Sunday, November 15, 2009

'Baby Face Morgan' makes crime funny

Baby Face Morgan (1942)
Starring: Richard Cromwell, Robert Armstrong, Mary Carlisle, and Chick Chandler
Director: Arthur Dreifuss
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

When Edward Morgan (Cromwell) is installed as president of his dead father's insurance company, he decides to offer "racketeer insurance" to the city's truckers. Little does he know that he's been installed as the head of a crime syndicate's legitimate front... and the money he's paying out to truck company's being extorted by the gangsters is the very money that is being extorted from them.

"Baby Face Morgan" is a dippy, far-fetched mob comedy. The humor is mostly derived from the way the mobsters and Edward continue to work at cross-purposes, and it's made all the more funny by the fact that the mastermind of the scheme (Armstrong) would have known Edward was handing the extortion money (and much more!) straight back to the truckers.

I kept expecting the film to go in a direction it didn't--I found myself wondering if Edward could get large policies at the drop of a hat, why didn't the mobsters just go into insurance--but the film never did go there.

It also never quite went as far in the screwball direction as I would have liked it to go. The film is full of great ideas that are not quite used to their fullest potential, due to a weak script and a cast of so-so actors.

Still, the film is short, fast-moving and never boring.

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