Parachute Jumper (1933) Poster

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every minute entertaining
ecaulfield20 May 2001
Parachute Jumper is a prime example of the energetic, quick-witted fare Warner Brothers was known for in the early 30's. This film showcases all three players: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., a blonde, southern-accented Bette Davis, and Frank McHugh, but it really spotlights Fairbanks's suave and humorous side. Struggling through the depression in New York City is softened by the three characters' warm and jovial relationship with each other. They handle almost any situation with their one-liners and loyalty. Plenty of double entendres are targeted at love and authority. Fairbanks, Jr. especially handles his role with breezy panache. He deserved more material like this. I'll be watching this lighthearted film with intelligent dialogue and human characters again.
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great script and an astounding stunt; B-movie gem
Sleepy-1715 May 2003
I agree with the other reviewer, but there's more to this movie than Doug Fairbanks. John Francis Larkin's script shines with realistic characters and great one-liners. When Fairbanks approaches the destitute, sleeping Bette Davis on the couch in his flat in the middle of the night for sex, she wakes and screams angrily "I might have known this would happen" in defense of her chastity.

For an inexpensive movie, the stunts are great: the airwork is astounding, even though there's a cheating cut-away to work around the sheer impossibility of jumping between two extremely unstable biplanes. Then later there's an amazing shot of a parachuter on the train tracks that's a real stunner.

Sure the story's routine, but Frank McHugh's voice when he sings an old Irish ballad is authentic and comely. Leo Carillo (Hey Pancho! Hey Cisco!) plays the head gangster with style, and Davis is wonderful as always. This is definitely one of director Alfred Green's best efforts and well worth your time.
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Depression Makes Gangsters
Maleejandra20 August 2006
This pre-code movie stars Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Bette Davis as two victims of the Depression. It starts out with Bill (Fairbanks) and Toodles (Frank McHugh) being thrown out of the military for gallivanting with women when they should have been reporting back to a base. It is the wrong time to be discharged though; it is very hard to find work even as ex-pilots. Bill meets up with a beautiful stenographer named Patricia (Bette Davis) and the group teams up to find work and take care of each other. Slowly, they get involved in seedier and seedier jobs as their stomachs rumble and find themselves entangled in a dope ring.

A clip from this film was used in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? to show off "Jane's" bad acting, but Davis does well in this movie. She's great at delivering snappy lines and proving that you don't have to be dumb to be beautiful. Fairbanks is the same way, nice to look at but good to listen to as well. McHugh adds flair to the film with his distinct personality which makes him perfect for the best friend part.

This film is fast paced and enjoyable, perfect for a slow day.
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There's not that much parachute jumping...
AlsExGal15 November 2015
... but there is just about every precode device under the sun included. Bill Keller (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) and Toodles Cooper (Frank McHugh) are Marine pilots in Nicaragua, and when they are finished with one particular mission get drunk, go AWOL, and soon thereafter their term of service ends. It's not explained how they managed the assumed honorable discharges, but then I don't know what the U.S. was doing in Nicaragua in 1933 either. They then answer an ad for pilots in the paper, only to find that the company has gone bust. They can't find jobs of any type anywhere. They do have a roof over their head for now, but sitting on a park bench they meet Alabama (Bette Davis) a homeless and hungry out of work stenographer. Bill asks Alabama to share their quarters with them, strictly on the up and up. She can tidy up the place in return for a place to stay.

Here is where one of the big myths of this film come in. I've heard and even read people say that Alabama and Bill are sleeping in the same bed, with his feet where her head is and vice versa. Not even in the precode era could they get away with that. It is Toodles and Bill who are sleeping in that position in the same bed. Alabama is on the couch.

In their quest for survival Bill does do one stunt wing-walking parachute jump, lands on the train tracks and almost gets hit by a train. The trio also encounter a gun moll (Claire Dodd) who passes herself off as Park Avenue high society with a taste for good looking chauffeurs (Bill) and in a case of unfortunate timing, the jealous gangster behind the moll. He catches his girl and Bill in an embrace. Instead of killing him, which the gangster intended to do, he winds up hiring Bill as a bodyguard and to do some rum running across the Canadian border.

The film is basically about how the little people survived the Depression with a bunch of gangsters and thrills thrown in for good measure. Don't really look for a big dose of Bette Davis in this one, this is mainly Fairbanks' film.

When first hired by the gangster, Bill is asked if he is afraid of the law. Bill replies "The law we all laugh at?". Bill, like many hungry people laugh at the law that does not protect them from starving in the 30's, and he doesn't mind running liquor or using a gun to protect the gangster, but he differentiates between that and narcotics (he thought it was liquor he was running) and setting up people to be shot down execution style with it being made to look like self defense. In other words, Bill finds that the law is one thing, but his own conscience is quite another.

When the gangster decides to set Bill up to take a fall for his syndicate, will Bill find a way out? If so how? Watch and find out.

Nothing really special happens in this film, it is just more fun unique entertainment Depression era style in a way that only Warner Brothers managed to be able to do it. It also showcased three people whose circumstances Depression audiences could relate to, if not their rather thrilling adventures. The idea is that Alabama, Bill, and Toodles may be down, but they are not out.
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depression film
blanche-215 August 2013
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Frank McHugh, and Bette Davis star in "Parachute Jumper," a 1933 film.

Fairbanks and McHugh are two ex-Marines who can't find work. It's the Depression, after all. Fairbanks meets a blond named Alabama (Davis) who is way down on her luck, and, after they share lunch, she agrees to move in with Fairbanks and McHugh on a platonic basis.

Fairbanks first works as a parachute jumper, then a chauffeur for a randy woman who likes her chauffeurs buff; through her, he meets a smuggler (Duncan Reynaldo) and winds up transporting illegal goods.

Okay movie, enlivened by the three leads. It's fun to see Bette Davis so young, as a petite and pretty ingénue. Warners would wonder what to do with her for a few more years.
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Man of All Trades
movingpicturegal22 May 2006
About two ex-Marine pilots, Bill and Toodles (Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Frank McHugh), who move into a small apartment together in New York City but can't seem to find work. Bill soon meets up with a blonde in the park by the name of "Alabama" (Bette Davis), and, believe it or not, she agrees to move in with him after one lunch out together where they bond as they steal a bottle of ketchup and sundries from the café, and then steal a fish from a cat. Bill and Toodles end up sleeping head to foot in the same bed, while Alabama settles in on the couch. Bill soon starts earning dough for the trio, first by making a $75 parachute jump (right above the railroad tracks!), then becoming chauffeur for a wealthy blonde who picks her chauffeur by his physique rather than driving ability, and then he ends up as bodyguard/lackey for a mobster who "imports" booze and dope from Canada.

This film is pretty so-so, it sorts of switches gear from one thing to the next and just doesn't really seem to know what direction it wants to go in - just when you think the story is going one way, that ends, and on to something else. Even the title "Parachute Jumper" seems a bit odd, considering the parachute jumping is not the main focus of this film. Bette Davis is very cute in this, with platinum blonde hair and sassy Southern accent, she's very fun to watch and saves the film from being a complete bomb. Doug Fairbanks Jr. is just sort of bland throughout.
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jbacks3-16 April 2004
This little pre-code gem packs a ton of elements (part Hell's Angels, part Public Enemy) into one nifty little movie. Bette Davis (who no one can disagree with, aged badly after she hit 30) looks absolutely hot here in her platinum blonde days. Doug Jr. plays an adequate lead, although his shoes could've been filled by almost anyone (Chester Morris or Dick Powell leaps to mind). What I liked most was Warner's being unafraid to make the Depression itself a co-star (unlike other studios like RKO and Paramount that glossed over the effects of current events). Practically all the fun here would be killed off by the Production Code within 18 minths... lots of sexual references, Doug has some very non-PC cracks (one to a homosexual male secretary in the closing moments) along with the dope smuggling angle. Look for Walter (I was born looking like I was 70) Brennan gumming his way through an uncredited part as a greasy spoon cook. If you're looking for a crackerjack example of a pre-code programmer, look no further than PARACHUTE JUMPER.
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Doug Jr. Runs Drugs
Bucs196019 May 2006
Well, here is another of those quickies that the studio forced upon Bette Davis although this one is not quite as bad as some of her other efforts during this time (Fog Over Frisco, The Big Shakedown).

This time she is paired with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and they are a rather attractive couple.....but as usual Bette does not have much to do here except use a phony Southern accent and sport that platinum hair. The story concerns two flyers (Doug Jr. and Frank McHugh) who go to work for gangster Leo Carillo (before his days as Pancho, sidekick to the Cisco Kid) and get involved with running drugs. The story and dialogue are surprisingly modern as are the living arrangement of the three main characters. But the film still comes across as one of those throw-aways that were on the lower half of the double bill at the local Bijou. Bette deserved better than this. It's worth watching just for the ambiance of the early '30s and the rather honest appraisal of the Depression and its effects.
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Fast and Fun Pre-Code with a Middle Finger
Michael_Elliott15 December 2013
Parachute Jumper (1933)

*** (out of 4)

Fun pre-code from Vitaphone about pilot/friends Bill (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) and Toodles (Frank McHugh) who finds work hard to come by once they're back in the real world. They take in a woman (Bette Davis) also in a bad situation but all three eventually find work for a businessman who just happens to be bringing illegal alcohol into the States via planes. PARACHUTE JUMPER is everything you'd want from a "B" movie of this era. It features some laughs, some romance and some great action scenes. It contains a wonderful cast. It also has some amazing stunt work that can only be found in films of this era. Best of all are some pre-code moments including the highlight of the film when McHugh is trying to hitchhike by the guy doesn't stop so McHugh just stands there giving him the middle finger!!! This is certainly a film that classic movie fans are going to love for all of these reasons. It runs a very fast-paced 71-minutes and there's really no downtime to be found because everything is just happening so fast. Fairbanks, Jr. and McHugh are both in fine form delivering the type of performances that you'd expect. Davis also gets to play a sweet Southern lady but also brings out some fire at times. The supporting players include a nice, sexy role for Claire Dodd and Leo Carrillo plays the gangster. Some of the best moments happen early on during some very dangerous stunt work where a man has to climb on the wing of one plane and then walk onto the wings of another. Even today these scenes make you hold your breathe. PARACHUTE JUMPER has pretty much been forgotten over the years but fans of the "Golden Age" pre-code should enjoy it.
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Lightweight Pre-Code Fun
jimjo121628 August 2013
PARACHUTE JUMPER (1933), famously singled out by Bette Davis as one of the awful films she was required to make in the early years of her Warner Bros. contract, certainly isn't anything substantial. But it's a surprisingly fun Pre-Code flick.

The movie is carried by its three stars: Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Bette Davis, and Frank McHugh. Fairbanks in particular gives a winning, charismatic performance. Fairbanks and McHugh play a couple of ex-airmen who are desperate for work during the Great Depression. They're so broke that they take turns wearing one suit of clothes.

Fairbanks hops around from job to job, from aerial stuntman one day to chauffeur the next, ultimately getting mixed up with rum-running gangsters. (This is a Warner Bros. film, after all.) McHugh has less luck finding employment. Davis, playing an out-of-work stenographer called "Alabama", uses a Southern accent throughout. (Why not?) Fairbanks invites Davis to share the apartment he's got with McHugh, and the three become one little happy family, cheering each other on and scraping around to put food in their stomachs.

Fairbanks and McHugh play off each other well as the two buddies. Miss Davis is young and blonde and sweet and pretty, and fits in nicely with the boys. Her great acting triumphs were still to come, but she's always a pleasure to watch (even in films she despised).

There are a few Pre-Code touches that stand out to the trained observer. Firstly, the sound of a toilet flushing (before Hollywood was forced to ignore the very existence of toilets). There are also a couple of rather amusing (if homophobic) scenes where Fairbanks and McHugh joke around in "sissy" voices. And when a car passes by when Frank McHugh is thumbing for a ride, he gives the driver an entirely different hand gesture.

As far as 70-minute Pre-Code films go, PARACHUTE JUMPER is rather enjoyable. The story isn't very deep, but it's not exactly something you've seen before. Fairbanks, McHugh, and Davis seem to have a good time. There's biplanes and booze, gangsters and guns, good girls and shady dames, romance and wisecracks, and even some parachute jumping. The movie's got just about everything, and it's all rather fast-paced and light-hearted. A good time.
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nycritic18 May 2006
There's not much to say about this little known movie except what's been said before: Bette Davis, when not treated like one of the guys, was given the ingenue roles she came to detest with a passion because they gave her little to do but look pretty, enunciate her lines, and do no more. As "Alabama", there is nothing she can do here but play second fiddle to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as he soars into the skies and smuggles drugs. Of their acquaintance, Fairbanks is reported to have tweaked Davis in a private area -- her chest -- and told her to ice them so they could be erect as his (then) wife Joan Crawford. Whether this happened before or during the filming of this movie I can't say, but it had to have sparked some dissatisfaction within the insecure Davis who already envied the glamour within Crawford, and it's a double irony that in later years this would be one of the clips used to describe just how bad Davis character Baby Jane had been when out-growing her cnild-star status. In any case, PARACHUTE JUMPER is just another bad Warner Bros. movie, short, to the point, with by-the-number performances and a vague HELLS ANGELS' feel.
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Not Much Parachute Jumping In This Movie....
journeygal10 November 2019
Three people down on their luck help each other out during the throes of the Depression. Bill Keller and Toodles Cooper are in the Army, stationed in Nicaragua. Their plane is shot own and they are presumed dead... then they are found very much alive and drunk in a cantina. This gets them kicked out of the military and back on the mean streets of New York. Bill meets pretty Patricia "Alabama" Brent. Bette's fake accent wavers in and out through the entire movie, which is annoying. Bill invites her to stay on the sofa in the little flat he and Toodles have rented. He takes a few various jobs here an there--including one parachute jump, which is how the movie got its name, I suppose.... Bill is anxious to take a job, any job to keep a roof over their heads, so he hires on as a bodyguard to gangster Leo Carillo. Toodles unknowingly flies drug runs to and from Canada for Carillo and Alabama is hired on as the thug's secretary. None of them are quite aware of how far reaching their boss's criminal activities are, until it is almost too late.
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Flying in the depression
TheLittleSongbird1 May 2019
Love Bette Davis, and 'Parachute Jumper' is another film where she was my main reason for seeing it in the first place with no prior knowledge of it before. My recommended for you section and wanting to see all of her films and performances (up to this point had seen most but not all) are to thank for that. Liked the idea of the story and was interested too in seeing how Davis and the always watchable Douglas Fairbanks Jr would fare working together.

They fare very well together indeed, and 'Parachute Jumper' is a very enjoyable and well done film. It's an early Davis film and role and although she did go on to better things this is a long way from being a waste of her massive amount of talent. Fairbanks is similarly well served, if not at his best. 'Parachute Jumper' may have been made quickly and not on the highest of budgets, but manages to have more enjoyment and entertainment value than some expensively made productions, old and now.

Sure 'Parachute Jumper' is not perfect. The story can be messy at times and tries to do too much, shifting uneasily between them quickly which gave a jumpy feel.

Wouldn't have said no to Davis having more to do. Occasionally the camera lacks finesse but that is more forgivable.

However, 'Parachute Jumper' really doesn't look too bad for a quickie, some have looked much worse. Some nice shots here that clearly had a ball capturing the stunts and airwork. No wonder as the stunts and airwork are never less than astounding and the best of them jaw dropping. Alfred Green does a very nice job directing, keeping things moving and allowing the cast to have fun, which they do.

'Parachute Jumper's' script is one of its major assets, its sparkling wit is just infectious and some of it is surprisingly daring, being made before the code was enforced (likewise with censorship), meaning more flexibility and risks. The film moves at a fast clip, and well as the great chemistry of the cast it's its boldly honest look at the Depression, no sugar-coating here, and the pre-code material. Fairbanks and Davis are immensely charming and look as if they were having fun, Davis also is at her most adorable. Fairbanks and an amusing Frank McHugh work well too.

All in all, very enjoyable. 7/10
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Pre-code Depression Story touches on desperate victims.
st-shot1 January 2014
Army flyboys Bill Keller (Doug Fairbanks Jr.) and Toodles Cooper (Frank McHugh) ditch their plane in Central America and party until they are rescued and drummed out of the service. Keller meets "Alabama" ( Bette Davis ) a girl in similar straits in the park and she agrees to move in with them. Keller finds work as a chauffeur but quits for a bigger payday as a mobster flunkie. Domestic problems ensue however when the now romantically linked Alabama goes to work for his gangster boss.

As much a comedy as melodrama this poverty row quickie doesn't shy away from the desperate times they live in as it follows three out of work victims of the depression into harms way. Keller is objectified and dehumanized by a well heeled society dame while Alabama is not averse to emphasizing her charm to get work. The boys are soon flying again but this time moving liquor, drugs and shooting down revenue agent's planes.

With the liberties offered by pre-code standards, underrated director Al Green as he does so well in Baby Face and Side Streets provides some provocative compositions not only to spice up Jumper but also to define character and times. Not as controversial or as well structured as either of the above mentioned but a nifty enough curiosity piece of the times.
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Thrilling, extremely fast-paced drama!
JohnHowardReid22 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Associate producer: Raymond Griffith. Executive producer: Daryl F. Zanuck.

Copyright 14 January 1933 by Warner Bros Pictures, Inc. New York opening at the Strand: 25 January 1933. U.S. release: 27 January 1933. Australian release: June 1933. 8 reels. 73 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: Two unemployed pilots, Bill Kellett and Toodles (Fairbanks and McHugh), are looking for work. Bill lands a job as chauffeur for a racketeer's moll (Claire Dodd), who makes up to him. The mobster (Leo Carillo) catches them in an embrace but, impressed by Bill's coolness under fire, hires him as a bodyguard.

COMMENT: Bette Davis absolutely loathed this movie. That fact alone should be enough to recommend it to connoisseurs. Those of us who know Bette are well aware that the films she hates are confined to those in which she thinks her part was not big enough or important enough. That's certainly true enough in this case. Although billed third, after the junior Fairbanks and camera-hogging comic, Frank McHugh, Miss Davis actually comes in at number five so far as the plot is concerned.

But never mind Bette. Parachute Jumper more than fills the entertainment bill as a thrilling, extremely fast-paced drama with excellent stunt-work.

Leo Carillo gives one of his finest performances as a double-crossing racketeer, whilst Claire Dodd provides an equally superb study of her rich nymphomaniac. Frank McHugh has most of the witty dialogue and makes the best of it.

Breezily directed by Alfred E. Green, also at his best.
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A Pre-Code Lite Delight
LeonLouisRicci6 September 2014
Above Average Romp that is a Light-Hearted bit of Fun with Three Charming Stars. So Bette Davis Hated this Movie. So What? It was kind of Condescending of Davis to Put Down Films like this, which were Actually Entertaining for the Most Part. Sure She Wanted Better Roles but to Trash these Types that Gave Her a Damn Good Depression Era Paycheck is Beneath Her.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is Fine with the Kind of Role He Often Played, a Handsome, Fearless, Daring Do Type with a Winning Personality Always Ready for Romance, Fisticuffs, and Some Satirical One-Liners. Frank Macaue is the Comedy Relief.

This is a Fast Paced Good Time with Many Pre-Code Flourishes Like, Homosexual Parodies, Drug Smuggling, and Obscene Hand Gestures. It is a Combination of Depression Era Commentary (so hungry, they steal a fish from an alley cat), Somewhat Racy (the scene where Fairbanks is hired by a Dame because He's a hunk), and Gangster Gunplay that is Exciting.

Overall, Underrated and Looked Down Upon as Fans Fall in Line Behind Davis Kowtowing to Her Every Whim, the Movie is a Pre-Code Lite Delight.
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Doug Hits The Silk
bkoganbing3 July 2007
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Frank McHugh are a pair of newly discharged Marine fliers who can't find work in Depression era New York. Fairbanks meets similarly situated Bette Davis and the three of them move in together for economy sake only.

In the meantime Doug gets a job as a chauffeur to Claire Dodd, moll to gangster Leo Carrillo. Carrillo takes a liking to Doug when he catches him with Dodd and Fairbanks shows some coolness under fire. He starts Doug working for him now in his business.

This looks like a film again meant for James Cagney with possibly Edward G. Robinson as the gangster. Still Fairbanks does carry off the part.

Bette Davis hated this film with good reason. She's in a part that either Glenda Farrell or Joan Blondell would normally be doing. She affects a nice southern drawl as befits her character of Alabama. I guess it was a learning experience because she put away the drawl and brought it out again for greater effectiveness in Jezebel.

Even with such good players, the film is definitely one of Warner Brothers B products and does kind of fray around the edges.
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Watch Frank McHugh give someone the finger!
MartinHafer25 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I thought the above statement would get your attention! This is one of the most obviously pre-Code films made, as the characters in the movie are at times pretty amoral and Frank McHugh actually gives a guy the middle finger when the guy refuses to stop and give him a lift--the thumb becomes a middle finger and I nearly had a heart attack when I saw it! This is a pretty entertaining but extremely forgettable film (aside from the single-digit salute). It involves poor Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Frank McHugh and Bette Davis all looking for work and eventually having to work for evil mobster Carillo because they are so desperate. The plot is very silly at times and full of action and violence--entertaining but not especially cerebral. The drug smuggling, violent murders, anti-homosexual remarks and all the other non-Hays Code material will keep your interest.

Once again, Bette Davis' role is awfully insignificant--and it was thanks to forgettable roles like this that Davis, unsuccessfully, tried to eventually break her contract with Warner Brothers.

Decent and only worth seeing for the earliest middle finger salute I've ever seen on film. Also, despite the title, there's very few scenes that are related to parachuting.
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Typical Warner Brothers programmer that Bette Davis singled out as to why she began her fight with Jack Warner.
mark.waltz25 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Bad scripts, bad directors, bad stories. Bad, bad, bad. That's what Bette Davis fought against in 1937 when she had too much of these B films that she knew were unworthy of her talents. In 1962, Warner Brothers allowed a clip of this to be inserted into "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?", taking Davis's character out of context in a way of showing how much an actress Jane Hudson was not in her film "that never even got released in the United States". In all fairness, Davis is not playing a role any differently than the types that Joan Blondell, Glenda Farrell or Alice White were playing in the rushed out programmers at the time, but I can see how she got frustrated, wanting the more prestigious films that were going to either Ruth Chatterton or Kay Francis when they were rivals for "Queen of the Lot" before Bette rose after winning her first Oscar to take over that title.

The top billed star is Douglas Fairbanks Jr., playing a pilot who ends up working for mobster Leo Carrillo after briefly working as a chauffeur for Carrillo's flirtatious mistress (Claire Dodd) who simply disappears out of this film after unsuccessfully trying to seduce Fairbanks. The film is set up as a bit of a light comedy with Fairbanks and his pal Frank McHugh taking in the destitute Bette Davis as a roommate, pretty bold even in the era of pre-code, because the insinuations of sexual tension between Davis and Fairbanks becomes obvious. The innuendos of the sexually free Dodd make the jealous Davis certain that hanky panky is going on. When Carrillo comes across Dodd and Fairbanks together, he quickly loses his temper but recovers when he sees how Dodd was using him, but finds usage for Fairbanks in smuggling dope by air, something that Fairbanks is completely unaware of, although he becomes suspicious of his boss's intentions when Davis is hired as a stenographer in his office.

While amusing in spots, this is still weak as far as story and writing go, and Davis's southern accent is not as convincing as it was in the previous year's "Cabin in the Cotton". Dodd, in her few scenes, makes the most of her character, pretty much playing the same type of role that Davis had in that film. But it is Fairbanks and Carrillo who get the best moments, overcoming the shallowness of the script, and instilling some heat, especially when a hit on one of Carrillo's enemies is set up to look like self defense. So I wouldn't call this the disaster of Davis's early career as she would claim it to be, but it would still be a few years before Warner Brothers would have confidence in her gifts to give her the types of roles she truly deserved.
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