For Reel


The Whole Town’s Talking (1935)
May 1, 2012, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: John Ford

Edward G. Robinson plays a dual role in one of his very best showcases, The Whole Town’s Talking. Today’s viewers might be surprised to see that John Ford is credited with directing the picture, however Ford did make a number of comedies in his career and, even in his serious outings, his boisterous Irish humor would often come through. An office clerk at an accounting firm is mistaken for a notorious bank robber on the day that he was to be fired. When the police give him an identity card so as not to lead to any future confusion, the bank robber catches word and shows up on the clerk’s doorstep with intentions of routinely borrowing it. As the comedic elements of Ford’s pictures, especially his westerns (The Searchers being the prime example), are often brash and off-putting, it is a surprise to see how delicately he handles the humor that comes at the expense of the meek, affable clerk. The screenplay is credited to Jo Swerling and Robert Riskin, frequent collaborators with Frank Capra, and in its warm sentiment it possesses more of the traits of a Capra vehicle than it does a Ford. Most touching of all is the relationship that develops between the clerk and Jean Arthur, who, like many of Capra’s heroines (Arthur chief among them), gives the hero the confidence and drive to succeed. Robinson was initially reluctant to work on another tough guy part, but the picture is wholly devoted to presenting his dynamism – he makes a convincing romantic lead, and is given the chance to both convey the sensitivity of Marinius of Our Vines Have Tender Grapes and the menace of “Little Caesar” Bandello.


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