Do you ever feel like your DVR knows you better than some of the human beings that you spend your time with? I certainly felt that way in May when mine taped Jimmy the Gent as a suggestion. After years of taping films from TCM, my trusty ol’ TiVo box knew that a crime-comedy starring both James Cagney and Bette Davis would be just the type of film I’d want to check out.
Jimmy the Gent (1934) stars James Cagney as Jimmy Corrigan, a man who runs an agency that provides fake paperwork for those seeking riches from folks who have died without leaving a will.
Joan Martin (Bette Davis) is Jimmy’s ex-girlfriend, who dumped him because she couldn’t date someone who does such unethical work. She takes a job at the firm of Charles Wallingham (Alan Dinehart), a rival of Jimmy’s who says that his firm is much more ethical than Jimmy’s.
But it’s all a big lie on Wallingham’s part, and in an effort to win back his lady, Jimmy decides to investigate his foe and prove that their businesses are equally shady.
Jimmy the Gent was directed by Michael Curtiz. The screenplay was written by Bertram Millhauser (They Made Me a Criminal) from the story “The Heir Chaser” by Laird Doyle and Ray Nazarro.
The strongest asset of Jimmy the Gent is undoubtedly its cast. The performances by these highly-capable actors are well-suited to the film’s somewhat light-hearted take on crime. Cagney lays on the accent extra-thick, and he shares fantastic banter with Allen Jenkins, who plays Jimmy’s employee Lou. Cagney’s scenes with Bette Davis are also strong, though reportedly neither star was happy about making this film.
Davis and Cagney’s reservations about the project were not completely unfounded. The story has little substance or depth, especially in comparison to some of the award-worthy films that both stars are known for. However, it’s still an entertaining watch, and I really enjoyed seeing two of my favorites share the screen. They later starred alongside each other again in The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941).
Throughout the majority of its run-time, Jimmy the Gent has an incredibly brisk pace. The slowest scenes occur when Joan is shown at her new job at Wallingham’s firm. It’s understandable that these scenes have a slower pace, since the whole reason Joan switched jobs was to escape the hectic and dishonest nature of Jimmy’s business. It makes sense that her new workplace would be much quieter, and since the rest of the film moves at break-neck speed, the pacing isn’t a problem.
Jimmy the Gent is not a career best for either Bette Davis or James Cagney, but it’s an exciting little watch, faced-paced and packed with talent. The score: 3/5