The Law of Contact

Gang Bullets (November 10, 1938)

Gang Bullets

Released on November 10, 1938: "Big Bill" Anderson may be the smartest gangtster in the country, and no District Attorney is smart enough to get the goods on him . . . maybe.

Directed by Lambert Hillyer

The Actors: Anne Nagel (Patricia Wayne), Robert Kent (John Carter), Charles Trowbridge (Dexter Wayne), Morgan Wallace ('Big Bill' Anderson), J. Farrell MacDonald (Chief Reardon), John T. Murray (Horace Meade), Joseph Crehan (Wallace), Benny Bartlett (Billy Jones), John Merton (Red Hampton), Roger Williams (George Stanley), John Dilson (Captain Brown), Donald Kerr (Joe Armstrong), Frank Hall Crane (Mr. William Jones), Kernan Cripps (police stenographer), Edward Hearn (Detective Craig), Isabel La Mal (Mrs. Jones), William Lally (court clerk), Frank LaRue (Grand Jury foreman), Stanley Mack (Al), Tom McGuire (police officer Clancy), Frank Nelson (radio announcer), Jack O'Shea (henchman), Hal Price (dry cleaners owner), Cully Richards (comic), Jack C. Smith (bailiff), Harry Strang (Tom), William Worthington (the judge), Duke York (Collins), Carleton Young (Hank Newell).


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There are a couple of ways to describe this classic old fashioned gangsters vs the law movie . . . of course . . . with my old fart brain I chose the way that you might predict.

The movie starts with a quote from the only man so far who has been both U.S. President and Supreme Court Chief Justice . . . William Howard Taft. Taft, from Cincinnati, Ohio, entered the national spotlight when President William McKinley, born in Niles, Ohio, just about a mile from where I am writing this, appointed him Governor-General of the Philippines in 1904. Anyway, the quote from Taft seems to say that because of our constitution, outlaws are able to thumb their noses at the law - that pesky constitution stacks the deck in favor of the criminals and all of the honest citizens suffer because of it. So if you think that our constitution should be changed, ignored, or overhauled to give government and the law more powers against criminals, you might enjoy this one.

Then there is the gambling thing. Back in 1938 our smart gangster runs illegal gambling joints - roulette, poker, slot machines, numbers running - in 1938 all of this was a terrible evil, worthy of every law enforcement agent's attention to crush and destroy. As I write this, I am hoping that the Ohio Lottery ticket in my pocket might be a winner, and the television reports that the new Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland is breaking records and bringing in tons of money for the beleaguered city and state budgets. Is this a lesson in the thought that the best way to eliminate crime is to make it legal and then tax the beejeebers out of it? Could be . . .

I, on the other hand, tend to shy away from debates about which way our ship of state should veer, and just look at the genius (in my opinion) way that the authors have crafted this crime adventure. Since it is well within the time of the Hays Office, we know that it must end with the bad guys getting caught, and the good guys winning. But there is the rub . . . maybe some of the good guys are really bad guys, and maybe some of the bad guys are really good guys . . . who can tell? Ahh, I can tell . . . and will. As an old fart, I'm always 'up' for a movie that illustrates the vast superiority of old wisdom to indefatigable young enthusiasm. Sure, the younger, smarter generation always thinks that the old timers have lost it - they just can't handle the new world that the youngsters have created. I know that I sure felt this way when I was young. But my old pappy used to wisely tell me that the older I got, the smarter he would become. I didn't understand what he was talking about when I was young, but now I can see more clearly. He was always pretty smart, I just didn't realize it until I was much older. Sometimes old-timers know a thing or two about how the world works that can surprise the heck out of the youngsters. That's my take on this movie, and I'm sticking to it :~)

Anne Nagel and Charles Trowbridge
Anne Nagel on the witness stand with Charles Trowbridge asking her to tell the truth.
Anne Nagel and Robert Kent
Anne Nagel refuses to answer Robert Kent's questions that would incriminate her father.
Anne Nagel
Anne Nagel
Benny Bartlett and Isabel La Mal
Benny Bartlett and Isabel La Mal
Charles Trowbridge and Robert Kent
Charles Trowbridge and Robert Kent discuss ways to catch the gangsters
Charles Trowbridge
Charles Trowbridge, as District Attorney Dexter Wayne, considers keeping the envelope full of bribe money.
Donald Kerr
Donald Kerr, as one of the gangster's henchmen, decides to turn state's evidence and confess
Isabel La Mal and Benny Bartlett
Isabel La Mal and Benny Bartlett plead with the gangsters not to kill them
Morgan Wallac
Morgan Wallace, as gangster 'Big Bill' Anderson
Morgan Wallace
Anne Nagel pleads with Morgan Wallace to let her father out of his gang.
Morgan Wallace and John T. Murray
Morgan Wallace and John T. Murray
Morgan Wallace and John T. Murray
Morgan Wallace, as gangster 'Big Bill' Anderson, gets advice from his high-powered attorney, played by John T. Murray
Morgan Wallace
Morgan Wallace, as 'Big Bill' Anderson, gets grilled by the cops
Morgan Wallace
Morgan Wallace in "Gang Bullets"
Robert Kent and Anne Nagel
Robert Kent and Anne Nagel
Robert Kent
Robert Kent in 1938
William Worthington
William Worthington, as the judge in "Gang Bullets"