BARBARY COAST

(1935)
With Miriam Hopkins, Edward G. Robinson, Joel McReae, Walter Brennan
Directed by Howard Hawks
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

      When other studios needed a tough guy for a film, they often borrowed one from Warner Brothers, who, by 1935, had already established their reputation for housing the toughest tough guys in Hollywood.  For the period piece BARBARY COAST, Sam Goldwyn conscripted Edward G. Robinson to play Louis Chamalis, fictional crime boss of Gold Rush-era San Francisco.  It turned out to be one of his best parts to date, and the film perhaps the classiest he had yet appeared in.  As the gangster who runs the town, Robinson was called on to play a deeper, more human killer than he had ever played before.  Although he rules with an iron hand, he is still capable of love, and even of self-sacrifice.  Naturally, Robinson handles the role splendidly, and is supported by a cast that includes Miriam Hopkins as his kept woman, Joel McCrea as an erudite miner and, best of all, Walter Brennan as the town's shadiest con man. The story - a love triangle in which Robinson is doomed to come in second to McCrea for Miriam Hopkins's affections - is nothing special, but because of the cast, the sets and the direction of Howard Hawks, the film rises above the material it's built on.

    Typically, after getting a chance to display his range in two loanout pictures (he had previously played a dual role in John Ford's THE WHOLE TOWN'S TALKING for Columbia), Robinson was right back in a typical gangster programmer for Warners in his next film, BULLETS OR BALLOTS. 4 - JB

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