"Why the Hell isn't this on DVD yet?" -- Number 93
UNHOLY PARTNERS (1941 MGM) Starring Edward G. Robinson, Edward Arnold, Laraine Day, Marsha Hunt, William T. Orr, Don Beddoe, Walter Kingsford. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy.
Having successfully started a tabloid for soldiers during his World War One service, Robinson returns to civilian life in 1919 with the intent of running a similar paper in his New York City home. Desperate for the financing, he gambles and wins. Well, sort of. Eddie G. ends up with mob boss Arnold as his silent partner in the New York Mercury, "reporting the news before it happens".
Robinson goes for shock value in content but warily agrees to lay off Arnold's shady dealings. Despite the uneasy alliance, Robinson turns the Mercury into a daily must for New Yorkers after poaching Day and right hand man Orr from his former paper. But the crimes by Arnold and his minions are more extensive than Robinson realizes, meaning he unknowingly (and occasionally knowingly) steps on the Kingpin's toes. The partnership gets even shakier when Robinson rebuffs Arnold's buyout offer and Orr becomes the mafia man's romantic rival for aspiring showgirl Hunt.
|I want ALL my films on DVD, see? Nyah!|
|William T. Orr|
Robinson's resourcefulness has the unintended consequence of making Arnold (and by extension, the Mob) seem less intimidating than he should be. Still, the subject matter remains compelling until Robinson's almost sitcom-ish "character change as resolution" in the final reel. As expected, UNHOLY PARTNERS is solidly directed and acted, and consistently entertaining, but it never quite comes close to the actor's earlier collaborations with LeRoy. Maybe they hadn't changed, but Hollywood had--it's an early Thirties film that just came a decade too late.
So...why isn't this on DVD?
If Robinson had made this at his longtime home studio (WB), there's little doubt the Warner Archive would have put it out by now, but the erstwhile Rico Bandello made UNHOLY PARTNERS on loan to MGM.
Interestingly, MGM almost signed Robinson to an exclusive deal in 1930 before he ended up at Warners, an association lasting 13 years.
The film also has the misfortune of being overshadowed by the other cinematic work inspired by Hearst publications in 1941: CITIZEN KANE. Engaging while you're watching it, UNHOLY PARTNERS is ultimately unmemorable, so perhaps Robinson got his wish.
Why it should be on DVD:
This lesser known Robinson-LeRoy collaboration will still be a pleasant discovery for fans of either, and there's ample opportunity to look for familar faces among the uncredited actors: Jay Novello, Ray Teal and Frank Faylen among them. UNHOLY PARTNERS also offers the chance to see substantial roles for Day and Hunt, two very attractive actresses who never quite reached major stardom. It airs occasionally on Turner Classic Movies.
You're right, this does sound like a film that could have been something had it been made 10 years earlier (maybe comparable to Robinson's newspaper editor in Five-Star Final).
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