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PAUL MUNI & BETTE DAVIS IN THE PRE-NOIR OF 'BORDERTOWN'

Title: BORDERTOWN Year: 1935 Rating: ***

The early Noir THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT starring George Raft and Humphrey Bogart was a remake of the earlier Noir BORDERTOWN starring SCARFACE actor and Gangster-genre pioneer Paul Muni, starting out as a poor lawyer so overly-idealistic he's bound to fail in business, and love...

Herein classy-rich, out-of-his league Margaret Lindsay is the roundabout reason Muni's forced to retire his law practice and, like I AM A FUGITIVE OF A CHAIN-GANG, he wanders montage-style by foot, winding up where most of the programmer's action takes place...

Drawing of Paul Muni in court from BORDERTOWN

Once Muni goes from failed lawyer to a climbing, ambitious sidekick turned business partner in a seedy Mexican nightclub, the film's crime aspect tries desperately to grow, curbed by Bette Davis who... playing the pathetic-dame role that'd make Ida Lupino famous in the remake... is the club owner's loopy trophy wife, falling harder for Muni then he'd fallen for Lindsay, and that's where the Norish murder-twist both begins and ends...

Turning Muni into the kind of Wrong Man without hope: a shame since both the audience and his character is never able to fully revel in the kind of seedy gangster-style antics that'd turned this honest loser into a crooked winner and, while Noir's first golden rule is that Crime Doesn't Pay, in BORDERTOWN it never has a proper chance to amount to much of anything beyond a predictable morality tale.

Margaret Lindsay in BORDERTOWN
Bette Davis in BORDERTOWN


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