Monday, January 12, 2009
Directed by: Lewis Milestone
Starring: Thomas Meighan and Louis Wolheim
Plot: A battle of wits between a police captain and a mob boss in the backdrop of a corrupt city.
Thoughts: We have all seen the stereotypes of gangster movies: fedoras, pinstripe suits, square jaws, etc. These were all a product of the 1920s when national alcohol prohibition became responsible for the rise in organized crime. Despite the headlines, theatrical films on the subject weren't very common. When this film was released, it was barred from Chicago theaters due to the city's prominence as the center of the mob.
Lewis Milestone made an interesting film here, which was based on the 1927 play. The acting lent itself more to a talking film than a silent. Speaking of talking, there was much more dialogue here than in any of the silent films I've viewed thus far (on title cards of course). The Racket's strength was its good use of editing to move the story along without making it feel rushed.
Probably the prototypical film of the gangster genre that would go on to be very popular in the 1930s, The Racket was believed lost for a long time. However, a search through the vaults of Howard Hughes produced a single print, believed to be complete (given the late Mr. Hughes' obsessive nature, it's a pretty safe bet the print is complete). The film was restored in 2004 by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas using the best resources available to them at the time. Turner Classic Movies airs it every once in a while, but it has yet to be made available to the masses on any medium. The Racket was remade in 1951 and starred Robert Mitchum as the stalwart police captain McQueeg.
The Racket received a sole nomination, that for Best Production (which would become the Best Motion Picture award the following year). It and Seventh Heaven lost to Wings that year.