Chester Morris Takes A Dive
8 January 2020
Chester Morris is a small town boy with a temper and a right hook. His father, clergyman Grant Mitchell, loves him, but worries, of course, particularly when Morris heads off to New York to become, in his own mind, World Middleweight Boxing Champion. Morris starts a cocksure courtship of chorine Alice White. Soon his kid sister, Helen Twelvetrees shows up and joins the chorus line. Club owner and fight promoter John Miljan takes a shine to her, and woos her roughly. On the day of Morris' championship fight, Miss Twelvetrees shoots Miljan. Morris shows up seconds later, and takes the blame for the murder.

It's a well constructed and well performed pre-code movie, with a lot of depth in the script, with the loving relationship between Morris, his sister, and their father, Mitchell at the heart of it. Mitchell gets the big scene at the end, and offers a quiet, telling performance. He best known for his performances in more than a hundred movies in the 1930s and 1940s as pompous, authoritarian blowhards, but this performer had a real range. He made a couple of appearances in the silent era, but his movie career began in earnest in 1930, when he was already in his mid-fifties. Before then he had been in more than 30 Broadway productions dating back to 1902, in a wide variety of works, ranging from Shakespeare to Fitch and George M. Cohan. His last movie appearance was in 1948, and he died nine years later, a month shy of eighty-one.
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