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King of the Underworld

(1939 b 67')

En: 5 Ed: 4

A physician treats gangsters and is killed; his wife also treats them while trying to keep her license.

Dr. Niles Nelson (John Eldredge) and his wife Dr. Carole Nelson (Kay Francis) operate on a man shot. Gangster Joe Gurney (Humphrey Bogart) learns his man will survive but shoots an informer. Joe calls on Niles and gives him $500. Niles tells Carole he won it betting but promises to stop playing horses. At home Carole reprimands Niles for not seeing patients and for betting. Joe calls Niles to treat one of his boys. Carole follows him, and police are watching. Niles tells Joe it is his last job, and Joe agrees. Police enter shooting. Carole is questioned and learns that Niles is dead. The District Attorney prosecutes Carole, but the jury does not agree. Carole may lose her license. Aunt Josephine (Jessie Busley) tells Carole where two of Joe's men are arrested, and Carole moves there.

Dr. Sanders (Arthur Aylesworth) complains about Carole. Joe's car has a blow-out, and they find a hungry stranger, Bill Stevens (James Stephenson), who tells Joe about Napoleon. At the sheriff's office Joe and his men use guns to free his men. In the shooting Joe is wounded in the arm. Bill tries to escape and is left shot in the shoulder. Carole treats him in jail. At night Joe comes to Carole, and she treats his arm. Joe gives her $100, and she spends it at a grocery store. Aunt Josephine and Carole invite Bill to stay, and he works in the garden. Joe's men abduct Bill. Joe asks Bill to write his autobiography. Joe tells Bill of his tough childhood. Joe admits to a murder but assure his gang that Bill will not live to talk.

Joe sends Eddie for Carole, who says Joe's arm is infected. She sees Bill, who says he is writing his swan song, implying death. Joe lets Carole go so she can test the infection. The grocer warns Carole that the sheriff is coming to arrest her. She borrows his car and takes drops that cause temporary blindness. Carole tells Joe that his eyes need treatment. He makes her treat Bill first and then his boys before him. Aunt Josephine tells the sheriff (Raymond Brown) to wait till 12 before attacking the house. Carole gives Joe the drops last. The gang realizes they cannot see. As one of his men comes in, Joe shoots him blindly. Carole and Bill hide. Joe says shoot, and police kill some and capture others. Joe is shot and dies. In the final scene the son of Carole and Bill is reading his book about Joe, the Napoleon of crime.

This gangster drama shows the ignorance and blindness of gangsters who kill for gain. Joe thinks "moronic" is a compliment, and Carole and Bill can communicate without the gangsters being aware. Her clever trick symbolizes their moral blindness especially when they shoot in that condition.

Copyright © 2001 by Sanderson Beck

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