One day, you’re working at an advertising firm with a smart, sassy lady by your side. The next thing you know, you’re being arrested because you look like a bank robber. Such is the lot of Arthur Ferguson Jones, the protagonist of John Ford’s 1935 film, The Whole Town’s Talking. On Feb. 22, The Palm Theatre will be screening this comedy caper as part of their monthly Take Two Live Series.
Played by Edward G. Robinson (Double Indemnity, Soylent Green), Arthur Jones is a modest man. He works as a clerk alongside Wilhemina Clark (Jean Arthur, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). All of a sudden, Jones is arrested and mistaken for Killer Mannion (also played by Robinson), a notorious bank robber on the lam. The police realize the mistake, and give Jones a pass to avoid such trouble in the future. Soon, Jones finds himself embroiled with the real Killer Mannion after he starts ghostwriting the thief’s autobiography. Mannion finds Jones and steals the pass, resulting in a flurry of chaos, confusion, and comedy.
The Whole Town’s Talking is a rarity for director John Ford, usually known for his famous Western epics like Stagecoach and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Throughout his career, Ford only directed a handful of comedies, and this film was one of his few collaborations with Columbia Pictures.
Though the plot sounds somber, it’s a fast-paced thriller filled with a manic screwball energy. Co-screenwriter Robert Riskin won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay the year before the release of The Whole Town’s Talking for the standard of all romantic comedies, It Happened One Night.
The film came out to rave reviews. Andre Sennwald of the New York Times praised it as one of “the best of the new year’s screen comedies.” Of particular note is Robinson’s dual performance as both Jones and Mannion. With impressive gravitas and impeccable timing, he pulls off the meek Jones and sinister Mannion. Not to mention, if you look closely at some of the background actors, you can see Lucille Ball in an uncredited role as a bank employee.
You can see The Whole Town’s Talking as part of the Palm Theatre’s Take Two Live series on Feb. 22, at 12:30 p.m. Hosts Jim Dee and Bob Whiteford will do an introduction and Q-and-A. Tickets are $12. For more info, visit thepalmtheatre.com.