Katy asked what makes a Borzage movie unique. I can answer regarding the silents I’ve seen – Seventh Heaven, Street Angel, Lucky Star and bits of The River. But after watching this, I don’t know – it seems that he was ground into the Hollywood sound-film factory, only managing a couple of cool (second-unit?) location scenes and one evocative shot involving would-be-lovers separating in front of a staircase.
George Brent doesn’t help the movie one bit. His character is a huge asshole, and the last-minute happy ending features him becoming very slightly less of an asshole. Fortunately the movie belongs to Kay Francis (of the great Trouble in Paradise), who works at Travelers’ Aid, which appears to be a general help booth at a train station. Bridge-builder Brent (of Dark Victory and The Spiral Staircase) goes there in search of a runaway drunk employee, recognizes Kay, and is soon threatening marriage.
On the bridge project, gangster Sharkey (Barton MacLane of The Maltese Falcon) secretly gives the workers booze, which they happily drink on the job until one falls to his death, causing a near-strike. The workers are portrayed as easily-led, drunken children – weren’t union construction jobs hard to come by during the Great Depression? Kay saves Brent’s ass, leading him to stop badgering her to quit her job, with help from fired drunk Janauschek (Robert Barrat, a judge in The Baron of Arizona).
Frankie Darro, the guy inside Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet, plays Hollywood’s typical “Jimmy”, a young, naive annoyance. Future director Delmer Daves wrote the screenplay, based on a story called Lady with a Badge. I don’t believe Kay had a badge.