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Public Menace

(1935 b 73')

En: 5 Ed: 4)

A struggling newspaper reporter who does not want to get married, helps a woman stay in New York by marrying her to get a story about a gangster. He tries to get a divorce, but she keeps leading him to new stories.

            Reporter Red Foster (George Murphy) gets his friend Tommy (Arthur Rankin) to give him a ride in an ambulance. Tommy tells Red he got a marriage license for his third wife. Red does not like marriage and says dames ruin a man, especially a journalist. He says he is going places and will not let any woman hold him back.

            A city editor gives orders to cover a Jersey City kidnapping. Red suggests he go to the courtroom, but the editor sends him to cover the arrival of the steamship Lancaster. Red knows someone fell overboard and died, and the editor says it is a small story.

            Red is in the press boat going out to the steamship and talks with other reporters who are playing bridge. One says the gangster Mario Tonelli is coming in on that ocean-liner, but they don’t tell Red about it.

            On the ship Cassie Nichols (Jean Arthur) is giving Mario Tonelli (Douglass Dumbrille) a manicure, and he complains she nicked him. He pays her, and she goes out. On the radio he hears that a jury found Parker guilty, and he faces the electric chair. Two men ask Tonelli about Parker, and one warns him that he killed a cop and could get the chair too. Tonelli does not think so.

            Cassie is talking to an authority about letting her off at New York, but he refuses. Red comes in and listens to the argument. She goes out, and the captain explains to Red that she is a Greek citizen and cannot enter the country.

            Red is given a note to go to cabin 422 at once. He knocks, and Cassie tells him to come in. She says she has the greatest newspaper story. She asks him if he knows who was washed overboard, and he says it was John Hastings. She says the man committed suicide because he was the guilty one in the New Jersey kidnapping. She says she can prove it and asks if that would be a story. He says it would be. She says he left a confession. He doubts her. She starts to leave, and he asks what she has. She shows him an envelope with the name of Hastings on it and puts it in her purse. He asks how much she wants for it. She asks him to marry him, and he says no, not while he is in his right mind. She does not want to go back to Greece. He says they do not even know each other. He says she could buy things with the money his paper would give her. She says she will let him go as soon as they are on shore. He suggests that in six months she would have plenty of money. She starts to leave, and he tells her how lousy a husband he would be. She asks if he wants the story, and he agrees.

            Four reporters are looking into rooms through a window over the door. They find Tonelli and knock. The plainclothesman lets them in, and Tonelli offers to give them a picture. One of the men pulls out a gun to help Tonelli escape.

            The ship captain (Thurston Hall) is wedding Cassie and Red from behind his desk. They take their vows, and he pronounces them husband and wife. The phone rings, and with Tonelli pointing a gun at him the lieutenant says they are taking Tonelli ashore on the press boat and not to tell anyone. The captain tells Red that Cassie has to go through immigration at Ellis Island.

            Tonelli orders the reporters how to behave as they walk out.

            Cassie asks Red if it is romantic. He demands that she give him the letter, and he takes it out of her purse. He says hello to the reporters as they walk by. He reads the letter and sees that it is a recommendation that Cassie is a good manicurist. He asks her if it is a frame-up. He is angry, and she starts crying.

            The reporters are glad to get the story accompanying Tonelli, and the Bulletin reporter is not with them. Red sees the boat take off and shouts to them.

            In a taxi Cassie tells Red she is happy. He says in the morning they have to get a lawyer to arrange a divorce. She says she has no money, and he says he will not help her. He offers to give him his money but realizes he has to pay for the taxi.

            At 7:30 Cassie wakes up in a bed, stretches, and smiles. Red is snoring on the couch. She gets up and goes into the bathroom. He wakes and slowly gets up. She is singing, and he tells her to be quick. She comes out dressed, and he goes in. She sings and puts coffee on. He comes out and complains that she did not leave him a dry towel. He sits down and tells her how bad the coffee is. He puts on a vest and says he is going to the office and then to see a lawyer. She is to wait there until he calls. He is in a bad mood and goes out.

            The city editor looks at the newspapers, noticing that all the others scooped them. Red comes in and is given subscription blanks. He will get 50 cents for each person he signs up. He sits at this desk and asks about a good lawyer. The editor is angry and tells Red he is fired. Red slugs the editor and goes to the cashier to get paid.

            Red comes home, and Cassie looks in the paper for a job. He sees the headline that Tonelli escaped. He grabs the paper and shows her the breaking story he missed. He receives a package at the door and opens it to find a tiny cash register from the Bulletin boys. She says she can work to help them get by. He asks her to keep out of sight so he won’t have to see her or listen to her. She gets her bags and says goodbye. He takes the bags and tells her to come back. He says she can’t live in New York without money, and he needs her for the divorce. She cries and offers a suggestion. He does not mind if she hangs around, but she has to find a job. He says half of what they make goes into the cash register to pay the lawyer.

            Red tries to sell subscriptions door-to-door without success. Two women speak other languages.

            Red comes home and puts 50 cents in the register. She talks about the Reno Divorce Corporation and puts money in also. She is working in a beauty shop. She urges him to buy new shoes. He asks what is for dinner, and she says they have cans. She suggests they go out, but he says they want money. She sits next to him and says they can go dancing. She keeps pleading.

            Red and Cassie are dancing, and he compliments her on her dancing and good looks. She is happy and says he is strong.

            As time passes, they keep adding small amounts to their lawyer fund. In the kitchen Red says they almost have enough to pay a retaining fee. She asks what grounds he is going to use. She says she sewed buttons on his shirts. He reads a news story, and she asks what a byline is. She says she will start looking for a room tomorrow, but he says she can stay there. She says they can’t get a divorce while they are living together. He reminds her he taught her how to make good coffee.

            The landlady comes in and hands Red a bill. She wants something on account, and he promises her money on Saturday. He says they have no money, but Cassie accidentally knocks the cash register on the floor. Money spills out, and the landlady takes the $19.50 on account. She goes out. Cassie apologizes for the accident, and he says it was no accident. She puts her arms around his neck, and he does not like her sex-appeal tricks. He goes out and does not say where he is going.

            Later Cassie gets out of bed and sits in the kitchen. She reads a newspaper about two gangsters, and one has a cupid tattoo on his wrist.

            At the Bulletin the editor gets a call from Cassie who tells him she knows who the gangster is. He agrees to put Foster on the story with a byline. She does not give her name but gives an address. The editor gives orders, including having Red Foster arrested for punching him.

            Two policemen find Red resting on a stretcher in Tommy’s ambulance.

            The police bring Red to the editor, and Red starts eating the hamburger the editor ordered. The editor tells Red to meet that woman and says he will get a byline.

            Red meets Cassie who says she wants to pay him back. She shows him the story and says she manicured Tonelli on the ship. She says he was one of the two gangsters who were killed.

            Red has written the article about Tonelli being dead that is on the front page, and he clips out the article. He hears Cassie singing and looks out the window to see she is in the apartment opposite. They talk, and neighbors complain it is 1 a.m. Red accidentally turns on the shower and falls in the bathtub.

            A newspaper reports that the Tonelli funeral is today. People have gathered outside a church. Reporters question Cassie, and Red arrives and has her picture taken while blocking the other photographers. He calls a taxi and gets in with Cassie. Tonelli in a car remembers her and watches his own funeral. The other man says detectives are in the crowd. A man says Mimi is coming out, and she is crying. She is Tonelli’s sweetheart, and his companion suggests he let her know she is not dead. She leaves with a chauffeur and has the car stop. A man gets in, and she asks if he was waiting long. Tonelli is following them. The man puts his arm around Mimi as she heads home.

            Cassie says hello to Red from her window. He asks why she is laughing. She suggests they eat crackers and cheese, and they argue over who is to come over to the other’s apartment. Neighbors complain, and she says she will come over.

            Red and Cassie sit next to each other while they eat and drink beer.

            Mimi and her new man are drinking cocktails, and she embraces and kisses him. The door opens, and Tonelli has a gun. He shoots at the man and Mimi three times.

            Red reads the news story he wrote about Tonelli’s funeral.

            The dying man is questioned and says he is not dead. They realize he meant Tonelli.

            Red shows Cassie the picture of her, and she cuddles close to him. He kisses her. The phone rings, and he answers. The editor tells him that Tonelli is not dead, and he has killed two people. The editor fires him and insults him. Red hangs up and says she lied again. He says Tonelli just killed two people. She says she wanted to help him, and he says she wanted to hook him. He says she will not mess up his life anymore and tells her to scram. She goes out.

            Cassie returns to her apartment, and two men from the homicide squad take her in.

            At the police station three men interrogate her. She is asked why she said Tonelli was dead, but she refuses to say.

            Red knocks on a door and tries to sell a subscription. He reads a newspaper story that Cassie is a suspect in the Tonelli case.

            Red goes to the police and says that Cassie does not know anything about Tonelli. They ask him to explain why, and he says she did it to help him get his job back on the paper. They ask who she is to him, and he says she is his wife. The reporters there laugh that he is married. They tell him to tell it to the district attorney.

            At the police station a bail bondsman gets Cassie out of jail. Outside she asks the man who paid her bail. He tells her to be at his office at 7.

            She goes to the office, and a man says the man wants a manicure. He goes out, and she hears a car horn. She goes out, and two men follow her, hoping she will go to Tonelli.

            In a nice apartment Tonelli answers the door. A man and Cassie come in. Tonelli expects the manicure.

            A man outside makes a call to the police, and they send men to search the block.

            Tonelli asks her if they treated her roughly, and she says they did. She thanks him for paying her bail. He says she did him a good turn. He gives her a drink. The other man brings in the manicure equipment. Tonelli sends the man on to the roof. She works on his nails. He asks her why she framed his alibi. She asks what he thinks, and he says he would like to have her as a manicurist all the time.

            Policemen search the area and carry rifles.

            Cassie finishes the manicure and does not charge him. He asks for a kiss, and she pushes him away. She asks for a drink, and he gives her another one. The phone rings, but he does not answer it. She urge him to answer, and he does. He learns that police are all around there. He hangs up and calls her a stool-pigeon. She says the man drove her there from the jail. She says she has a brother who drives an ambulance, and he could help him get out of there. He asks her to call him.

            Red answers the phone, and Cassie tells “her brother” that her friend is sick. She tells him to bring his ambulance to get him and her out of there. She gives him the address and apartment number. She tells him to bring an extra intern suit.

            Red answers that he will not let her take him for a ride again. He sits down and hears on the radio that police are going to that area. He rushes out.

            Red tells Tommy they must go right away, and he says he will drive. They get in and take off.

            Cassie tells Tonelli that he has to come across town.

            Red is driving, and Tommy says he may lose his job. The siren is on, and they arrive. The police let them go in.

            Tonelli has Cassie answer the door, and Tommy and Red come in wearing uniforms. Tonelli has a gun, and Tommy is scared. The man asks about himself, and Tonelli knocks him out. Tonelli orders Tommy to take off his intern suit.

            Red and Cassie in white suits take the stretcher in the hall. A policeman and detective check the man under the blanket and see a black janitor. Red and Cassie stop at a closet and have the janitor get up as Tonelli gets on the stretcher. In the hall Red asks the cop to go with them so that they won’t be checked every few feet. The policeman says it is a hurt janitor, and they get in the elevator. The police go into the apartment and find Tommy in his underwear. He says they went out the door.

            In the street Red and Cassie put the stretcher in the ambulance and take off.

            In the building two detectives hear the janitor yelling and find him in the closet. The policeman realizes he helped him. The cop in charge says they will follow them.

            Red tells Cassie he is taking Tonelli to the Bulletin. Police get in cars and follow, using sirens. The ambulance pulls into the Bulletin building, and they park in a car elevator.

            Red and Cassie go in the newspaper office, and Red says he brought Tonelli. They see the car come up, and Tonelli has a gun. They panic as the police come in. Tonelli and the police shoot it out as the editor gives orders on the telephone. Red says he was fired and negotiates with the editor who offers  him $200 a week. Finally a machine gun kills Tonelli. A man gives Mrs.  Foster a summons to court.

            In the courtroom the judge asks if the plaintiff is ready. Red comes in and takes the stand. He says he did not suffer mental anguish. He says she did not violate the marriage covenant. The judge asks if he wants a divorce, and Red says no. The judge dismisses the case, and the lawyer complains he made him look like a monkey. Cassie asks him if he is sure he does not want a divorce, and he rings up on the cash register “No sale.”

            This screwball comedy spoofs gangsters, reporters, and the device of using marriage to get around immigration restrictions. The woman likes romance and marriage, and she persists in giving him stories even though some of them are false. They get to like each other, and he decides marriage may not be so bad after all.

Copyright © 2012 by Sanderson Beck

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