Synopsis by Hal Erickson
It took nerve to transpose Shakespeare's Macbeth into a 1930s gangster story using "tough guy" jargon, but Joe MacBeth very nearly pulls the trick off successfully. Paul Douglas plays Joe MacBeth, a successful mobster whose wife (Ruth Roman) has ambitions to be even more successful. Mrs. MacBeth talks her husband into killing his boss while the two of them are swimming, and when Joe timorously leaves the knife behind, his wife dives in after the weapon. Now near the top of the heap, Joe begins to believe that everyone is out to get him. He kills his best pal Banky, whose ghost shows up a banquet later that night (Joe dispenses with Shakespeare's iambic pentameter by shouting "What is this? A gag?") As Joe deteriorates, his wife goes crazy, screaming "Joe! There's blood on my hands!" in her sleep. Both Joe and his wife are killed in a shootout with rival gangsters. Straining to create suitable counterparts for the Shakespearian characters in 20th century Chicago -- the three witches are sidewalk peddlers, while Hecate is a sandwich-board man -- Joe MacBeth veers towards the laughable at times; but the basic story has been a good one for nearly 500 years now, so Joe MacBeth succeeds as often as it falters. Incidentally, despite the American characters and Chicagoland setting, Joe MacBeth was filmed in England, with principally British supporting actors.
gangster, wife, ambition, mob-boss, murder, shoot-out