AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Vice Squad
Director: John Cromwell (Dir)
Release Date:   30 May 1931
Duration (in mins):   70 or 78
Duration (in feet):   6,308
Duration (in reels):   8
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Cast:   Paul Lukas (Major Stephen Lucarno)  
    Kay Francis (Alice Morrison)  
    Helen Johnson (Madeleine Hunt)  
    William B. Davidson (Magistrate Morrison)  
    Rockcliffe Fellowes (Detective-Sergeant Mather)  
    Esther Howard (Josie)  
    Monte Carter (Max Miller)  
    Juliette Compton    
    G. Pat Collins (Pete)  
    Phil Tead (Tony Morrison)  
    Davison Clark (Doctor)  
    Tom Wilson (Court attendant)  
    James Durkin (Second magistrate)  
    William Arnold (Prosecutor)  

Summary: When a member of the vice squad of the New York City police department demands the name of an ambassador's wife, who is in a parked car with military attachĂ© Major Stephen Lucarno, she runs him over and flees. Detective-Sergeant Mather, a corrupt vice squad officer, arrives on the scene, and Lucarno, refusing to divulge the woman's name, is forced to work for him. At an embassy ball that night, Lucarno bids farewell to his fiancĂ©e, Alice Morrison, and drops out of society for two years while acting as Mather's aide. Mather frames dozens of innocent girls on vagrancy charges by sending Lucarno to their rooms and, after the girls, assuming Lucarno is a gentleman, invite him in, Mather accuses them of entertaining strange men. Lucarno's self-contempt is so great he takes to drink in Greenwich Village cafes, where he meets young writer Madeleine Hunt. After Lucarno protects her from being accosted, Madeleine begins to fall for him and, one night, saves him from suicide and escorts him home. There he passes out from starvation, and she nurses him back to health. When he wakes, he insists they part anonymously, but before she exits, Mather enters, makes a pass at her and insinuates that she is a loose woman. That night, while on assignment, Lucarno is sent by Mather to an address, unaware that Madeleine lives there. When he realizes what has happened, he tells Mather there is no evidence for arrest, but after Lucarno leaves, Mather arrests Madeleine. Meanwhile, Alice's brother Tony, a judge, sees Lucarno on the street and insists he spend the evening with Alice and him. Alice deduces that Lucarno works as a stool pigeon and asks Tom to give him a job so they can resume their life together. Finally realizing that Mather can be sent to prison as an accessory to the murder of a policeman, Lucarno tells Mather he's through working for him. Madeleine's bohemian friend Josie pleads with Lucarno to testify on Madeleine's behalf, and he does so against Alice's wishes. Tony is the judge for the case and is about to find Madeleine guilty when Lucarno steps forward and admits he was a stool pigeon for Mather, who then is arrested for perjury. True to her threat that she would have nothing to do with Lucarno if his former occupation were exposed, Alice walks out of court. Madeleine and Lucarno, realizing they are in love, take a taxi to "nowhere." 

Production Company: Paramount Publix Corp.  
Distribution Company: Paramount Publix Corp.  
Director: John Cromwell (Dir)
Writer: Oliver H. P. Garrett ([Wrt] by)
Photography: Charles Lang (Photog)
  Robert Pittack (2d cam)
  Frank Titus (2d cam)
  Cliff Shirpser (Asst cam)
  Russell Harlan (Asst cam)
Production Misc: Ray Jones (Still photog)
Country: United States

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Paramount Publix Corp. 11/6/1931 dd/mm/yyyy LP2302 Yes

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Noiseless Recording

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Exploitation
 
Subjects (Major): Blackmail
  Bohemians and bohemianism
  Frame-ups
  Informers
  New York City--Greenwich Village
  Self-sacrifice
  Vice raids
  Vice squads
 
Subjects (Minor): Attempted suicide
  Balls (Parties)
  Diplomats
  Drunkenness
  Engagements
  Judges
  Missing persons
  Murder
  Nursing back to health
  Regeneration
  Reputation
  Starvation
  Subways
  Tramps
  Trials

Note: The opening narration for this film states: "This story attempts to show how Vice Squads, designed to make our communities more moral, have in many American cities done the very opposite. The methods of the old-fashioned Vice Squad must go! The great majority of policemen resent its ruthless treatment of women and girls, trapped by paid "stool pigeons" in situations which appear to justify their arrest." Reviews state that details of this film mimicked a recent vice squad investigation conducted in New York City. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   7 Jun 31   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Apr 31   p. 3.
International Photographer   1 Jul 31   p. 10.
Motion Picture Herald   9 May 31   p. 40.
New York Times   6 Jun 31   p. 15.
New York Times   14 Jun 31   p. 5.
Variety   9 Jun 31   p. 18.

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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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