Joe spends a lot of his time at Nick's Pacific Street Saloon. Tom, who credits Joe with once saving his life, stops by regularly to run errands for Joe. Today, Tom notices a woman named Kitty when she comes into Nick's, and he quickly falls in love with her. Meanwhile, a distraught young man repeatedly calls his girlfriend, begging her to marry him. Nick himself muses on all the various persons who come into his bar, some to ask for work and others just to pass the time.
Running Time: 109 Minutes
MPAA Ratings: Approved
William Saroyan's lone Broadway success has a good-hearted rich man who hanging out at a waterfront drunk dive and helping out a cast of losers. James Cagney pulls the role off without making it seem like the usual aggrandizing of the rich. It's one of his best performances because it's toned down to the point he rarely even stands. The film is more about the poor than Cagney, and they aren't there to be condescended to or laughed at. It's not exactly realistic, but it's a study of the hopes and dreams of the down and out, and how people regardless of their own financial situation can help bring them at least a little closer to the life they envision. One thing that helps the credibility is the bar owner character excellently portrayed by William Bendix. He's also poor but in a different way is as generous as rich Cagney. He hires people even worse off than himself, and that fact, that someone believes in them and is willing to give them a chance to prove themselves, motivates them to work hard. One of the ways it's not realistic is these characters are quite a bit too colorful, but on the other hand it's more realistic than the characters who inhabit the movie bars today, the ones that are young, supposedly attractive, have no substance abuse problem, and are the envy of everyone in part because they are having so much great sex. Anyway, the lively characterizations allow Cagney to not have to go over the top to animate up the proceedings, essentially all of which take place in one little set. It's a genuinely well meaning work of the kind you never see anymore where people are nice because it's helpful to be. As a film it's not particularly accomplished, but it's one that makes you remember why long ago people thought this was a great country for reasons other than nationalism and brainwashing.
Some find this film "schmaltzy" and simple. Saroyan fans will find it aptly relects the beauty found in the human condition. The way Joe relates to the various characters, causing them to easily open the hearts and souls seems contrived today and perhaps seemed that way even in the late 40's, but I suspect Saroyan was not particularly interested in "realism". Like all of his work, this movie is a study of the hopes, dreams, and loves of the "little guy" and his struggle to maintain them against the harsh light of human reality. (imdb.com)
I have now seen every movie James Cagney has made. For some reason, until recently this film hasn't been on television for years. While Maltin found this film disappointing, I really enjoyed it. It is a cozy sort of movie with about 98% of the film taking place in a barroom. Cagney is terrific as the man who sits at the table observing life as it passes him by. Everyone who comes in talks to him. Cagney's real life sister Jeanne, gives a fine performance as the daydreaming girl from Chicago. William Bendix has to be one of the greatest character actors of all time. His performance as Nick, the owner of the bar, glues the film together. This movie was well worth the wait. (imdb.com)
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