James Cagney in Other Men's Women.
Other Men’s Women is a gritty little movie from Warner Brothers, released in early 1931. It was deftly helmed by the prolific William A. Wellman and is notable for being James Cagney’s third movie appearance. Released just a few months before The Public Enemy made him a household name, Other Men’s Women finds Cagney in a supporting role, with just a few scenes. In one he gets to do a little impromptu jig, briefly demonstrating the unique dance style he would later make famous.
The story concerns Bill and Jack, railroad workers and best friends. Steady Jack and his good wife Lily (Mary Astor) generously invite irresponsible ladies’ man Bill into their home after he goes on one bender too many. Soon, however, Bill and his friend’s wife develop romantic feelings for each other.
Out of loyalty to his friend, Bill abruptly leaves and Jack notices his wife acting strangely. Jack confronts Bill and they get in a fight while working on a train. Jack’s an engineer and Bill a locomotive fireman. During the melee they lose control of the train and an accident ensues in which Jack is blinded. The melodramatic climax involves a flooded train trestle and a special effect that holds up reasonably well.
The realism of the picture is helped by the fact that many of the scenes were shot outdoors in a real train yard. Not surprisingly for an early talkie, the sound is not so great in some of the exterior scenes. The black & white cinematography is quite good and the setting vividly evoking. TCM has released a fairly pristine print in their new DVD collection of pre-Code movies called Forbidden Hollywood.
Cagney plays a coworker of Bill and Jack. He makes his entrance standing on top of a moving train. He then proceeds to enthusiastically describe a fight he witnessed to Bill. He gets another scene at a dance hall and then later has an integral moment on a train where he helps propel the plot along.
Joan Blondell is also along for the ride, at her usual wisecracking best. She plays a sassy gum chewing waitress at a tiny greasy spoon and Bill’s erstwhile girlfriend. When a flirtatious customer, sitting with his pal, tells her he’ll have “…a big slice of you on toast”, without missing a beat she replies, “Listen baby, I’m A.P.O.” “What does she mean, A.P.O.?” “Ain’t Puttin’ Out.”
Mary Astor has the leading female role as Lily. Both she and Bill are noble in spirit. After discovering their feelings for each other they share a passionate kiss but both of them refuse to go any further in acting on their newfound love. She remains faithful to her husband, ceaselessly caring for him after he is blinded. All of which makes the ending that much more poignant.
The story is a bit overwrought and predictable, and neither Grant Withers nor Regis Toomey are great shakes as actors. Other Men’s Women still packs an emotional punch however. The direction is first rate and the presence of three great stars (Cagney, Astor and Blondell) lifts this otherwise run of the mill production.
Photos © Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures (1931)