D. E. Clarke-smith
Evelyn Dean's husband Franklyn has gambled and drunk away all the money left to her by her first husband, the father of her two daughters, Ann and Dorothy Turner. Fed up, she sends him away to Capetown. Later, she discusses her future with her neighbor, Albert, who used to work as a waiter in a nightclub. When Dean's bookie delivers some gambling profits to her, Albert insists that drinking and gambling owe her something, and suggests that they use the money to take over the Scarecrow Club and sell drinks after hours and conduct gambling in the back room. By its fifth anniversary, the club is doing well enough for Evelyn to send her daughters to an exclusive school but the school insists that the other parents never know her business. One night when Albert is gone from the club, some undercover policemen manage to gain entrance, and the club is raided. Evelyn is sent to prison. Ann and Dorothy leave school because of the scandal, and Ann decides that they should run the club legally, with Dorothy singing to the patronage of their upper class school friends. The club is a success. Ann falls in love with Lord Sevington, the brother of a friend. Dorothy is more frivolous, staying up all night and enjoying lots of flirtations. When Dean comes back to England and visits the club, Dorothy takes his side and starts to give him money against the advice of Ann and Albert. Meanwhile, Evelyn is released from prison. She learns that her daughters are running the club and races there to stop them. Dorothy is so furious that she vows never to talk to her mother again. Dean takes her home, where he tries to rape her. In self-defense, she hits him on the head, killing him. Panicked, she drives away and crashes the car. Before she dies, she regains consciousness long enough to apologize to Evelyn. After Ann and Sevington marry, Evelyn sets the club on fire because it has been the cause of so much unhappiness and walks away as it burns.
D. E. Clarke-smith
J. T. Garside
C. J. Knowles
Willard Van Enger
The story for Illegal was created by producer Irving Asher, who managed Warner's Teddington Studios in England from 1932 until 1938, when he created his own company to produce the aviation adventure Q Planes (1939). Helping him complete the screenplay was Roland Pertwee, one of many outstanding British screenwriters who worked at Teddington through the years. He would go on to write Kicking the Moon Around (1938), which marked Maureen O'Hara's screen debut, and Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945), the British film industry's bid to produce an historical romance to rival Hollywood. His son, Jon, would become the third Doctor Who on the long-running BBC series. Asher assigned the direction to William McGann, a U.S. director imported from Hollywood to help get Warner's British studio up and running. He would return to the Burbank lot in 1933, but though he continued at Warner's, he would never rise above their B picture unit. Eventually, he moved into the special effects department, winning an Oscar® nomination for helping Bette Davis play scenes with herself in A Stolen Life (1946).
For Illegal they created one of the screen's most self-sacrificing women. Evelyn Dean (Isobel Elsom) throws out her abusive husband after he has squandered her first husband's fortune. To support her daughters she invests what little she has left in an illegal gambling club, sending the girls to boarding school so they will never know the shame of her profession. When the police close the club and put her in prison, the girls, now grown, take it over and turn it into an honest business to pay her back for her years of sacrifice.
The mother was a plum role for Elsom, a stage veteran who had entered the movies in 1915 at the age of 18 and starred in Warner Bros.' first British production, Stranglehold (1931). Her greatest success came with the play Ladies in Retirement, which she took to Broadway and then filmed in 1941, playing a vain, retired actress tormenting her housekeeper (Ida Lupino played the role on film). From that point, she remained in Hollywood, playing the widow who escaped unharmed from Charles Chaplin's lady killer Monsieur Verdoux (1947), the grande dame foil to Jerry Lewis in such films as The Errand Boy (1961) and Who's Minding the Store? (1963) and Mrs. Eynsford-Hill in the film version of My Fair Lady (1964).
At the start of her career was Margot Grahame, cast as Elsom's more reckless daughter. The showy role, which gave her the chance to sing for the customers while wearing slinky gowns, was part of Grahame's rise to stardom in England, where she would soon be billed as their answer to Jean Harlow. Where Harlow as dubbed "The Platinum Blonde," Grahame would be "The Aluminum Blonde." As she became the highest-paid star in British films, she naturally caught Hollywood's eye, winning an RKO contract in 1935. There, her most famous role was as the prostitute for whom Victor McLaglen betrays the IRA in The Informer (1935). In addition, she played Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers (1935) and the French society girl in love with Jean Lafitte (Fredric March) in The Buccaneer (1938). After that, she returned to England, dying her hair red and concentrating on stage work. By that point, she had lost her momentum as a film star, and her remaining roles -- including The Crimson Pirate (1952), with Burt Lancaster; The Beggar's Opera (1953), with Laurence Olivier; and Saint Joan (1957), her last picture -- were a far cry from her days as England's top female star.
Producer: Irving Asher
Director: William C. McGann
Screenplay: Irving Asher, Roland Pertwee
Cinematography: Willard Van Enger
Art Direction: J.T. Garside
Music: Billy Gerhardi
Cast: Isobel Elsom (Mrs. Evelyn Dean), Ivor Barnard (Albert), D.A. Clarke-Smith (Franklyn Dean), Margot Grahame (Dorothy Turner), Moira Lynd (Ann Turner), Edgar Norfolk (Lord Alan Sevington).
by Frank Miller
This film was made under the British quota rule at the Warner Bros. Teddington Film Studios. Teddington was registered as a private company in March 1931 by Henry Edwards, who made one film before he sold the studio to Warner Bros.