Slightly Honorable (1939 Comedy, Crime, Drama film)

What a surprise. This film, which showcases the under-remarked comic skills of Pat O’Brien is a genuine treat which belongs right up there with “The Front Page” (with O’Brien and James Cagney) its remake “His Girl Friday” and the best of the ‘Thin Man’ series. Director Tay Garnett is probably best known for directing some of the better series in the early days of television (“Bonanza”, “The Untouchables” “Naked City”, “Rawhide”)and at least two film classics (“The Postman Always Rings Twice” , “A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court”). After seeing this film one can only guess that the reason his name is not as well known as that of Sturgess or Capra or even Wilder is that he moved to television at a time when that medium was seen as a real threat to the film industry and thereby encountered some resentment. How else to explain the fact that “Slightly Honorable” is not mentioned on more ‘Best’ lists?

O’Brien is probably more likable (and believable as a semi-romantic lead) here than in almost any of his other films. Always effective in serious dramas he reminds us of how versatile some of our greatest stars of middle period American cinema (Cagney, John Wayne, Katherine Hepburn,Clark Gable) were-switching effortlessly from drama to comedy in a way that seems to be beyond the scope of some later stars.

Much the same can be said for Ruth Terry who would own this film were it not for the strength of her co-star’s performances. Terry retired before she was 45 years old. By that time she was reduced to bit parts but a look at her work here will have you shaking your head in wonder at how that happened.

A great performance from Broderick Crawford and standout supporting turns from Eve Arden and Claire Dodd (among others) crackerjack pacing and set design,snappy clever and first rate dialogue combine to make for a wonderful hilarious film that deserves a wide audience
Pat O’Brien as John Webb
Edward Arnold as Vincent Cushing
Broderick Crawford as Russ Sampson
Ruth Terry as Ann Seymour
Alan Dinehart as District Attorney Joyce
Claire Dodd as Alma Brehmer
Phyllis Brooks as Sarilla Cushing
Eve Arden as Miss Ater
Douglass Dumbrille as George Taylor
Bernard Nedell as Pete Godena
Douglas Fowley as Madder
Ernest Truex as P. Hemingway Collins
Janet Beecher as Mrs. Cushing
Evelyn Keyes as Miss Vlissingen
John Sheehan as Mike Daley
Addison Richards as Inspector Fromm
Cliff Clark as Captain Graves

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