“I’d like to walk into a New York hotel room just once, and not find a gin session going on…”
Bud Reeves (Eric Linden) is a country boy, but he’s making his way to the big city, moving from Indiana to New York. He leaves his home state with no intention of ever returning.
The station agent (Grant Mitchell), who once tried to make it in New York, doubts him, even making a bet that he’ll be back to Indiana within a month. But Bud is determined, and he hops on the next train.
In New York, he is met by his cousin Gibboney (Walter Catlett) at the hotel. Gibboney, excited to learn that Bud has a small inheritance, convinces Bud to throw (and pay for) a party.
Gibboney doesn’t keep the best company, and the party becomes overrun by his friends — bootlegging men and sassy ladies, including Vida Fleet (Joan Blondell), to whom Bud immediately takes a liking.
Love and other crazy experiences await Bud as he attempts to navigate life in the Big Apple, among his cousin’s seedy companions.
Mervyn LeRoy directs 1932’s Big City Blues. The film was written by Ward Morehouse and Lillie Hayward.
One of Warner’s many short pre-code pictures (around an hour long), this one is a lot of fun, with a stellar cast and a very fast pace. There is never a dull moment in New York City, and there is never a dull moment in Big City Blues.
Though a fun watch, the film doesn’t exactly maintain a light tone. [SPOILERS] A murder takes place, and a fairly graphic one for the time period. A fight breaks out, a woman is killed, and the corpse is shown… slightly bloody head an all! An investigation follows, which nearly gets Bud tossed in the clinker. [END SPOILER] Still, throughout most of its run time the film does have a bright and exciting mood.
Eric Linden is a great casting choice for the naive, well-meaning Bud. He approaches New York with a childlike enthusiasm, falling for all of his cousin’s stories of rubbing elbows with the famous and playing an important part in the local entertainment business. Perhaps he’s a bit too naive, but Linden makes it work and is believable in the role. And there are so many familiar faces aside from his — most notably, the great Joan Blondell, and one Mr. Humphrey Bogart!
Big City Blues is a lively picture, boasting a great cast and a fast-paced script. This one is definitely worth a watch, especially for pre-code fans. The score: 4/5