The Whole Town’s Talking (1935)

The Whole Town’s Talking (1935) 

Run time: 1h 33min | Comedy, Crime, Drama
Director: John Ford
Writers: Jo Swerling, Robert Riskin, W.R. Burnett
Stars: Edward G. Robinson, Jean Arthur
Storyline
This is a surprising little film with Edward G. Robinson playing dual roles as a timid bank clerk who is mistaken for a notorious and vicious gangster. Robinson handles both roles brilliantly, and John Ford’s nuanced direction balances the darker aspects of the story with many humourous moments. Jean Arthur plays the love interest in this rarely seen masterpiece from the middle of Ford’s long Hollywood career.

4 Comments

  1. IMDBReviewer

    May 18, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    Edward G. Robinson has been stereotyped to the nth degree as

    THE "gangster" (even in Bugs Bunny cartoons!), so it’s quite a surprise to see him in the role of a mild, meek clerk (who just happens to be a dead ringer for a gangster!).

    The split-screen scenes (where he plays both parts) are excellent & "seamless", and the comedy is heightened by the utterly ridiculous lengths the police go to to catch the gangster!

    In one scene, he (as the clerk) is eating lunch in a restaurant, is "spotted" as being the gangster, and within a matter of MINUTES the restaurant is surrounded by HUNDREDS of policeman, riot squads, & machine guns — all to get the (wrong!) person!

    A refreshing comedy; you’ve got to see this film, if only for Robinson’s acting!

  2. IMDBReviewer

    May 18, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    I saw this movie a long time ago as a teenager during a Edward G. Robinson retrospective. It was the one that stuck in my mind, and I never forgot it. Now I have it on videotape and watch it regularly, it stands multiple viewing very well.

    The Whole Town’s Talking is one of those perfect little movies. Everything falls into place – the acting, the pace, the timing of the jokes, the dialog. Even the set design is fabulous, it was basically the big, bright office space in which the good guy Robinson plays „slaves" that was unforgettable to me. The movie boasts an assortment of caricature like characters like no other movie I know, beside Robinson I would like to mention Jean Arthur, of course, and the two funny little guys, Donald Meek and, even more memorable, Etienne Girardot as the pedantic office overseer who urges Robinson to get on with the Macintyre account.

    In its social comment The Whole Town’s Talking reminds me of the work of Preston Sturgess. Mentionable are the media hype about a famous gangster which is really over the top (it’s up there with His Girl Friday in this aspect) and the incompetence of the police force which is unable to deal with the gangster and even less with the media and is presented as a helpless and clueless organization. So the movie still has some actuality.

    Movie buffs who look at John Ford as an „auteur" may be disappointed. The Whole Town’s Talking is very much a product of the studio system. But it amply shows what great things that system was able to accomplish at times!

  3. IMDBReviewer

    May 18, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    This is an atypical and impersonal Ford film. Given the studio (Columbia Pictures) and the screenwriter (Robert Riskin), this is an ideal stuff for Frank Capra. But it remains without a doubt one of the most enjoyable and pleasurable comedies ever made. It features graceful dynamism and vibrancy that are rare in the Ford oeuvre. It is also one of his fastest movies. It contains what it is probably one of the finest Edward G. Robinson performances I have seen. He is outstanding in the dual role of a mild, working class office clerk Arthur Ferguson Jones who is mistaken for a ruthless mobster Mannion (the role he perfected in "Little Caesar"). And then there is the lovely Jean Arthur as Robinson’s coolly self-reliant co-worker, who starts by pitying him and then encourages him, and ultimately falls in love with him. She and Robinson are superb together. It is nowhere near her splendid presence in Mitchell Leisen’s "Easy Living" and Frank Borzage’s "History Is Made at Night", but this was the sort of role Arthur was to make of her own.

    A must-see!

  4. Anonymous

    May 18, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    John Ford directs a screwball comedy?? He does and quite well I may say. This is a story of a meek mild manner clerk named Ferguson(Robinson) who always gets stepped on and used. One day he is mistaken for "Killer Mannion". Mannion is a mean ruthless gangster who cares for no one. Ferguson is a sweet kind man who cares for beautiful Wilhelmina(played by Jean Arthur). Thanks to a police screwup, Mannion knows about Ferguson and is out to use him.

    The script is cute and funny. It’s also good in setting up the situation and the development of characters. It is not one of the best comedy ever made, but it is still very entertaining. The cast is first rate. Edward G does a terrific job at playing both the good AND the bad guy. Jean Arthur is funny as Eddie’s wise cracking co-worker(check her out playing the "gangster moll"!) The other supporting characters are good too. The special effects showing both Robinsons on screen is quite good for it being 1935.

    If you get a chance to see it, please do. It is a very cute film.

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