Ex-convict Danny Kean decides to become honest as a photographer for a paper. He falls in love with Patricia, the daughter of the policeman who arrested him. Mr Nolan, her father, doesn't like that relation at first, but McLean, Kean's boss, convinces him of Kean's good nature. But Kean uses his relation to Patricia to make a photo of an execution. Due to this, Nolan loses his stripes and Kean isn't allowed to see Patricia any longer. But when one of his former friends kills two policemen, Kean sees his chance....
James Cagney ... Danny Kean
Ralph Bellamy ... J.R. 'Al' McLean
Patricia Ellis ... Patricia 'Pat' Nolan
Alice White ... Allison
Ralf Harolde ... Jerry the Mug
Robert Emmett O'Connor ... Lieutenant Casey Nolan
Robert Barrat ... Grover, Graphic News Owner
G. Pat Collins ... Hennessy the Fireman (as George Pat Collins)
Arthur Vinton ... John, the Head Keeper
Tom Wilson ... Leo
This was great! It's vintage Cagney: tough, cocky, funny and endearing! The film is also typical early '30s: short, entertaining, fast-moving with some wild dialog and plenty of action and humor.
Imagine the outcry today if they showed the hero pushing women around as James Cagney did here and in other films of the period. This particular story has Cagney playing "Danny Kean," an ex-con who quits his former mob and winds up at a tabloid newspaper as a member of the paparazzi! (I guess this story was ahead of it's time.) He does what he has to do get a picture for the paper, and a financial raise for his efforts.
Along the way are several very pretty women "Pat" and "Allison" (played respectively by Patricia Ellis and Alice White); a number of sexual innuendos (which wouldn't have made it in the picture had this been made a year later); and just a fun-filled corny 1930s ride.
James Cagney, who was always so intense, as the 'bad guy' in most of his movies, seems to be having a great time in "Picture Snatcher', this 1933 film directed by Lloyd Bacon.
In fact, Danny Kean, is first seen being released from jail, after serving three years, but he has had enough of the crime life. He tells his criminal friends he wants out. Not knowing what to do, he decides to try his hand at photo journalism by applying to be a news photographer at the Graphic News. The friendly editor, Al Mclean, decides to give him a break.
Thus begins Danny's adventures as a news photographer that gets the right picture, at the right moment for his paper. He also finds happiness with Pat, the lovely daughter of a friendly policeman. At the same time, he is being the object of a co-worker's desire, something he wants no part of, since he has decided to go straight.
The great James Cagney is a joy to watch in the film. He was a charismatic actor that is always excellent no matter what he did. Another surprise is Ralph Bellamy, who played the editor that decides to give the ex-con a break. The lovely Patricia Ellis is the object of Danny's affections. Alice White plays a bad girl that wants to get Danny for herself.
The film will not disappoint fans of Mr. Cagney for the change of pace it represented and the fun one gets by watching it.
I'd like to recommend this to you for a couple reasons.
I'm right now doing a survey of films that feature newsrooms. Its a simple sort of fold that wouldn't work today. Amazingly, right after seeing this, I saw the new "Superman Returns." Horrid little move, but it reminded me that Superman was invented in the 30s and that's why we have Lois as a reporter.
In the 30s there were hundreds of movies set in newsrooms. Its roughly the same as a movie about the movie business, since the creation of stories and modeling of life was essentially a writer's game in that era. And the newsroom was one of the few places where women could be strong, sexy and articulate. And wow is this dripping with sex.
In those days, women could be nurses, teachers, secretaries or whores. Or if they were particularly clever, they were reporters. It was a sort of shorthand, lost today. If your movie put you in a newsroom, it was a stage where stories were made. And to have a woman weave stories and in some way control the world. That was something.
The story here is Cagney's typical gangster, head of a gang but imprisoned. He gets out and instead of returning to his gang, takes a job as a reporter. Actually — to make the folding good — as a photographer, hence the title. You can pretty much guess the story, knowing that he is both ruthless in invading lives and sweet on the daughter of the cop who "sent him up."
Here's the really interesting part: the sexy, precode blond is a reporter in the same pool. She's the girl of Cagney's boss but hot for Cagney. He's being chased by another broad too. To both he's mean, but the encounters with them are directly sexual.
Its odd. We see her as distinctly available, a silly blond. But we also know she is a crackerjack mind underneath. One scene: Cagney by subterfuge has obtained a picture of the execution of a murderess. He is chased all over town but makes it to the newsroom just under deadline. Breathlessly, he dictates the story to our sexy blond to type. He speaks in blunt gangster slang and we laugh at the notion that such a description would appear in the paper.
She types furiously, then the editor reads it aloud and it is three times as long, cleverly and articulately written. Big joke. No one notices. Bigger joke.
* The scene of Danny photographing an execution is based an actual incident in which Chicago-based crime photographer Tom Howard (who incidentally, was the grandfather of 'George Wendt' ) surreptitiously snapped the famous photo of convicted murderess Ruth Snyder's 1927 execution in the electric chair at Sing Sing for the New York Daily News.