United Artists presents "BARBARY COAST" (1935) (91 min/B&W) -- Starring Miriam Hopkins, Edward G. Robinson, Joel McCrea, Walter Brennan, Frank Craven, Brian Donlevy, Clyde Cook & Harry Carey
Directed by Howard Hawks
Miriam Hopkins arrives in San Francisco to marry a newly minted millionaire whom she barely knows, but finds he's dead and fortune gone on her arrival. Since there was no real love involved, she doesn't have a problem teaming up with the man who probably had her fiancé robbed and killed, that being Edward G. Robinson.
Robinson is at his snarling best as a nineteenth century version of Little Caesar on San Francisco's Barbary Coast during the gold rush days.
There is a scene where after Brian Donlevy, who's Robinson's chief henchman, kills a man a trial is held right in Robinson's gambling palace. It's an impromptu affair with a crooked judge who naturally finds Donlevy not guilty.
Now comes the romance part of the film, as Miriam Hopkins though a woman of conscience has a practical side to her. The weakness of the film is in Joel McCrea's performance. He's a prospector who having made his fortune wants to return home. He has a chance encounter with Hopkins and she takes a shine to him and McCrea doesn't know she's Robinson's main gal in the picture.
Being an all time fan of Joel McCrea, the most virtuous of heroes Hollywood ever produced. But in this one, he's not really virtuous as much as not having too many smarts. Let's just say that I cannot understand why Hopkins wants anything to do with him. A much stronger character might have believably taken her from Robinson, but not McCrea in this film.
Special footnote -- Barbary Coast was responsible for the first real notices of two prominent character actors. Walter Brennan had been knocking around for years, but he received his first real attention as a player as waterfront character Old Atrocity. And with minimal dialog, Brian Donlevy made his first real impression on film audiences as Robinson's strong arm killer.
Oscar Nominated for Best Cinematography (Ray June).
1. Howard Hawks [aka: Howard Winchester Hawks]
Date of Birth: 30 May 1896, Goshen, Indiana
Date of Death: 26 December 1977, Palm Springs, California
2. Miriam Hopkins [aka: Ellen Miriam Hopkins
Date of Birth: 18 October 1902 - Savannah, Georgia
Date of Death: 9 October 1972 - New York City, New York
3.. Edward G. Robinson [aka: Emmanuel Goldenberg]
Date of Birth: 12 December 1893 - Bucharest, Romania
Date of Death: 26 January 1973 - Hollywood, California
4. Joel McCrea
Date of Birth: 5 November 1905 - South Pasadena, California
Date of Death: 20 October 1990 - Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California
5. Walter Brennan
Date of Birth: 25 July 1894 - Swampscott, Massachusetts
Date of Death: 21 September 1974 - Oxnard, California
6. Brian Donlevy [aka: Waldo Brian Donlevy]
Date of Birth: 9 February 1901 - Cleveland, Ohio
Date of Death: April 5, 1972 - Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California
Mr. Jim's Ratings:
Quality of Picture & Sound: 4 Stars
Performance: 4 Stars
Story & Screenplay: 4 Stars
Overall: 4 Stars [Original Music, Cinematography & Film Editing]
Total Time: 91 min on VHS ~ United Artists ~ (04/04/2000)