Beast of the City


1h 27m 1932
Beast of the City

Brief Synopsis

A police captain leads the fight against a vicious gangland chief.

Film Details

Also Known As
City Sentinels
Genre
Drama
Crime
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Feb 13, 1932
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 27m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Film Length
10 reels

Synopsis

When big city policemen are summoned to the site of a multiple murder, they discover the bodies of well-known gangsters. Captain Jim Fitzpatrick, who heads the investigation, suspects mobster Sam Belmonte of the crime and arrests him at his club. Though Belmonte is responsible, his lawyer Michaels gets him and his assistant, Pietro Cholo, released in a few minutes. Jim, who takes risks and is dedicated to his work, is constantly at odds with the chief of police over his inabaility to control organized crime. As a result, Jim is transferred to a quiet precinct out of town. Jim's brother Ed, who is a vice officer, agrees to help get information about Belmonte and decides to question Daisy Stevens, Belmonte's stenographer. After following Daisy to her apartment, Ed accepts her story that she has left Belmonte because of the murders and the two begin an affair. Sometime later, as Jim's friends, Mac and Tom, are visiting him at the new precinct, they drive him to the site of a bank robbery-murder and catch the crooks as they are making their getaway. Because of publicity about the case, the mayor then decides to name him the new chief of police. Assuming the office, Jim tells his men that he will be cleaning up the town and expects their complete cooperation. With Sandy and Mac as his aides, Jim starts closing speakeasies immediately. That night, depressed because Jim has turned down his request for promotion to captain, Ed goes drinking with Daisy and takes an offer by Belmonte to find a safer route into the city for his "grapefruit" because he needs money to entertain Daisy. The next day, Jim offers Ed a career-advancing assignment to transport a shipment of money. Mac and Sandy, who are wary of Ed's relationship with Daisy, then suggest to Jim that they secretly stay in the background to help Ed out if anything goes wrong. When Ed drunkenly tells Daisy about the job, she tells Cholo, who decides to steal the money, and because Daisy pretends that she wants to go away with him, Ed agrees to the plan. Sandy and Mac, who see the robbery but don't know that Ed is in on it, follow the robbers, the Gorman brothers. During the chase, a child is killed by the thieves and Mac dies of a bullet wound. When the Gormans are brought in for questioning, one of the brothers confesses to a shocked Jim that Ed was in on it because he thinks that his brother is being beaten by policemen in another room. All three are then tried for robbery and murder, but Michaels gets them off by frightening witnesses and charging that the Gormans confessed only to stop being beaten. When the men are aquitted, the judge admonishes the obviously intimidated jury for their cowardliness. That night, while Jim despairs, Ed goes to him to beg forgiveness and offers to go to the newspapers with the truth. Jim tells Ed to go to Belmonte's club and confront him at exactly 3:30 when Jim and his men will be right behind him. At the club, after Ed confronts Belmonte, Cholo shoots Ed, and a gun battle ensues between the police and Belmonte's men. Many men on both sides are killed, including Ed, Sandy and Belmonte, who accidentally shoots Daisy. As Jim falls to the floor, mortally wounded, he reaches for the hand of his brother.

Film Details

Also Known As
City Sentinels
Genre
Drama
Crime
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Feb 13, 1932
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 27m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Film Length
10 reels

Articles

The Beast of the City


Jean Harlow started her contract years at MGM with this 1932 crime film, but when she read the script she wondered if she really wanted to be there at all. Her first big career boost had come when eccentric tycoon Howard Hughes signed her for the female lead in his 1930 aviation drama Hell's Angels. Since then, however, she'd played mostly two-dimensional bad girl parts in films made for other producers. Even when the film itself had been good, as was the case with the classic crime film The Public Enemy (1931), her roles hadn't really given her much range.

Then she caught the eye of Paul Bern, assistant to MGM production chief Irving Thalberg. He saw something in Harlow that nobody else had and tried to generate interest in her at the studio. She had already played the female lead in a suspense thriller there, The Secret Six (1931). When MGM decided to try to cash in on the new gangster genre, he got the studio to hire Harlow to play a gangster's moll who seduces the police commissioner's brother to keep her gangster boyfriend out of jail.

Only Harlow wasn't having it. Bern had promised her that working at MGM would lead to better roles, and here he was offering her more of the same. She stormed into his office to tell him off, and then broke down in tears. He finally convinced her that this was her chance to show his bosses that she could be a good team player. The roles she wanted would come later, after she'd proven her worth to the studio in The Beast of the City (1932).

And Harlow did just that. She had a lot of help from director Charles Brabin, who knew how to get the best out of disenchanted sex symbols. Brabin had directed two of silent screen siren Theda Bara's last films at a time when she was trying to shed her image as a vamp. The image change had failed, but the relationship hadn't. They married shortly afterwards and would stay married for over three decades during which she became one of Hollywood's leading hostesses. He was the first director to spend time helping Harlow develop a performance, and the work showed on screen. For the first time, critics singled her out for more than just her looks, paying particular attention to the scene in which she seduces police commissioner Walter Huston's brother. MGM chief Louis B. Mayer took notice and bought Harlow's contract from Hughes for $60,000. She was finally on her way to the top.

Unfortunately, Mayer didn't look as highly on the film itself. The Beast of the City seemed the perfect MGM gangster saga. In entering the genre, they had gone for the best, hiring W.R. Burnett, author of the novel Little Caesar, to write the screen story. Drawing on tales about the Chicago mob and plot developments from his western novel St. Johnson, Burnett focused his story not on the gangsters, but on an honest cop suddenly elevated to police commissioner status. He tries to take on a mobster modeled on Al Capone, only to have the case threatened by his own brother. Burnett even gave the commissioner a squeaky clean home life, complete with a precocious son who would be played by Mickey Rooney, in his first MGM feature.

But even with its law and order focus, The Beast of the City was too much for MGM, the home of family entertainment. Shocked at the film's violence, Mayer ordered it played off on the bottom half of double bills.

Producer: Hunt Stromberg
Director: Charles Brabin
Screenplay: John Lee Mahin
Based on a story by W.R. Burnett
Cinematography: Norbert Brodine
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Johannes Brahms
Principal Cast: Walter Huston (Jim Fitzpatrick), Jean Harlow (Daisy), Wallace Ford (Edward Fitzpatrick), Jean Hersholt (Sam Fitzpatrick), Tully Marshall (Michaels), John Miljan (District Attorney), J. Carrol Naish (Cholo), Nat Pendleton (Abe Gorman), Mickey Rooney (Mickey Fitzpatrick).
BW-87m. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller

The Beast Of The City

The Beast of the City

Jean Harlow started her contract years at MGM with this 1932 crime film, but when she read the script she wondered if she really wanted to be there at all. Her first big career boost had come when eccentric tycoon Howard Hughes signed her for the female lead in his 1930 aviation drama Hell's Angels. Since then, however, she'd played mostly two-dimensional bad girl parts in films made for other producers. Even when the film itself had been good, as was the case with the classic crime film The Public Enemy (1931), her roles hadn't really given her much range. Then she caught the eye of Paul Bern, assistant to MGM production chief Irving Thalberg. He saw something in Harlow that nobody else had and tried to generate interest in her at the studio. She had already played the female lead in a suspense thriller there, The Secret Six (1931). When MGM decided to try to cash in on the new gangster genre, he got the studio to hire Harlow to play a gangster's moll who seduces the police commissioner's brother to keep her gangster boyfriend out of jail. Only Harlow wasn't having it. Bern had promised her that working at MGM would lead to better roles, and here he was offering her more of the same. She stormed into his office to tell him off, and then broke down in tears. He finally convinced her that this was her chance to show his bosses that she could be a good team player. The roles she wanted would come later, after she'd proven her worth to the studio in The Beast of the City (1932). And Harlow did just that. She had a lot of help from director Charles Brabin, who knew how to get the best out of disenchanted sex symbols. Brabin had directed two of silent screen siren Theda Bara's last films at a time when she was trying to shed her image as a vamp. The image change had failed, but the relationship hadn't. They married shortly afterwards and would stay married for over three decades during which she became one of Hollywood's leading hostesses. He was the first director to spend time helping Harlow develop a performance, and the work showed on screen. For the first time, critics singled her out for more than just her looks, paying particular attention to the scene in which she seduces police commissioner Walter Huston's brother. MGM chief Louis B. Mayer took notice and bought Harlow's contract from Hughes for $60,000. She was finally on her way to the top. Unfortunately, Mayer didn't look as highly on the film itself. The Beast of the City seemed the perfect MGM gangster saga. In entering the genre, they had gone for the best, hiring W.R. Burnett, author of the novel Little Caesar, to write the screen story. Drawing on tales about the Chicago mob and plot developments from his western novel St. Johnson, Burnett focused his story not on the gangsters, but on an honest cop suddenly elevated to police commissioner status. He tries to take on a mobster modeled on Al Capone, only to have the case threatened by his own brother. Burnett even gave the commissioner a squeaky clean home life, complete with a precocious son who would be played by Mickey Rooney, in his first MGM feature. But even with its law and order focus, The Beast of the City was too much for MGM, the home of family entertainment. Shocked at the film's violence, Mayer ordered it played off on the bottom half of double bills. Producer: Hunt Stromberg Director: Charles Brabin Screenplay: John Lee Mahin Based on a story by W.R. Burnett Cinematography: Norbert Brodine Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons Music: Johannes Brahms Principal Cast: Walter Huston (Jim Fitzpatrick), Jean Harlow (Daisy), Wallace Ford (Edward Fitzpatrick), Jean Hersholt (Sam Fitzpatrick), Tully Marshall (Michaels), John Miljan (District Attorney), J. Carrol Naish (Cholo), Nat Pendleton (Abe Gorman), Mickey Rooney (Mickey Fitzpatrick). BW-87m. Closed captioning. by Frank Miller

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was City Sentinels. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, the film was made as the result of conferences between M-G-M studio head Louis B. Mayer's and President Herbert Hoover about the need to educate the public to have a greater respect for law enforcement officers. The film includes the following written prologue by president Herbert Hoover: "Instead of the glorification of cowardly gangsters, we need the glorification of policemen who do their duty and give their lives in public protection. If the police had the vigilant, universal backing of public opinion in their communities, if they had the implacable support of the prosecuting authorities and the courts-I am convinced that our police would stamp out the excessive crime which has disgraced some of our great cities." Other news items noted that M-G-M paid $1000 to use 250 police uniforms for the picture and that Mike Donlin was added to the cast. Donlin's participation in the released film has not been confirmed. At the end of the film, as the character Jim reaches for the hand of his younger brother Ed, Johannes Brahms' "Lullaby" was played on the picture's sound track.