Jimmy Corrigan (Cagney) is jealous when his operative and sweetheart, Joan Martin (Davis), goes to work for his seemingly upper-crust rival Charles Wallingham. But Wallingham is just as crooked as Corrigan; he's just better at concealing it.
James Cagney and Bette Davis star as a less-than-scrupulous private detective and the woman he loves--who has just left him for an even less scrupulous employer. Jimmy Corrigan (Cagney) is jealous when his operative and sweetheart, Joan Martin (Davis), goes to work for his seemingly upper-crust rival Charles Wallingham (Alan Dinehart). But Corrigan discovers that Wallingham is just as crooked as Corrigan; he's just better at concealing it. Now--even as Corrigan tricks an eyewitness into marrying a guilty client so she can't testify in court--he must prove Wallingham is a crook to win Martin back. Directed with panache by Michael Curtiz, the result is a fast-paced comic delight, and a superb showcase for the first teaming of its two incandescent stars.
James Cagney runs a shady missing-heir tracing service, occasionally providing phony heirs in order to collect his fee. He suffers a tinge of jealousy when he takes a gander at the offices of a legitimate tracing firm, where his former girlfriend (Bette Davis) has taken a job. Jimmy soon learns that the reputable organization's boss (Alan Dinehart) is more crooked than Jimmy ever was, but he can't convince the girl of this fact. Using his own street smarts, Cagney exposes the "honest" heir tracer and agrees to go straight if his girl will come back to him. At the time JIMMY THE GENT was filmed, James Cagney was getting tired of the formula pictures being handed him; rather than go on suspension, he expressed his displeasure by shaving his hair almost down to the bone, which is why he appears in this film with an uncharacteristic buzz-cut.
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