A Lion Is In the Streets
Adapted from Andria Locke Langley’s novel, a salesman gets married and tries to manipulate people into making him governor.
On a rainy day the peddlar Hank Martin (James Cagney) brings a little girl into the schoolroom. He introduces himself to the teacher, Verity Wade (Barbara Hale). Hank soon marries her, and Hank asks Jules Bolduc (Warner Anderson) if he can rent his mansion. Then Hank takes Verity to his rickety old house. Hank drives off and returns with friends from church to paint the house.
Hank invites his friends over to Bolduc’s house. Hank sees Robert Castleberry (Larry Keating) and calls him a “blood-sucking thief” and leaves.
Hank and Verity in his truck call on Spurge McManamee (Lon Chaney Jr.), but his daughter Flamingo (Anne Francis) screams at Hank that he promised to wait for her. Spurge apologizes for her. They get in boats and see flamingos. Flamingo takes Verity to where there are alligators. They struggle and fall in the water. The other boat comes, and Spurge shoots the alligator to save Verity, who says it was her fault.
Hank sells things, and Flamingo comes to him in the evening at his camp. Hank sends her home, but Flamingo says she wants to have his baby and kisses him.
Hank goes home and has a truck full of men to fight Castleberry’s men. At Castleberry’s company Jeb Brown (John McIntire) has a load of cotton that Frank Rector (Frank McHugh) weighs. Samuel Beach (James Millican) offers to pay Jeb, who says he has his own weights. Beach tells Jeb to check them. The weight is what they said, 2,200 pounds. Hank comes forward, and Castleberry arrives in a car with Lewis, who serves Hank with a warrant. Hank says the warrant is not valid because it is from the wrong county. Hank has more men, and two men find the phony weights which show it as 1,600 pounds. Jeb thanks Hank. Lewis is about to shoot the man taking the weights when Jeb shoots Lewis. Verity attends to the shot man, but Hank tells her to leave. She says she is going to have a baby. Jeb is arrested.
Hank goes to see Castleberry, who is not there. Guy Polli (Onslow Stevens) tells Hank he can get Jeb’s trial scheduled. Hank gets in a cab with Flamingo, who says Guy helped her.
The trial is set, but Beach shoots Jeb in jail from a car. People gather, and Hank tells them that Jeb was shot. Jeb tells Hank he is dying. Hank asks Jeb if he wants to go on with the trial to clear his name. Hank helps Jeb into the courtroom. Hank questions Rector if Lewis was pointing the gun at someone else. Jeb dies, but Hank gets the jury to say innocent. Bolduc objects to what Hank is doing. Hank says he wants to try Castleberry next. Hank thanks Jeb’s wife Jennie (Jeanne Cagney) for what Jeb did. Hank promises they will find the man who killed Jeb. They start singing, “Jeb Brown died.”
Hank gets headlines in the newspapers, and Castleberry’s company is burned. Guy buys the company from Castleberry. Hank runs for governor against Gov. Snowden. On election eve Hank learns it is raining everywhere. Hank borrows Bolduc’s car to go get the city vote. Guy tells Beach that Hank is almost on their team. Hank comes in with Flamingo. Beach tells Hank that he works for Guy now. Guy wants to be governor. Guy says Beach is the thief and that Rector was driving the car when Jeb was murdered. Guy says the trial would ruin Hank as a politician. Guy tells Hank to give a deposition to clear Beach. Hank agrees.
In the car Hank looks at voters, but he gets stuck in a muddy road. He walks to his headquarters. The election is close, and Verity had a baby. Verity asks Hank how he got city votes. Radio interviews Hank, who says he would have won if they had the roads. He says the will of the people is clear. Verity gets out of bed and collapses. Hank asks people to bring guns. The blacksmith (Mickey Simpson) carries Verity to the Bolduc house. Verity says Hank is leading a lynching. Hank leads a prayer for the needy and oppressed. Bolduc tells Jennie that Beach killed Jeb, but a sworn statement clearing Beach was signed by Hank. Verity confirms that Hank’s affidavit is false. Hanks admits it, and Jennie shoots him. Hank tells Verity that she told on him. Hank says he will lead them, but he collapses and dies.
This political melodrama is loosely based on the career of the flamboyant Huey Long. Hank wants to help the poor, but he has no morals about what tactics to use to win the election or increase his own power. The action is so fast that it strains credulity; but it is entertaining and makes its points nonetheless.