In the 1850s, San Francisco's Barbary Coast is a three-block hornet's nest of saloon louts, floozies, blowhards, cutthroats, card cheats, gold fever and get-rich-quick swindlers. Bat Morgan (James Cagney) should do very well here. Previously cast in contemporary roles and in one larkish Shakespearean effort, Cagney plunges into his first period film with his fists and charisma at the service of a story tracing Morgan's rise from shanghaied sailor to Barbary power broker. Margaret Lindsay, sharing a marquee with Cagney for the third time in 1935, plays the society demoiselle drawn to Morgan's rough charm. And director Lloyd Bacon keeps thronged scenes of dance-hall excitement and mob vigilantism roiling with atmosphere.
|George E. Stone|