AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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Big City
Director: Frank Borzage (Dir)
Release Date:   3 Sep 1937
Production Date:   mid-Jun--28 Jul 1937
Duration (in mins):   75 or 80
Duration (in reels):   8
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Cast:   Luise Rainer (Anna Benton)  
    Spencer Tracy (Joe Benton)  
    Charley Grapewin (The mayor)  
    Janet Beecher (Sophie Sloan)  
    Eddie Quillan (Mike Edwards)  
    Victor Varconi (Paul Roya)  
    Oscar O'Shea (John C. Anderson)  
    Helen Troy (Lola Johnson)  
    William Demarest (Beecher)  
    John Arledge (Buddy)  
    Irving Bacon (Jim Sloane)  
    Guinn Williams (Danny Devlin)  
    Regis Toomey (Fred Hawkins)  
    Edgar Dearing (Tom Reilley)  
    Paul Harvey (District Attorney Gilbert)  
    Andrew J. Tombes (Inspector Matthews)  
    Clem Bevans (Grandpa Sloan)  
    Grace Ford (Mary Reilley)  
    Alice White (Peggy Devlin)  
    Jack Dempsey (Himself)  
    James J. Jeffries (Himself)  
    Jimmy McLarin (Himself)  
    Maxie Rosenbloom (Himself)  
    Jim Thorpe (Himself)  
    Frank Wykoff (Himself)  
    Jackie Fields (Himself)  
    Man Mountain Dean (Himself)  
    Gus Sonnenberg (Himself)  
    George Godfrey (Himself)  
    Joe Rivers (Himself)  
    Cotton Warburton (Himself)  
    Bull Montana (Himself)  
    Snowy Baker (Himself)  
    Taski Hagio (Himself)  
    Edward James Flanagan (Stanley, cab driver)  
    Russell Hopton (Buddy)  
    Ray Walker (Eddie Donogan)  
    Helen Brown (Nora)  
    Natalie Garson    
    Robert McKenzie (Frank Turner)  
    Joseph King (Jackson)  
    Dewey Robinson (Fuller)  
    Stanley Andrews (Detective Bennett)  
    Joseph Crehan (Curtis)  
    Edward Gargan (Dumb cop)  
    Eddie Gribbon (Dumb detective)  
    Mitchell Lewis (Detective Haley)  
    Alonzo Price (Detective Meyers)  
    Richard Tucker (Dr. Franklin)  
    George Skultesky (Priest)  
    Landers Stevens (Ship captain)  
    Herbert Ashley (First detective)  
    Eadie Adams (Eddie's wife)  
    Matt McHugh (Cab driver)  
    Harry Woods (Miller)  
    Paul Fix (Night watchman)  
    Jules Cowles (Janitor)  
    Mahlon Hamilton (Doorman)  
    Dick Rush (Doorman)  
    Ralph Bushman (Doorman)  
    Will Stanton (Drunk)  
    Dick Rich (Comet cab driver)  
    Jack Pennick (Comet cab driver)  
    Robert O'Connor (Comet cab driver)  
    Robert Brister (Comet cab driver)  
    James Flavin (Comet cab driver)  
    Frank S. Hagney (Comet cab driver)  
    Lew Harvey (Comet cab driver)  
    Orville Caldwell (Comet cab driver)  
    Paul Newlan (Comet cab driver)  
    Sam Ash (Man who gets punched)  
    Maine Geary (Independent cab driver)  
    Jack Dougherty (Started)  
    Barbara Bedford (Screaming woman)  
    Jack Daley (Mounted policeman)  
    Gladden James (Mayor's secretary)  
    Ruth Hussey (Mayor's secretary)  
    Lowden Adams (Butler)  
    Eric Wilton (Butler)  
    Lee Phelps (Adams, immigration officer)  
    Frank Dufrane (Purser)  
    Charles McMurphy (Heller)  
    Leigh DeLacy (Landlady)  
    Lester Dorr (Petty officer)  
    Nick Thompson (Counter man)  
    Harry Semels (Counter man)  
    Matty Roubert (Newsboy)  
    Tom Dugan (Policeman)  
    Larry Wheat (Minor official)  
    Jack C. Grey (Detective)  
    Jack Hutchinson (Clerk)  
    Lillian Nicholson (Immigrant)  
    Lillian Worth (Immigrant)  
    George Chandler (Mr. Briggs)  
    Don Sugai Matsuda (Athlete)  
    Neal Glisby (Athlete)  
    Monya Andre    
    Abdullah Abbas    

Summary: New York cabbie Joe Benton and his Russian-born wife Anna have a loving marriage, despite their constant teasing. Joe and Anna's brother, Paul Roya, are both independent cab drivers who are at odds with the large Comet Cab Company. After Paul is beaten up by some Comet cabbies, he decides to be a "double agent" and infiltrate the company. Beecher, a labor agitator, is hired by Comet to foment trouble among the independents and secretly works with Buddy, a friend of Joe and Paul's. On the night of Anna's birthday, Anna, who is pregnant, asks Buddy to take a raincoat to Paul, who is working late. When Buddy turns up at the garage, Beecher is angry with him for being there, then takes the box with the raincoat from him. Meanwhile, the night watchman finds a bomb in the garage and, seeing Paul there, thinks that he is the bomber. He then shoots and kills Paul just before the bomb goes off, terrifying Buddy, who did not know that he would be involved in serious violence. At the inquest, Beecher accuses Anna of transporting the bomb to Paul in the box with the raincoat. Though District Attorney Gilbert does not believe that Anna is involved in the bombing, he feels that Beecher will use the incident to his political advantage, and so decides that Anna should be deported. At Paul's funeral, government men try to take her away, but she escapes, aided by her friends. Because they do not want her to be deported, all of her friends decide to take turns hiding her from the authorities. After some time, the district attorney, supported by the mayor, decides to offer amnesty to cabbies if they voluntarily turn Anna in. No one takes advantage of the offer, but soon detectives follow Joe to the home of Jim and Sophie Sloan, who are currently hiding Anna. Though the detectives only find Grandpa Sloan in the house, they know that Anna has been there, and the district attorney decides that he will arrest all of the cabbies for the bombing. Anna cannot stand to think of her friends suffering to protect her, so she calls the mayor to see if his amnesty offer is still available. When he says yes, she tells him where she is staying and waits for the authorities. At the boat that will take her back to Europe, Joe comes to visit Anna and promises to meet her there, but she tells him that she wants him to stay in America. When he leaves, he and his friend, Mike Edwards, find Buddy and discover that he is being paid to keep quiet about the bombing. They then force him to come with them while they look for the mayor and the district attorney. They track the mayor down at Jack Dempsey's restaurant, where he and the district attorney are attending a banquet with a number of famous athletes. After Joe and Mike force Buddy to confess in front of the dignitaries, Joe pleads with the mayor to do something quickly to save Anna. Everyone at the banquet then rushes to the pier, where they arrive just before the boat is about to sail. As Anna is being taken away from the boat, she says that she is about to give birth and an ambulance is summoned. While she is giving birth, the Comet cabbies decide to teach the independent cabbies a lesson, and a fight breaks out in which the mayor, Dempsey and other athletes join Joe in teaching the Comet cabbies a lesson. A few days later, when Joe and Anna christen their baby, he is given dozens of names to honor all of their friends. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Production Text: A Frank Borzage Production
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Frank Borzage (Dir)
  George B. Seitz (Jack Dempsey seq dir)
  Lew Borzage (Asst dir)
Producer: Norman Krasna (Prod)
Writer: Dore Schary (Scr)
  Hugo Butler (Scr)
  Norman Krasna (Orig story)
Photography: Joseph Ruttenberg (Photog)
  Clyde De Vinna (Jack Demspey seq photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Stan Rogers (Art dir assoc)
  Edwin B. Willis (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: Fredrick Y. Smith (Film ed)
Costumes: Dolly Tree (Ward)
Music: Dr. William Axt (Mus score)
  Leon Stewart (Vocal coach for Russian chorus)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Production Misc: Jay Marchand (Prod mgr)
Country: United States

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. 27/8/1937 dd/mm/yyyy LP7387 Yes

PCA NO: 3613
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Drama
 
Subjects (Major): Deportation
  Immigrants
  Marriage
  New York City
  Russian Americans
  Taxicab drivers
 
Subjects (Minor): Athletes
  Banquets
  Birthdays
  Brothers and sisters
  Childbirth
  Confession (Law)
  Detectives
  District attorneys
  Escapes
  Fistfights
  Funerals
  Impersonation and imposture
  Inquests
  Labor agitators
  Mayors
  Rescues
  Steamboats

Note: According to a news item in HR , the "Jack Dempsey Sequence," was filmed by Clyde De Vinna in New York, under George Seitz's direction. The sequence featured many popular sports figures of the day portraying themselves. Jack Dempsey's restaurant was a popular New York restaurant in the 1930s. This was the first film of actress Ruth Hussey (1911--2005), who was listed in the CBCS, as one of the mayor's secretaries, under the name Ruth March. Hussey, who received her first onscreen credit in Madame X , released on 1 Oct 1937 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ), was never billed onscreen as anything other than Ruth Hussey.  

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   25 Aug 37   p. 3.
Film Daily   17 Jun 37   p. 7.
Film Daily   30 Aug 37   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Jun 37   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Jun 37   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Aug 37   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   26 Aug 37   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald   14 Aug 37   p. 33.
Motion Picture Herald   4 Sep 37   p. 40, 43
New York Times   17 Sep 37   p. 29.
Variety   15 Sep 37   p. 13.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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