Smart Money (1931) is not just any old movie, it’s a step back in time, a window into the world of yesteryear. It unveils the norms of the past, leaving the modern viewer both intrigued and surprised. This captivating film is more than a story – it’s an unraveling of our history.
Starry Encounter – Robinson and Cagney Team Up
I remember the first time I stumbled upon Smart Money on IMDb. Was this a prank? Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney in the same movie? It seemed too good to be true. It was Robinson’s show all along, while Cagney had just wrapped up The Public Enemy a few months earlier. He once quipped that people don’t pay to watch sidekicks, but Cagney made an exception for Robinson, his old pal. After the success of Little Caesar (1931), Cagney joined forces with Robinson for a supporting role in Smart Money.
The Plot Thickens
Barber by Day, Gambler by Night
Let’s talk about the plot, shall we? The scene opens in a humble barbershop that doubles as a makeshift casino after hours. Nick, played by Robinson, is the star of the show, the unbeatable card shark with a penchant for winning big. Everyone in the backroom believes that Nick’s lucky streak can translate into big wins in the city, so they raise $10,000 to back him up with dreams of making it big.
Bright Lights, Big City
But, the city isn’t kind to our gambler. Nick, a man with a weakness for blondes, is drawn to the enigmatic Lady Marie (Noel Francis). She leads him to a high-stakes card game with Hickory Short (Ben Taggart), and it seems Nick’s luck has finally turned. He wins big, and the world takes notice.
Trouble in Paradise
As Nick rises to the top, DA (Morgan Wallace), concerned about his upcoming re-election, seeks to bring Nick down. He enlists Sleepy Sam and finds Nick’s Achilles heel – blondes. They plot to use an undercover policewoman to entrap him, but Nick doesn’t fall for the bait.
The Tables Turn
Nick’s fortunes begin to wane. In a twist of fate, he helps rescue a woman from the river and takes her into his home. Mistaking her for an undercover agent, he gets suspicious. The DA seizes this opportunity and blackmails the woman into helping him arrest Nick.
Loyalty and Tragedy
Nick’s loyal friend, Jack, catches wind of the DA’s plan and warns Nick. In a heated argument, Nick pushes Jack, who falls and dies. The incident becomes a manslaughter case. Nick is sentenced to ten years but remains optimistic, saying he’ll be out in less than five. In the final scene, his manservant Snake Eyes (John Larkin) watches him at the train station, his intentions unknown.
Smart Money is a product of its time, with elements that may not sit well with today’s audiences. Nick’s condescending actions towards black characters and the use of racial slurs are a stark reminder of the prejudices that were prevalent in the 1930s. As viewers, we must remember that this movie was made in a different era, but it also serves as a reminder of how far we have come as a society.
Smart Money is a fascinating journey into the world of 1931. The movie’s plot is engaging, with Robinson and Cagney delivering stellar performances. While the film has its moments of controversy, it is a valuable window into the past. As Canadian casino experts, we can’t help but be drawn into the world of gambling and the high-stakes drama that unfolds in Smart Money. So, grab your popcorn and dive into this classic film for a nostalgic experience with a side of cultural reflection.