Love Is a Racket (1932) DVD Review: Yeah, Figured That One Out Already, Thanks

First of all, allow me to say that, although the gossip column of the newspaper has expanded enormously into entire tell-all magazine publications and deceptive propaganda-mongering networks since the era in which Love Is a Racket was made, it’s still a difficult notion for me to grasp. Put simply, I just don’t get it – and this is primarily due to the fact that I don’t care about the lives of celebrities. So, whenever I find myself assigned with the task of critiquing a film like the Love Is a Racket – especially Love Is a Racket itself, wherein our protagonist is a scandal sheet burrower – I have a really difficult time getting into the swing of things.

Here, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. stars as Jimmy Russell – a New York Globe columnist whose nasty habit of digging up dirt on debutantes and other 1930s-era Kardashians scum. But his regular routine comes to a screeching halt when his spoiled actress girlfriend Mary (Frances Dee) gets herself into not one, but two jams whilst trying to climb her way up to the top to make a breakout performance on Broadway. First, Mary has written several bad checks – which is something that could easily be taken care of were it not for the “helping” hand of big-shot gangster Eddie Shaw (the great Lyle Talbot, who was cinema’s first Lex Luthor and Commissioner Gordon), who has paid Mary’s tabs in full to date in the hopes of getting a special date of his own out of her.

Ew, right? Well, Just when you think things can’t get any worse, the good Mr. Shaw kind of winds up with a bad case of dead – and poor Jimmy makes the dubious decision to dump the body off of the victim’s own penthouse balcony. And they say chivalry is dead.

Co-starring in this rough-around-the-edges pre-Code quickie from First National Pictures are Lee Tracy (as Fairbanks’ witty reporter pal) and Ann Dvorak (as the woman Jimmy should be dating). The first of many movies based off a Rian James story very few people have ultimately knowingly seen, Love Is a Racket was directed by William A. Wellman, whose 1927 film Wings won Best Picture at the very First Academy Award ceremony several years prior. Reportedly, George Raft had a role in the film as a character called “Sneaky”, but his scenes regrettably wound up adorning the Cutting Room floor.

Though the Warner Archive Collection’s unveiling of this all-but-forgotten romantic dramedy to DVD-R is that of a bare bones release, it at least boasts a splendid-looking transfer that adroitly shows off cinematographer Sidney Hickox’s already-keen eye. The film is presented in its original Academy 1.37:1 aspect ratio with a mono English soundtrack.

Best recommended for pre-Code perfectionists and/or gossip column completionists.

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Luigi Bastardo

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