Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Now I'll Tell (UCLA restoration)

Now I'll Tell / När New York sover [While New York Sleeps]. The Swedish poster from the IMDb where there is also a fine photo gallery of the film.

Now I'll Tell. Spencer Tracy (Murray Golden), Helen Twelvetrees (Virginia Golden).

New Yorkin nukkuessa / När New York sover.
    Director: Edwin J. Burke. Year: 1934. Country: USA.
    Sog.: dall’autobiografia di Mrs. Arnold Rothstein [Carolyn Green Rothstein]. Scen.: Edwin J. Burke. F.: Ernest Palmer. M.: Harold D. Schuster. Scgf.: Jack Otterson. Int.: Spencer Tracy (Murray Golden), Helen Twelvetrees (Virginia Golden), Alice Faye (Peggy Warren), Robert Gleckler (Al Mossiter), Henry O’Neill (Tommy Doran), Hobart Cavanaugh (Freddie Stanton), J. P. Huntley (Jack Hart), Shirley Temple (Mary Doran), Ronnie Cosby (Tommy Doran, Jr.). Prod.: Winfield R. Sheehan per Fox Film Corporation. 35 mm. D.: 87’. Bn.
    Restored by UCLA Film and Television Archive with funding provided by The Louis B. Mayer Foundation, Eleanor and Glenn Padnick, The Packard Humanities Institute, and the Estate of Ronald Terry Shedlo.
    Print from UCLA Film & Television Archive.
    Courtesy of 20th Century Fox and Park Circus.
    Sottotitoli in italiano di Sub-Ti Londra.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato (William Fox Presents: Rediscoveries from The Fox Film Corporation), 27 June 2018.

Ehsan Khoshbakht (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "The story of the “biggest gambler in New York”, charting his rise and fall between 1909 and 1928. A tale of affairs, gambling addiction and gang rivalry, Now I’ll Tell is based on the life of Arnold Rothstein, a notorious and well-connected gangster who was also the inspiration for Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby. The film is more closely connected with real events, being written by ‘Mrs. Arnold Rothstein’, a pseudonym of Carolyn Greene (later Carolyn Rothstein Behar), the gangster’s widow."

"Despite its adherence to certain facts and its sense of realism (photographs of Rothstein’s regular haunt and ‘favourite office’, Lindy’s restaurant, were taken for the purposes of a studio reconstruction) it does not closely follow Rothstein’s memoir, published a week before the film was released."

"Writer Edwin J. Burke (1889–1944) moved to Hollywood in the year that Rothstein was killed. Now I’ll Tell was the only picture he directed, although he co-directed the retakes of Hello, Sister! (1933). He stayed in Hollywood for seventeen years before returning to the East Coast. In between he wrote everything from Shirley Temple vehicles to Bad Girl (Frank Borzage, 1931), for which he won an Oscar. Burke’s winning ticket was his rapport with Spencer Tracy which, in spite of the star’s problems with alcohol, brought out the best in him. Tracy humanises the story, setting it apart from the other key gangster films of the early 1930s such as Little Caesar and Public Enemy. Unlike the protagonists in those films, Tracy’s Golden is anything but monstrous and destructive. The film also reveals the unglamorous and political aspects of power, in its depiction of an America where becoming corrupt is easier than remaining unaffected."

"The film did well in New York – where the circumstances of Rothstein’s death were still subject to rumours – but failed elsewhere, adding to the growing list of unsuccessful Tracy pictures made for Fox, before his eventual move to Metro."

"Long available only in a censored reissued version, Now I’ll Tell has now been restored to its original 87 minute length." Ehsan Khoshbakht

AA: In the history of the gangster film Now I'll Tell belongs to a rare line which had been launched by City Streets, directed by Rouben Mamoulian from a story by Dashiell Hammett. In this tradition gangsters are portrayed as businessmen, a trend which culminated later in the Godfather trilogy.

The screenplay has been freely inspired by the life of Arnold Rothstein, considered to be the founding father of organized crime in the U.S. (David Pietrusza, 2011). Gambling is the business here. Gambling at the racetrack, cards, and boxing are elements in common with the real Rothstein.

Spencer Tracy often portrayed criminals in the early stage of his career, in films such as Up the River, Quick Millions, 20 000 Years in Sing Sing, and The Mad Game. In many legendary gangster films of the early 1930s such as The Public Enemy, Little Caesar, and Scarface the protagonists were violent criminals who seemed to relish violence.

Because Murray Golden (as the Rothstein figure portrayed by Spencer Tracy is called) is a businessman, he avoids violence, yet there is an incessant concern for violence. But Murray Golden works with his brains, not fists or guns. He is an incarnation of moral hazard, and moral void, as long as money is concerned. "You can do anything you can get away with" is his motto.

This is the earliest film I have seen with Alice Faye, the first great "Fox blonde", to be followed by Betty Grable, June Haver and Marilyn Monroe. She was the only one who got to deliver pre-Code dialogue such as "I was born on the Virgin Islands". "You must have left early", quips Spencer Tracy.

There is a structure familiar from crime films: Golden has a childhood friend, Tommy Doran, who is a policeman. Doran is a happy family man and as a policeman his integrity is inviolable, proof that most policemen don't participate in the Tammany Hall web of corruption. Another great Fox star, Shirley Temple, appears in a bit role as Doran's daughter.

Some details of the movie have documentary interest such as location shooting and a reproduction of Lindy's, the famous New York restaurant which was closed in February 2018. (I digress. Tom Wolfe died earlier this year, and I can't help laughing when I remember a favourite piece of his called "The Purveyor of Public Life", an interview with Bob Harrison, conducted at Lindy's while enjoying lox, bagels, and coffee. In the beginning of the piece Harrison is astounded when Wolfe claims he does not know Lindy's. Some might discover in Wolfe a hint of anti-semitism, but I believe the opposite, that Wolfe was so far beyond racism like Tarantino that he could play around.)

Most significantly Now I'll Tell departs from the Rothstein story in that Golden is not involved in bootleg liquor or drugs (Rothstein is sometimes considered to be the father of organized drug dealing).

Based on Mrs. Arnold Rothstein's eponymous autobiography, Now I'll Tell focuses on the love affair of Murray and Virginia Golden. Although Murray has affairs on the side Virginia is his only true love. Virginia is disappointed when Murray breaks his promise to quit gambling when he has collected a fortune of a half a million dollars. When the affair with Peggy Warren (Alice Faye) becomes public she quits him. "My love to you. I'm sorry I've lost that. I guess you never loved me".

A brilliant UCLA print.



As the print viewed was a re-release print, the onscreen credits were taken from a screen credit billing sheet in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library. The main character in this film is based on the gambler Arnold Rothstein (18821928), who, according to modern sources, acted as a go-between for businessmen and criminals in their dealings with New York politicians and police. Rothstein was reported to have devised the Black Sox scandal during the 1919 World Series. He was shot during a poker game and died two days later, 6 Nov 1928, without revealing his killer. Var noted that at the time of the film's release, Rothstein's murder was still unsolved and commented that the character "Murray Golden," "resembles the noted Broadway gambling man in his moods and methods, many of which will be recognized by those who knew or studied him." NYT called Spencer Tracy's portrayal "as thorough a characterization as has been seen on the screen."

According to information in the legal files, on 11 Jul 1933, Fox took out an option on a story to be written by Mrs. Carolyn Behar, formerly Mrs. Arnold Rothstein, which would "exploit and describe the activities, incidents and events in the life of Arnold Rothstein." A separate agreement gave Fox the right to furnish a ghostwriter to work with Behar if the work was not completed by 1 Oct 1933. The book, which was also entitled Now I'll Tell and published by the Vanguard Press on 3 May 1934, was written by Behar under the name Mrs. Arnold Rothstein, in collaboration with Donald Henderson Clarke. Fox obtained all rights to the book, except publication rights. Behar read the shooting script by Edwin Burke, which was finished before her book was completed, and signed a statement that read, "Some of the incidents included in the continuity are not based on real facts or incidents in the life of the late Arnold Rothstein and as to these incidents, I do not make any representations to the public or otherwise that they are true, but if these incidents are used in the picture, I will have no objection to their use, provided, I am not called upon to state to the public that they are actual happenings."

In an affidavit relating to a plagiarism claim concerning the ending of the film, Burke stated that the ending he wrote was developed from a suggestion made by Rothstein's black secretary, Thomas Farley. Fox had authorized Burke to travel to New York to interview Farley and some underworld characters, and Farley related an incident in which he found Rothstein fooling with a revolver in his office. Farley told him, "If I were you, Mr. Rothstein, I would not use that revolver," and Rothstein replied, "If I had any guts, I would use it." They left the office together and took a taxi, and when, at an intersection, Rothstein left the taxi, he was almost struck by a couple of cars. Burke stated in the affidavit that the film's ending was derived from that incident.

This was the only complete film that Burke, a Fox contract writer, directed; the previous year, he had co-directed retakes on Hello Sister! (see above). According to the legal records, Fox hired a camera crew consisting of Sol Halprin and Larry Williams to take various shots of New York and the vicinity for this film and One More Spring (see below). Fox also received permission to take certain shots and stills of the interior of "Lindy's Restaurant" to be used in the film. Allen Jenkins was to be loaned by Warner Bros. for a role, but the agreement was not executed.


In 1909, at the Saratoga racetrack, gambler Murray Golden convinces the man at the betting window to trust him for a $200 bet on the strength of a telegram sent to him purportedly by multi-millionaire Harry Payne Whitney, which gives a tip on a horse. Murray, in fact, earlier composed the wire himself. Although the horse does not win, Murray invites the party he is with to join him in a celebration.

One of the women in the party, Virginia, decides to marry Murray, although she has no idea how he makes his money. Murray has ambitions of hobnobbing with the leaders of society, and he lives by the creed that one should do anything one can get away with.

In 1914, on their fifth anniversary, Murray, who now runs a successful gambling house in New York, promises Virginia, who is bored and lonesome, that he will quit the business as soon as he has made $500,000. That night, Murray meets cabaret singer Peggy Warren, the girl friend of Al Mositer, a gangster whom he orders to leave, and at her instigation, they begin an affair. Although the evening's winnings put Murray's income over $500,000, he tells Virginia that he wants to continue until he makes "real" money so that he can do other things.

By 1919, Murray has given Peggy a $100,000 trust fund and a Park Avenue apartment, but he remains in love with Virginia. Upon learning that Mositer has fixed a championship fight by paying one of the fighters, Eddie Traylor, to take a dive, Murray pays the other fighter, George Curtis, to go down in an earlier round and then places a bet with Mositer.

After the fight goes the way Murray planned, Virginia, who has attended with a friend, overhears talk that Peggy has been Murray's girl friend for years. She starts to pack, but Murray convinces her that his cohort Freddie is the man involved with Peggy. Murray then promises to quit gambling and go into the insurance business. During their discussion, Murray gets a call telling him that Traylor has been found murdered.

Five years later, Curtis, who was broken up by Traylor's death, is an alcoholic. After Mositer tricks him into admitting that Murray convinced him to take a dive, Mositer vows revenge.

As Murray, now ostensibly in the insurance business, visits his boyhood friend, Tommy Doran, who is now a police detective, to try to bribe him for a client, he gets a call from Freddie telling him that Virginia has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom by Mositer. Murray orders Freddie to pay anything and hurries back to town in a cab with Peggy. He urges the driver to speed, and the cab crashes into a truck killing Peggy. Virginia, who is released unharmed, tells Murray that she will seek a divorce in Paris to regain her self-respect.

In 1928, Murray, nearly broke, loses $50,000 to Mositer in a card game. When he gets a telegram that Virginia is returning from Europe, he thinks she is coming back to him. Feeling that his luck is changing, he pawns her jewelry, which he has kept in the safe-deposit box, to gamble in a crap game. Virginia tells him that she is marrying another man and that she came back to get her jewelry. Still in love with her, Murray promises to get the jewelry back. He takes out an insurance policy, and then tries to win the money to buy back the jewelry from Mositer in a crap game, but loses over $200,000 to him.

When Murray tells Mositer that he is going to reveal to the district attorney that Mositer killed Traylor, Mositer shoots Murray, who then confesses that he arranged to die so that should he lose, the insurance money could be used to buy back Virginia's jewelry. Tommy brings Virginia to Murray's hospital room and encourages her to lie to him. After she tells Murray that she's coming back to him, Murray dies.

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