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The Moviegoer

At the Exeter


Columbia has taken a fine book on slums and their crime, and run it through the Hollywood kettle until most of its guts have been boiled out. The residue is kept well out of the standard murder movie level, however, by an infallible combination: fine photography and Humphrey Bogart.

John Derck, a new product of the star mill who looks as if he should do right well for himself, snarls his way through a ninety-minute career as the poor boy who goes bad and does a fine job of it. He starts out by rolling drunks in alleys, works the reform school circuit for a while, swaggers up to be a big gun in his thoroughly realistic neighborhood, drives his good faithful wife to sticking her head in the gas-oven, and finally is hauled up on a cop-killing charge. Bogart, who has also come up from the ranks, but switched to the right side of the tracks via a stretch at night law school, decides to take Derek's case.

Humphrey's voice gets lower and his forehead furrows deeper as the trial pushes its way through an unusually accurate court-fight; he almost gets the guy off except for the last-ditch try of a suitably cynical district attorney who comes through for law-and-order with a witness-stand confession. The picture is populated with Bogart's standard collection of pool-sharks, fifty-year old newsboys named "Junior," and punch-drunk bartenders, but the big star is the camera, which pokes behind garbage cans, into alleyways, and peers around the courtroom with far more than usual perception.

Bogart winds up the picture with an impassioned denunciation of society for causing the boy to go wrong, but Derek fries anyway. The only thing lacking is Lauren Bacall to console poor Humphrey when things turn out badly.

"Blondie's Big Deal" inserts itself on the same bill, and is noteworthy for a truly obnoxious business man named Mr. Radcliffe and the first post war use of a piece of beef-steak to soothe a blackened eye. If you enjoy the repeated sight of mail men being demolished by an onrushing Dagwood, this is for you. Otherwise, a short call to the respective theaters will enable you to miss the fun.

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