Cast & Crew
In 1910, after his friend, Ben Murray, is killed in a gunfight, Jim Donovan, a gang leader in New York's Lower East Side, adopts Ben's young son Midge. Because Midge is an uncontrollable brat, Jim seeks the advice of Father Dan, the local parish priest. In response, Father Dan sends his niece, Kitty Costello, to look after Midge in Jim's quarters. Under Kitty's strict but loving supervision, Midge soon improves and becomes the leader of the church choir. At the same time, Jim, who has fallen in love with Kitty, begins to question his life as a racketeer and gradually abandons his crooked ways. Jim and Midge's newfound happiness is shattered, however, when Duryea, a nosey man from the Child's Welfare Society, orders Midge to be sent to a house of correction. Embittered by the loss of Midge, Jim swears revenge against all factions of law and order. Kitty, however, keeps Jim "on the straight and narrow" and has him act as her bodyguard whenever she delivers large sums of cash from her office to the bank. One day, while Jim is visiting Midge in the Correction Home, Kitty is robbed of $5,000 by gangster Cokey Joe. Because of Jim's background, both he and Kitty are suspected of participating in the crime and eventually are arrested. While in custody, Jim breaks free of his handcuffs and escapes. Jim tracks Cokey Joe to a dance hall, where a blazing shootout with the gangster ensues. Seriously wounded, Jim staggers back to the police station, returns the stolen money and lapses into unconsciousness. Although near death, Jim pulls through after he learns that Kitty loves him and that Midge will soon be returned to him.
Bob De Grasse
J. Walter Ruben
John E. Tribby
The working titles of this film were Big Brother, Born to the Racket and Donovan's Kid. Some trade journals reviewed the film as Donovan's Kid, which also was the release title in Great Britain. According to a pre-production Motion Picture Herald news item, Richard Dix was supposed to direct as well as star in the picture. RKO borrowed Jackie Cooper, whose performance in Paramount's successful 1931 film Skippy had made him a star, from Hal Roach's film company. A Film Daily news item adds Jane Talent to the cast, but her participation in the final film has not been confirmed. According to RKO studio records from 1936, RKO sent Joseph I. Breen, Director of Studio Relations at the AMPP, a copy of this film's script, apparently for re-issue censorship approval. Breen objected strongly to the script, feeling that the story in general violated the Production Code. In a May 1936 letter from Breen to RKO president B. B. Kahane, Breen states that "any acceptable treatment of this story must eliminate the gangster element throughout. The police should not be characterized as stupid, brutal, inefficient or otherwise objectionable....Showing of a scene in which an attempt is made to teach a child methods of picking pockets is not acceptable from the point of view of political censors boards." It is not known if RKO abandoned plans for a re-issue as a result of Breen's letter. Rex Beach's story was first produced in 1923 by Famous Players-Lasky. Allan Dwan directed Tom Moore, Edith Roberts and Mickey Bennett in this silent version (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.0389).