The great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906 was a tragedy for Mervyn Leroy. While he and his father managed to survive, they lost everything they had. To make money, Leroy sold newspapers and entered talent contests as a singer. When he enter vaudeville, his act was LeRoy and Cooper – Two Kids and a Piano. After the act broke up, he contacted his cousin, Jesse L. Lasky, and went to work in Hollywood. He worked in costumes, the film lab and as a camera assistant before becoming a comedy gag writer and part-time actor in silent films. His next step was as a director, and he turned out his first effort, No Place to Go (1927), before scoring his first unqualified hit with Harold Teen (1928). Earning $1,000 per week by the end of that year, he was nicknamed “The Boy Wonder” of Warners, where his pictures were profitable lightweights. His motto, to paraphrase Shakespeare, was “Good stories make good movies.” LeRoy rounded out the decade assigned to more lightweights, such as Naughty… read more
After William Wellman, I'd say Mervyn Leroy is the most underrated American director of all time. Although I'd say "I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang" is his masterpiece, this little film has an amazing, haunting rhythm to it. Although the third act is a bit weak, the first half is hypnotic. Funny and tragic all at once, and Preston Foster's performance is amazing.
Mervin LeRoy once again showing he was away head of everyone else with this prediction to what noir would become. We have fate pulling some pranks, the corrupted city, the stylized shots, the innuendo, the subtext and, of course, the fearless femme fatale. This is a wonderful composed piece that, although overacted, becomes an important piece of cinema history. Highly recommended.