A nice restoration for this Pre-Code film, directed by Tay Garnett and showing at the BFI Southbank as part of a season curated by Martin Scorsese.
Ricardo Cortez is the psychopathic Johnny whose girl, Frankie, the sad-eyed and down at heel thief who entices chaps in the bar with promises of gin and companionship, dreams of a new life away from the filth and grime of the island on which she was born and is trapped.
James Gleason and Harry Sweet provide the comedy, in a long running gag about an one-armed bandit game and the fey Franklin Pangborn’s hat.
Hot Toddy (Thelma) isn’t a blonde for a change but she’s bad through and through, while Dan the hero sailor, played by a singing Phillips Holmes with ever increasing holes in his shirt, charms Frankie, eventually replacing her worn old shoes and praying next to her in church.
Dark as pitch in places (Johnny’s knife throwing, and glowering watching of Frankie), with clever sand and sea wave titles, this has a nicely done if obvious drunk old broad routine from Marjorie Rambeau, whose cackling laugh in the film’s closing scene is oddly moving.
Perhaps not a lost masterpiece, but certainly worth a second look.