Within the Law, 1939. 7/10

Crime drama with Ruth Hussey as the wrongly convicted Mary; upon release from prison she seeks to avenge herself on the employer Mr. Gilder and his son Richard (Samuel S. Hinds and Tom Neil) who had accused her of theft. Richard later discovers that she’s innocent. She gets help from a bunch of hoods: English Eddie (Paul Cavanaugh), Red (James Burke), Joe Garson (Paul Kelly), and her inmate buddy, Agnes, (Rita Johnson). George Demarest (Sidney Blackmer) is the Gilder family’s attorney; Cassidy (William Gargan), is one of the detectives keeping tabs on the gang.

The prison scenes show monotony and degredation without any graphic trappings. Mary gets by with Agnes’s brash, spunky support. Soon they’re both out–Agnes is already immersed in a counterfeiting scheme. “Here’s the bill of goods…” begins Eddie, letting them in on their next job. Mary’s not exactly more straight-laced, just more careful “I want to make it where the cops can’t take it” she tells Agnes and the guys. She’s persuasive, so they go with her check-writing scam. It’s not technically illegal, just a touch unethical–legal swindling.

Mary gets in thick with Joe, as they plan on scamming Guilder’s business. Sgt. Cassidy shows up, bugging Mary about her role in one of the counterfeiting deals. She has an air-tight explanation; he knows that she’s “playing a crooked game” but can’t hook her for anything. There’s a discernable love triangle forming, with Mary leading Richard on, somewhat to Joe’s chagrin.

Richard/Dick starts showing her off. Doesn’t he recognize her? Probably not. Soon Mr. Gilder meets with Demarest, Cassidy, and the Inspector (Donald Douglas) about Mary’s fling with Dick. The old man rightly surmises that she’s vengeful. Dick’s got a surprise–they’re married. “I married you because I hate your father” she admits. Valiantly, Dick stays loyal to Mary.

Agnes’s gang ponders what to do. Dick shows up to talk to Mary; kind of surprisingly, she seems to care less about Dick. Joe, Eddie, and the guys come up with a plan: an art heist, a $200k Rembrandt that’s hanging at the Gilder place. They get in touch with Arthur Greene (Claude King), an art dealer. Mary’s not too happy with the obviously illegal plan. She actually snitches on them.

At Guilder’s, Mary shows up to thwart Joe and the guys. It seems she was set-up. Dick pops in with the revelation that the Rembrandt was a copy. Anyway, it was Eddie who instigated the plan (the double-cross that is), and tries to take Dick hostage, but Eddie’s shot by Joe. The cops show up, but Dick acts with them as if nothing’s happened. Red, trying to escape, gets shot off the roof.

The cops won’t believe that Dick did it; the gun was Joe’s. Now they think that Mary did the job–but Joe says he’s the one they want. Incredibly, he sacrifices himself for Dick and Mary. Well, at least Mary and Dick come out of it ok–even the old man is contrite, realizing that he was wrong about Mary.

Pretty snappy stuff. A good premise, quick pacing, and fairly good performances–even though many of the characters are types. Johnson’s Agnes character is actually the most interesting one to watch. Hussey’s good too, but her character flops from being a waifish victim to a smooth operator for no other reason than she’s honed her legal skills at the prison library.

Farmermouse is busy counterfeiting coupons for amusement park rides, so he gives this seven jailbirds. 7/10

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