Directed By: Roy Del Ruth
Starring: James Cagney, Mae Clarke, Margaret Lindsay
Tag line: "Is Hollywood howling ! at this inside story of The Screen Idol Who Threw -?- -?- -?- Out Of His -?- -?- -?- On Her -?- !"
Trivia: Based on the story "The Finger Man" by Rosalind Keating Shaffer
Poor Mae Clarke! Two years after he shoved a grapefruit in her face in The Public Enemy, James Cagney was at it again in Lady Killer, only this time around he got a bit rougher with the actress, dragging her through an apartment by her hair before kicking her out the front door. It’s but one of many memorable scenes from this frantic 1933 crime / comedy, which, along with featuring another fine Cagney performance, rarely slows down to take a breath.
Instead of losing his cool when Myra (Clarke) and her male cohorts Spade (Douglass Dumbrille), Duke (Leslie Fenton), Smiley (Russell Hopton) and Pete (Raymond Hatton) con him out of $50, former movie house usher Dan Quigley (Cagney) talks them into letting him join the gang. With Dan’s help, the group starts taking in more money than ever before, but when a simple heist goes wrong, Dan and Myra hop the next bus bound for L.A., where they hope to lay low until the smoke clears. Soon after their arrival, however, Dan is picked up by the cops, at which point Myra skips town with every cent he had in the world. Dead broke, Dan signs on as an extra in a movie, and before long he’s a big star, dating fellow actress Lois Underwood (Margaret Lindsey) and enjoying his moment in the sun. But when Myra and the others suddenly resurface and threaten to reveal his turbulent past, it may spell the end of Dan’s Hollywood career.
Cagney is a bundle of energy in Lady Killer, rattling off one joke after another early on (in the opening sequence, he loses his job as an usher by poking fun at a couple of customers) before squaring off against Myra and the others (It’s when she shows up unexpectedly, ruining his date with Lois, that Myra experiences the full effect of Dan’s wrath). In addition to Cagney’s spirited performance, director Roy Del Ruth keeps Lady Killer moving along with a series of excellent scenes; the sequence where Dan fakes a car accident to gain access to a wealthy widow’s mansion (so that he and the others can rob it) is a definite highlight, as is the big chase at the end of the picture, which concludes with a thrilling police shoot-out.
Jam-packed with one great moment after another (aside from what’s detailed above, we also spend time on various movie sets, watching Dan go from a nameless extra to a Hollywood star), Lady Killer accomplishes more in 75 minutes than most films do in two hours