Saturday, 11 August 2018

Now I'll Tell (Edwin J. Burke, 1934)

USA, 1934
Director: Edwin J. Burke

Alternative title.: When New York Sleeps. Story.: Mrs. Arnold Rothstein. Script.: Edwin J. Burke. DP.: Ernest Palmer. Edit.: Harold D. Schuster. Art director.: Jack Otterson. Music.: Arthur Lange.
Cast: Spencer Tracy (Murray Golden), Helen Twelvetrees (Virginia Golden), Alice Faye (Peggy Warren), Robert Gleckler (Al Mossiter), Henry O'Neill (Tommy Doran), Hobart Cavanaugh (Freddie), Shirley Temple (Mary Doran), Leon Ames (Max), G. P. Huntley (Hart), Ray Cooke (Eddie Traylor). Production: Fox Film Corporation

The story of the ‘biggest gambler in New York’, charting his rise and fall between 1909 and 1928. A tale of affairs, gambling addiction and gang rivalry, Now I’ll Tell is based on the life of Arnold Rothstein, a notorious and well-connected gangster who was also the inspiration for Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby. The film is more closely connected with real events, being written by ‘Mrs. Arnold Rothstein’, a pseudonym of Carolyn Greene (later Carolyn Rothstein Behar), the gangster’s widow.

Despite its adherence to certain facts and its sense of realism (photographs of Rothstein’s regular haunt and ‘favourite office’, Lindy’s restaurant, were taken for the purposes of a studio reconstruction) it does not closely follow Rothstein’s memoir, published a week before the film was released.

Writer Edwin J. Burke (1889-1944) moved to Hollywood in the year that Rothstein was killed. Now I’ll Tell was the only picture he directed, although he co-directed the retakes of Hello Sister! (1933). He stayed in Hollywood for seventeen years before returning to the East Coast. In between he wrote everything from Shirley Temple vehicles to Bad Girl (Frank Borzage, 1931), for which he won an Oscar. Burke’s winning ticket was his rapport with Spencer Tracy which, in spite of the star’s problems with alcohol, brought out the best in him. Tracy humanises the story, setting it apart from the other key gangster films of the early 1930s such as Little Caesar and Public Enemy. Unlike the protagonists in those films, Tracy’s Golden is anything but monstrous and destructive. The film also reveals the unglamorous and political aspects of power, in its depiction of an America where becoming corrupt is easier than remaining unaffected.

The film did well in New York – where the circumstances of Rothstein’s death were still subject to rumours – but failed elsewhere, adding to the growing list of unsuccessful Tracy pictures made for Fox, before his eventual move to Metro.  -- Ehsan Khoshbakht

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