The Earl of Chicago (1940)

Genres - Crime  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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The Earl of Chicago is a film with a split personality. It's not actually a good film, but parts of it are quite good and it is undeniably fascinating. Earl tries to pull off a very difficult trick, starting out as a comedy and ending as a tragedy, and it simply can't do it. But along the way, it manages some isolated sequences that are memorable, and it sticks in the memory for days after viewing. One gets the idea that if the creators had stuck with one genre -- a straight-out comedy or a full-throttle tragedy -- the result would have been a very good film. And yet, it might not have made quite the impression that the current, messy film does. As star, Robert Montgomery suffers from the same affliction as the film; the two halves of his character don't combine. His accent also comes across a bit forced, and he is not totally at ease in the part. But when he does find something in that character that strikes home, he delivers work that is quite exceptional. Coming off better on the whole are Edward Arnold and Edmund Gwenn, whose characters are more consistent. Richard Thorpe's direction can't pull the two halves of the film together, but he too finds segments that reward his efforts. Earl is at times frustrating, at times irritating, but it's worth a viewing.