Cast & Crew
John H. Auer
After Spring Valley basketball player Johnny Smith plays a game in Temple City, he goes to the Club Inferno to celebrate his victory. While gambling there, he discovers that the club uses fixed dice, and when he confronts the owner, T. Amato, he is shot by Amato's dimwitted brother Floyd. Because of his connections with Amato, Tom Cameron, the corrupt political boss of Temple City, is afraid that the scandal will endanger his chances in the upcoming election, so he has Johnny's death declared a suicide. Lynn Hollister, a Spring Valley lawyer who was a close friend of Johnny, is suspicious of the coroner's verdict and so comes to the big city to investigate. Lynn does not get any help from the insurance adjustor or prosecuting attorney, who tell him to contact Cameron for information. Lynn goes to the estate, where Cameron, who has already learned of Lynn's snooping around the Club Inferno, awaits his arrival with his henchman, Morris Slade. Cameron's one weak spot is his daughter Sabra, who is not fully aware of her father's illicit activities. When Cameron states that Lynn is an unwanted job hunter, Sabra volunteers to get rid of him. Although she succeeds in getting Lynn to escort her out on the town that evening, Sabra is not able to induce him to leave town. Soon the pair begin a romance as Lynn decides to stay in Temple City to campaign for Cameron while continuing his investigation. Meanwhile, Amato is incensed when Cameron refuses to fulfill a promise to put him up for election as councilman because of the trouble at the club. Cameron instead puts Slade up as his candidate, and Amato vows to cause trouble. On election day, Amato's hoods battle the men whom Cameron has paid to vote for Slade. Lynn witnesses the fight, and, hoping to get rid of him, Amato and Floyd both shoot at him. The fracas causes Floyd to shoot Amato, however, and as he is dying, Amato wounds Johnny's mother, who had just arrived in town to determine the progress of Lynn's investigation into Johnny's death. After Cameron's men win the election, Lynn accuses him of fixing the voting and covering up Johnny's murder. Sabra overhears and breaks off their romance, and in the following weeks, she begins seeing Slade while Lynn looks for evidence of Cameron's wrongdoing. Lynn finally uncovers an old Civil War statute concerning the protection of a free and honest election, and District Attorney C. R. Pringle agrees to arrest the phony voters paid by Cameron. As Cameron's machine begins to crumble, Lynn learns from Floyd that Slade ordered that Johnny be shot. Lynn shoots Slade in self-defense, and soon after, Cameron turns himself in and is convicted of election fraud. After Lynn asks the court to be lenient, Cameron is paroled and then accompanies Lynn and Sabra as they go to Spring Valley to begin a new life together.
John H. Auer
John Victor Mackay
Frances Dee (1907-2004)
She was born Jane Dee, on November 26, 1907 in Los Angeles, California. She was the daughter of an Army officer who grew up in Chicago after her father was transferred there when she was still a toddler. After he was re-stationed to Los Angeles in the late '20s, Jane accompanied him back.
Although she didn't harbor any serious intentions of becoming a star, Dee, almost out of curiosity, found work in Hollywood as an extra. With bit parts in small features in the films Words and Music (1929), True to the Navy, and Monte Carlo (both 1930), it didn't take long for studio executives to take notice of the sleek, stylish brunette. They changed her first name to Francis, and gave her a prominent role opposite Maurice Chevalier in one of the first all-talking musicals, The Playboy of Paris (1930).
She proved she could handle drama in her next big hit, An American Tragedy (1931) as Sondra Finchley, the role played by Elizabeth Taylor in the George Stevens' remake A Place in the Sun (1951). She met her husband Joel McCrea while filming The Silver Cord (1933), and after a romantic courtship, were married that same year in Rye, New York. It was well-known within film industry circles that their 57-year marriage (ending in 1990 when McCrea passed away) was one of the most successful among Hollywood stars.
From there, Dee played important leads in several fine motion pictures thoughout the decade: Little Women (1933), starring Katharine Hepburn; Blood Money (also 1933), where she was cast thrillingly against type as a sex-hungry socialite whose taste for masochistic boyfriends leads to harrowing results; Of Human Bondage (1934), in which she played Leslie Howard's devoted girlfriend; The Gay Deception (1935), a charming romantic comedy co-starring Frances Lederer; Wells Fargo (1937) a broad sweeping Western where she again teamed up with her husband McCrea; and the classic period epic If I Were King (1938) making a marvelous match for Ronald Colman.
Dee's film career slowed considerably in the '40s, as she honorably spent more time raising her family. Still, she was featured in two fine films: the profound, moving anti-Nazi drama So Ends Our Night (1941) with Fredric March; and Val Lewton's terrific cult hit I Walked with a Zombie (1943), portraying the inquisitive nurse trying to unravel the mystery of voodoo occurrences on a West Indian plantation. Dee officially retired after starring in the family film Gypsy Colt (1954) to commit herself full-time to her children and her husband.
For those so inclined, you might want to check out Complicated Women (2003), a tight documentary regarding the racy Pre-Code films that represented a realistic depiction of the Depression-era morality before the Hays code took over Hollywood in 1934. Frances Dee, although well in her nineties, offers some lucid insight into her performance in Blood Money, and clearly demonstrates an actor's process of thought and understanding in role development.
She is survived by three sons including the actor Jody McCrea, who found fame as "Bonehead" in the AIP Beach Party films of the '60s, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Frances Dee (1907-2004)
The working titles of this film were Gangs of Kansas City and Citadel of Crime. The print viewed was entitled Wheel of Fortune, which May be a television re-release title. According to 1940 Hollywood Reporter news items, Ona Munson was originally set to star in the picture, and later, Republic tried to borrow either Patricia Morison or Ellen Drew from Paramount for the lead. Hollywood Reporter also noted that Tom Kilpatrick was signed to work on the screenplay, although the extent of his contribution to the completed picture has not been confirmed. Hollywood Reporter news items include Greta Granstedt, Patricia Knox, Maurice Costello and Mary Bovard in the cast, but their appearance in the finished film has also not been confirmed. A January 3, 1941 Hollywood Reporter production chart incorrectly lists Robert North as the film's producer. According to the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the August 9, 1941 version of the script, entitled Gangs of Kansas City, was rejected by the PCA as "unacceptable for the reasons that it contains details of gangster activity and of kidnapping which are contrary to the provisions of the Production Code." The October 29, 1940 version of the script, entitled Citadel of Crime was approved by the PCA with reservations over portraying any fighting as "an old style 'gangster battle.'" According to a January 28, 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item, the picture's budget was $250,000, and an extra $50,000 was appropriated for advertising based on "the promise shown by the rushes." The Hollywood Reporter reviewer commented on the similarities between the film and "Kansas City's turbulent political history." The reviewer further added that Frances Dee "creates a spectacular portrait of the unhappy heroine of actual events, a girl now dead." A Man Betrayed was the first film in which Frances Dee appeared since the 1939 Columbia production Coast Guard.