Yes folks another lovely pre-code!!! And this is my first James Cagney pre-code at that! I was looking through TCM’s schedule one day and all I had to see was the title Picture Snatcher and knew I had to see it no matter who was in it… I have a great passion for old photography especially fashion photography. The story sounded pretty interesting as well and it did not hurt that James Cagney and Ralph Bellamy were starring in the film.
Cagney plays an ex-con named Danny Keane. When he is released from jail his old gangster pals want him to join them again but he decides he wants to go straight. He wants to become a photographer for the newspapers. His pals laugh at him but Danny is determined to find a job at what he likes.
He goes to a newspaper with a bad reputation for printing gossip and “inappropriate” stories. The paper does not want to hire him but he says he can prove himself when a chance comes his way. A man who is head of the fire department is sitting in his burned out apartment. He found his wife and her lover’s body burned when he came home. He will not let any photographers or reporters in. Danny’s job is to try to get a picture of the place as well as a picture of the man and his wife. Danny gets to walk around the apartment by pretending he is an insurance man inspecting the place for a claim. He manages to get the picture and the newspaper is the only paper in town that has it.
The next day the man comes in looking to kill Danny but he manages to evade him by sneaking into the women’s bathroom. While in there he meets Allison (Alice White) a reporter for the paper. He meets up with Allison at her place but then he sees his boss JR McLean (Bellamy) walking up to her place drunk and he gets out there quickly.
A few journalism students come by the office. Danny takes it upon himself to show the students around when he sees that the group consists mainly of girls. He takes a real liking to one of the girls named Pat Nolan (Patricia Ellis). Her father just so happens to be Chief Nolan head of the police unit who put Danny behind bars. That does not matter to him because he is going straight. Unfortunately they get caught and Chief Nolan is none too happy. Later on the Chief is ok with the two dating only because JR told the chief that he was going to do a write up on him.
One of the biggest news stories of the time is about a woman who is going to be executed for murdering her husband and his lover. She is to go to the electric chair. No one is supposed to take cameras into the execution but Danny being the daring man that he is brings a camera. Chief Nolan lets him through because he knows Danny will not do anything stupid… or so he thinks. Danny gets the picture by strapping the camera to his leg. Well the camera falls out and he is found out. Now all the reporters and the police are after him.
Because of Danny taking the picture Chief Nolan has been demoted and he will not let the ex-con see his daughter. Danny is upset about what he did but along with JR finds a way to redeem himself and get the chief his job back.
Picture Snatcher screams pre-code from beginning to end. When Danny meets Allison in the ladies room you know they totally do it as James Cagney walks away off camera with a big smile on his face. When Danny has to hide out after he takes the execution photograph he hides out with Allison and as she is changing he snaps a picture of her. There are many more fabulous pre-code scenes but those were my favorites and the ones that left me going wow.
James Cagney is awesome he is now one of my favorite classic actors. He was so funny in so many scenes and his performance was just flawless. Danny was a good character he knew he had done wrong and wanted to go straight and be a good guy. The film aired on TCM as part of their Summer Under the Stars program when they had Ralph Bellamy as their star of the day. The more I see of Bellamy the less he is the bumbling guy who loses the girls. He was a very good versatile actor and handsome on top of it.
Picture Snatcher is not an incredible, jaw dropping, one- of –the-best-films-ever-made films but it is enjoyable. The dialogue is snappy and quick and the story is fast paced but you never lose your way through it. James Cagney is very entertaining and makes the whole film.