Cast & Crew
One morning after church services, insurance salesman Mike Hallit pleads with the citizens of the small town of Elmdale to buy war bonds. Mike's speech provokes a highly successful response, and to celebrate, Mike's wife Ann prepares a special dinner for their friends, Steve and Kitty Parker and Joe and Helen Barton. After dinner, the couples recall the events leading to their arrival in Elmdale twenty years before: Mike is the proprieter of a popular speakeasy, at which Ann is the featured singer. Steve and Joe are Mike's "muscle," while Helen is Ann's accompanist and Kitty is a cigarette girl. Mike is engaged in a power struggle with Al Malone, a racketeer who wants to take over the speakeasy. Mike repulses Malone's warlike tactics, but Ann, fearful for Mike's safety and desirous of a quiet life together, warns him that she will leave him if he does not get out of the business. Realizing that Ann is the most important thing in his life, Mike decides to go straight and gives the speakeasy to Pete, one of his men. Steve and Joe also decide to settle down with Kitty and Helen, and the three couples move to Elmdale, where they live prosperous, contented lives. Their reminiscences over, the friends part for the evening, and later, Reverend Hamilton visits Mike. The reverend asks Mike if he can help solve the problem of Mr. Hugo, who runs a casino just outside the city limits. Mike agrees to help, and as he is mulling over the situation, Joe, who is a grocer, and Steve, who is a barber, are confronted by Hugo's thugs. Unknown to the reverend, Hugo also runs a protection racket and has been shaking down the town's merchants. The matter becomes more complicated when Jerry, Joe and Helen's grown son, is beaten up by Hugo's thugs for nonpayment of his gambling debts. Mike's son Bill tries to help his pal Jerry and is also roughed up. When Bill confesses the source of his bruises to Mike, Mike gathers up Joe and Steve and visits Hugo's casino, where he offers to buy the casino for a handsome profit if Hugo will leave Elmdale. Hugo laughs and has the three men thrown out, after which they grimly begin to exercise and get themselves back in shape so that they can fight the gangsters on their terms. Ann, Helen and Kitty become suspicious of their husband's unusual activities and quickly learn the truth of their involvement with Hugo. Much to the men's surprise, however, their wives encourage them to protect the children and rid the town of Hugo. Finally in shape, Mike, Steve and Joe return to Hugo's casino and make short work of their opponents. During the fracas, however, Pete, who is now working with Hugo, appears and tells Hugo the secret of Mike's past. Hugo then reveals all to the reverend when he arrives, but Hamilton eases Mike's fears by telling him that the people of Elmdale have always known about his past but respected him for having the strength to change. With Hugo gone, the couples settle back into their happy lives.
The working title of this film was Small Town Big Shot. Although the film was not viewed, onscreen credits were obtained from a negative. Martin G. Cohn, who is listed onscreen as production supervisor, is credited as the film editor in contemporary reviews. A Gentle Gangster marked A. W. Hackel's first production for Republic. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Hackel, a former Monogram producer, was supposed to supervise five more pictures for Republic, but instead asked for and received a release from his contract in August 1943.