EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|THE TOAST OF NEW YORK (aka: THE ROBBER BARONS) (director: Rowland V. Lee; screenwriters: Dudley Nichols/Joel Sayre/John Twist/based on Robber Barons by Matthew Josephson and The Book of Daniel Drew by Bouck White; cinematographer: Peverell Morley; editors: George Hively/Samuel Beetley; music: Nathaniel Shilkret; cast: Edward Arnold (Jim Fisk), Cary Grant (Nick Boyd), Frances Farmer (Josie Mansfield), Jack Oakie (Luke), Donald Meek (Daniel Drew), Thelma Leeds (Fleurique), Clarence Kolb (Cornelius Vanderbilt); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edward Small; RKO; 1937)|
hokey fictitious biopic."
by Dennis Schwartz
hokey fictitious biopic, that plays fast and loose
with the facts, but not to the point you lose track of
its anti-hero as a scoundrel. It tells of the
rags-to-riches rise of the 19th century unscrupulous
Wall Street tycoon, Jim Fisk (Edward Arnold), who rose
from a Yankee peddler during the Civil War to one of
America's most influential financiers. Director
Rowland V. Lee ("Return of Dr. Fu Manchu"/"Zoo
in Budapest"/"Son of Frankenstein") sticks to the
malarkey and keeps things entertaining, but never
veers that far from the truth. It's based on the best-seller Robber Barons by Matthew Josephson and The Book of Daniel Drew by Bouck White.
Fisk partners with the Britisher Nick Boyd
(Cary Grant) and Luke (Jack Oakie), and after
smuggling cotton bought at low prices from
destitute southern farmers whose land was occupied by
Union troops during the Civil War, he sells it to the
English for a great profit. Fisk later orchestrated a
few tricky deals with tycoons Jay Gould and his
tightwad wealthy pious Uncle Daniel Drew (Donald Meek), and emerged
as a rival of the powerful capitalist Cornelius
Vanderbilt (Clarence Kolb) after the war when he seized
control of the Erie Railroad. Vanderbilt got fleeced
when trying to build a transportation monopoly and was
unaware that Fisk and Gould were illegally printing
more stock certificates for the railroad and dumping
them on the market. Later the robber baron trio of
Drew, Fisk and Gould, on insider info, attempted to
corner the gold market in September 1869, with a run
on gold. The attempt failed and the fallout caused the
stock market to crash and this financial disaster was
called Black Friday.
Frances Farmer, as Fisk's
actress-protegee and mistress Josie Mansfield, gets
her character changed from a whore to a ingenue
Fisk's great wealth enabled
him to buy politicians for support and prevent jail
for all his corrupt acts. His end comes
unceremoniously when shot by an irate investor he
tricked into losing his fortune because of his
nefarious gold scheme.
The film might be
diverting, but it only slightly tells the Fisk story.
REVIEWED ON 6/14/2013 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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