Thursday, July 17, 2014

Brother Orchid (1940)

Director: Lloyd Bacon

Writers: Earl Baldwin, Richard Connell, Richard Macaulay, Jerry Wald

Composer: Heinz Roemheld

Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Ann Southern, Humphrey Bogart, Donald Crisp, Ralph Bellamy, Allen Jenkins, Charles D. Brown, Cecil Kellaway, Morgan Conway, Richard Lane, Paul Guilfoyle, John Ridgely, Joseph Crehan, Wilfred Lucas, Tom Tyler, Dick Wessel, Granville Bates, Paul Phillips

More info: IMDb

Tagline: We'd like youse to meet Brother Orchid!

Plot: When retired racket boss John Sarto tries to reclaim his place and former friends try to kill him, he finds solace in a monastery and reinvents himself as a pious monk.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

My four favorite old school actors are Cagney, Robinson, Bogart and Flynn. You'd think that I watch their pictures all the time but for some damn reason I haven't been but I'm changing that.  I'm having a blast visiting (and revisiting) their catalogs.  I just adore Edward G. Robinson.  He was so talented on and off the screen and he seems like he was a real swell guy in real life.  He was great in any kind of role.  He's made me laugh hysterically, cringe at his ruthlessness (have you seen KEY LARGO (1948)? WOW!) and shed a few tears. This gangster comedy isn't so big on laughs as it is on heart.  There are some great gags and the delightful Ann Southern has a few, but it's with Little John's (Robinson) transformation from gang boss to being a little guy at a monastery-like community that's the real show.  And just when you think he's satisfied and he's played out his lot, he surprises us again and again in the final act of the picture.  It's a great performance (as usual) and you get to see the many sides of the actor.  He had it and he had it in spades.

The supporting cast is great, too.  Ann Southern is hilarious and a treat to watch.  Bogart was delegated to being the bad guy (as usual but not for long) in the supporting role and he's great at it but he's not in the picture all that much.  This is Robinson's show all the way.  The Warner Bros. DVD comes with a few extras including a commentary track with Alan L. Gansberg and Eric Lax, the theatrical trailer and their great 'Warner Night at the Movies' which includes the trailer for IT ALL CAME TRUE (1940) (also with Bogart and Sheridan), a newsreel, a sounidie with Henry Busse and His Orchestra (9 minutes) which has the band playing "Wang Wang Blues", "Hot Lips" and "Along the Santa Fe Trail", a color cartoon called BUSY BAKERS (1940), a B&W cartoon called SLAP HAPPY PAPPY (1940) which leads into the feature film. 

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