Sunday, November 9, 2014

Silent Sundays: Romance of the Underworld (1928)


“Listen Kid, you can’t shake off your past that easily.”

            I like how early Hollywood had a fascination with gangsters. Some early gangster films were great and some of them were not so great. I laugh when I see some of them because a handful of the characters are so silly. I also laugh because there always seems to be a girl involved who wants to get out of that life and do good. Romance of the Underworld is not so much a romance. The underworld does no romancing whatsoever. It does deal with a gangster’s girl who is tired of her life though.
            Judith Andrews (Mary Astor) becomes a gangster’s girl after her mother dies. She works in a sleazy speakeasy where men have their hands all over her and show no respect. Judith is frustrated with her placement in life. She yearns to come out from below to a better higher spot. Her day comes when the speakeasy gets raided. The speakeasy is all cleared and she comes out from hiding in the bathroom. Judith is caught by a police officer as she tried to sneak out. The police officer is nice to Judith he can see that she never wanted any part of what she was going through. He lets her go. She gets outside, sits on the curb and starts crying at her luck.
            She lands a job as a laundress but that does not last too long. She eventually gets a decent job as a waitress. Judith works her way through secretarial school at night. One day a handsome young man named Steve Ransome is having lunch in the restaurant Judith works in. He is successful and the export company he works for is sending him to Europe. Judith is their waitress. She spills a bit of Steve’s drink on his but he does not make a big deal of it.
            Judith finishes school and becomes a stenographer. She is called to Steve’s job to take notes for him. He notices her as the girl from the restaurant. Not too long after Judith becomes Steve’s secretary. He takes her out to dinner one night. He tells her that for the entire meal he did not think once about work. He wants to marry her but she is hesitant because he hardly knows her. Steve takes Judith to the court house. When they get there the judge is busy sentencing a gangster. The gangster happens to be a guy named Dan who knew Judith. Joe sees the couple but they do not see him.
            Some time later, Steve and Judith are happily married with a baby. Judith has never told her husband about her past as a gangster’s girl. Unfortunately that past is brought up when Dan comes to her house. He has taken her bracelet right off her wrist and will not give it back until that night when he wants her to meet him somewhere to give him five thousand dollars or else he will tell her husband everything.
            Judith goes to the police officer who let her go. She tells him what has happened and what Dan wants. When she leaves the officer speaks to another gangster named Joe. He tells Joe that Dan is out on parole. Joe hates Dan because the night of the speakeasy raid Dan ratted him out that he stole a man’s wallet amongst other things. Joe goes to his old apartment where his girlfriend has been. Dan is there with Joe’s girl. The rat tells Joe that he has been keeping his girlfriend company while he has been away. Joe gets Dan to leave the apartment with him. After that night word gets around that Joe killed Dan.
            The police officer goes to Judith’s house to tell her the good news that Dan is no longer a threat to her and her family.
            Romance of the Underworld was not too bad. I really liked how the girl did get to keep her past a secret from her husband. I am of the mind that whatever happened in the past can stay in the past. I guess I am one of those people that practice the saying ignorance is bliss. I do not practice that with everything I am not a total ignoramus but with relationships I believe it is often better to live in the now… unless it is totally affecting the relationship. Anyway, it was nice for a change to see in an old film that the girl is not slut shamed or shunned by her husband since her truth was kept to herself. The police officer was awesome because he wanted to help he saw the night of the raid that Judith was a good person and wanted to help her stay and be seen that way. Mary Astor and the cast gave good performances in this mediocre silent. Romance of the Underworld is worth watching at least once.