Step On It (1936)

Larry is forced to take a deal with the man who ruined his position on the force. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
Larry is forced to take a deal with the man who ruined his position on the force. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Larry Evans (Richard Talmadge) is a motorcycle-driving police officer. He’s on the case and tracking down Connie Banning (Lois Wilde), the daughter of the man who runs the local oil refinery.

Connie has a bit of a history of legal trouble (especially when it comes to obeying traffic and auto safety laws), and Larry knows he’ll encounter a bit of a struggle in arresting her. When he arrives at her home and finds her in bed, he wraps her tightly in a blanket so she won’t be able to escape.

But when Connie’s father (Earle Dwire) arrives and sees what Larry has done, he complains and orders that the police chief put Larry on desk duty.

Larry’s not willing to take desk duty without a fight, though; he’s willing to quit to save himself from that terror! Struggling to find work, Larry reluctantly accepts a job with Connie’s father solving a series of heists targeted at the Banning company’s trucks.

Step On It is a forgotten crime “dramedy” released by Reliable Pictures Corporation, a short-lived studio that mostly produced low-budget Westerns between 1933 and 1937. The film was directed by Henri Samuels (aka Harry Webb, best known as the director and producer of films like 1934’s Terror of the Plains and as co-founder of RPC).

The film’s low budget is incredibly obvious. The plot pretty thin and predictable, and there is very little in the way of outstanding production values to speak of.

Most of the film’s performances are decent, and the actors are believable as “everyday people.” They don’t go over-the-top, but their performances don’t have the “oomph” that would be given by performers like Humphrey Bogart, for example.

Larry and his partner head out on their motorcycles to catch the culprits (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
Larry and his partner head out on their motorcycles to catch the culprits (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

As much as film loves to imitate life, in films of this type (essentially a light cop-vs.-dame comedy with hints of drama) I like it when performances have a bit of outlandish artifice to them for entertainment value — a cop that’s particularly sneaky or a society girl that’s much more outspokenly snide than she would be in the real world. When the story itself isn’t particularly outstanding and the film is of B-quality, this can save the whole thing from falling flat.

The one shining star here is Lois Wilde. Her character is a bit of a thrill-seeker, and Lois brings a lot of charm to the role. Sadly, Lois’ career was cut short when she sustained major injuries in a car accident. She only made 19 films according to IMDb, many of which were uncredited roles, but she shows so much promise as an actress here. Where other characters seem too “normal” for some of the semi-outlandish situations they find themselves in, Lois gives the story the burst of energetic life that it needs.

Step On It is a decent and quick (about 55 minutes) watch, particularly for fans of rare/forgotten films. Tune in once if you’re into this type of film, or for the performance of Lois Wilde. The score: 2.5/5

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7 thoughts on “Step On It (1936)

  1. I love how these early films have such wacky storylines…can you imagine this one being remade today, as is? Bradley Cooper as Larry, Emily Blunt as Connie, and let’s bring Gene Hackman out of retirement to play the part of Connie’s father. Coming soon from RKO Pictures!

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    1. That sounds like my personal hell! I for some unknown reason have an irrational amount of dislike for Bradley Cooper, haha. Interesting to think about how these storylines would be received by today’s audiences, though. Everyone I know who watches these silly old movies are fellow classic film fans and our perspective is a unique one. I feel like we’re more tolerant of the wackiness, and for some of us the wackiness is even a plus. I’m not sure the average American going to the local multiplex would know what to make of a film like this if it were remade today!

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      1. You’re right…I think it’s both hilarious and frustrating when I try to get a friend or co-worker to watch a film I like from the ’40s or ’50s, and they won’t because it’s ‘old’ or filmed in black-and-white. Argh! And I agree, the wackiness is what makes them so enjoyable…and most of the time, ‘wackiness’ could be another way of saying ‘imaginative’ or ‘original’. And that’s what I think is wrong with too many films of today: not enough imagination or creativity. Especially with comedies.

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        1. It drives me up the wall when people discredit older movies or think that all black and white films are boring. I’ve actually had a couple of emails from people who stumble across TMP saying “Your blog is really nice, but why don’t you cover new releases instead of boring old movies? I would visit every day if you wrote about new movies.” Few things annoy me more than that attitude. On the flipside, few things make me happier than converting people into classic film fans, haha.

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          1. I CANNOT believe you’ve actually had people say that to you! Good lord! And on my own flipside, at work today I showed a trio of under-30-somethings a clip from the original ‘Frankenstein’, and had them hooked…then fielded a few questions from them about the film afterwards, which was fun. Maybe if I keep bombarding them with cool scenes from older films, I’ll have them converted, too!

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            1. If memory serves I’ve received three emails along those lines, one of which turned into a very lengthy debate and was sent to me by a fellow blogger. The others were from randoms who found my blog through Google searches. I can’t complain because I’ve never received any serious hate mail, but those are always strange to read.

              Keep bombarding them! Soon enough you’ll have ’em debating their “Top 10 pre-codes” lists and seeking out Hitchcock screenings at historic theaters. :P

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