Arthur Ferguson Jones is an ordinary man. He works hard at his job, is never late for work, and in his free time likes to write. He leads a pretty average life.
One day, a major change comes to Jones’ life. He oversleeps for once, and the big boss has instructed his manager to fire the next person who is late, so Jones loses his job. Then he’s arrested after being mistaken for a killer named Mannion who bears a striking resemblance to him.
Realizing their mistake, the police give Jones a document to show if other officers make the same mistake and try to arrest him… but this causes Mannion to come after his doppelganger, to steal the note and continue roaming free.
Edward G. Robinson takes on a dual role as both Jones and Mannion in 1935’s The Whole Town’s Talking. Based on a story by W.R. Burnett, the film was written by Robert Riskin and Jo Swerling and directed by John Ford. Co-starring alongside Robinson is Jean Arthur as Jones’ fast-talking co-worker, Miss Clark.
A phenomenal performance is given by Edward G. Robinson in his dual role. I was already a fan of Robinson from his gangster flicks, but this film made me love him even more. Jones and Mannion are complete opposites, and Robinson is completely convincing in both characters.
The character of Jones is an adorable man. He talks to his pets and starts his morning by doing stretching exercises at his window. Robinson pulls off this “sweet and innocent” persona surprisingly well, making it easy for the audience to feel for Jones when he’s arrested.
On the flip side, Robinson easily reverts to the tough-guy persona we’re used to seeing him in when he takes on the character of Mannion.
The scenes Robinson shares with himself are some of the film’s best. They pop up quite frequently, taking up a good chunk of the film’s running time and adding greatly to its overall appeal.
Jean Arthur also gives a great performance here as spunky Miss Clark. Arthur’s sass, wit and charm make her the perfect fit for the role.
The Whole Town’s Talking utilizes some of the photographic trademarks of the “gangster” genre. Shots of newspaper headlines and some extra-shadowy lighting are used, allowing for a successful spoof of the genre.
Though this is a comedy, there’s also a fair bit of intrigue to it, and it isn’t easy for the viewer to predict how the whole mistaken-identity mess will be resolved. Its more serious moments are usually made funny by little details, like Robinson wearing a terrible stick-on mustache.
The ending of the film creeps up on the viewer a bit abruptly, but it’s a very clever film overall, and a really enjoyable watch. I’d recommend this one highly, especially for fans of Robinson. The score: 4.5/5