Monday, May 12, 2008

Edward G. Robinson laughs

Edward G. Robinson is generally thought of as a gangster, since movies like Little Caesar nearly typecast him. Granted, even early in his career, he was playing various ethnic roles, but the studio system did have a tendency to typecast people. However, Robinson also had good comedic timing, as can be seen in the movie A Slight Case of Murder, airing tonight at 11:15 PM ET on TCM.

Robinson is still playing a gangster, this one named Remy Marko. Marko made his money selling beer to a thirsty populace during the Prohibition years. Unfortunately, there's a problem for him: during Prohibition, people were despearate for any booze; now, with Prohibition over, people can afford to be more choosy in what they drink. Marko's trying to make a go of it legally, but he never realized that his brew tasted bad, even for beer. So, he's decided to get out of the beer business and take a well-deserved retirement up in Upstate New York.

Of course, life isn't going to be that easy for him. When he gets to summer home, he finds that there's been a mob hit gone bad, with the dead bodies of four of his enemies and a stash of money; naturally, since Marko was formerly a gangster himself, he believes everybody's going to suspect him. Worse, his daughter (played by Jane Bryan, is engaged to a state trooper; when Marko's future son-in-law wants to visit him, Marko unsurprisingly believes the police have come to get him.

What follows is a fun little comedy in which Marko has to go to great contrivances to keep everybody from finding out what's going on. Robinson is good enough, although as is often the case with 1930s studio movies, the highlights just as often come from the character actors who populate the movies. Marko's henchmen are played by gangster stalwarts Allen Jenkins, Edward Brophy, and Harold Huber; Margaret Hamilton as an orphanage director, and Paul Harvey as the future father-in-law.

A Slight Case of Murder has also been released on DVD, in case you miss TCM's showing.

No comments: