The title words are from one journalist to another about the local crime boss.  The press is trying to influence the police and the judicial system; and the police, even our hero cop, are trying to influence the press.  Seen today the film is an indictment of a society that sees the ends as justifying the means.  But it is a mistake to think this was intended.  There is an occasional cynical line, but The Racket is a product of its time, aimed at audiences comfortable with the kind of policeman who believes in the third degree and denies prisoners we don’t like their right to a phone call.

THE RACKET has verve, pace and style.  Much of the narrative is visual, especially in the film’s first half.  It’s a little intertitlely-talky in the second half where it begins to show that it is based on a play (by Bartlett Cormack).  The TCM print I watched has an intelligent, often effective but intrusive score.

The popular Thomas C. Meighan is not at all good as the cop.  Louis Wolheim, as the local boss, accurately plays Louis Wolheim.  As the floozy,  Marie Prevost gives a dated but very effective, consistent performance.  Floozy. on a date in the car, to over-eager fiancé:  “No, Joe  —  you can’t beat the wedding bells.”

The Racket     Lewis Milestone     1928

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If you can figure out and/or follow the plot of this Sherlock Holmes, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.  But it is fun, especially in its cast.  The most youthful Roland Young I can remember plays Watson.  William Powell has a sizable role as a good guy gone bad but in process of redeeming himself.  Hedda Hopper [sic] is a villainous kidnapper; and as Holmes’ love interest Carol Dempster is leeringly insipid.  Reginald Denny is also in the cast.

As the title character John Barrymore is the real surprise.  It’s neither the eye shadow nor the lipstick but the fact that he really acts instead of posturing, creates a cohesive character and is quietly amusing.

Sherlock Holmes          Albert Parker     1922


Until then,
See you at the movies,