The Great O'Malley
Pat O’Brien plays a New York beat cop who spends his days writing nuisance citations and his nights studying the city code in search of new ordinances to enforce. To teach O’Brien some humanity, his chief assigns him to work as a crossing guard for a city grade-school, where he develops a bond with a crippled young girl.
A familiar story, but O’Brien’s wrong for the part. An Irish cop? Sure. But this part proves less about his ethnicity and more about his neurotype. The character should be rigid, obsessed with detail and routine, and zealous in his job. We’re told O’Brien is all these things, but he appears laconic. This robs his character of any arc, as his personality never changes.
Humphrey Bogart plays the crippled girl’s father. Early in the film, O’Brien writes him a ticket for a noisy muffler, making Bogart late to work and costing him his job. Desperate, Bogart robs a pawnbroker, and ends up sentenced to two-to-ten years.
Of course, O’Brien doesn’t discover Bogart is the girl’s father until he’s bonded with her. This proves the impetus for O’Brien’s change as he arranges surgery for the girl, and a parole for Bogart.
Then the movie gets stupid. Ten minutes off the bus from prison, Bogart’s bug-eyed and shaking, convinced O’Brien is out to get him. When O’Brien does arrive, Bogart makes a convincing argument that he belongs in prison, despite O’Brien just wanting to give Bogart some toys for his daughter.
At least it commits to the inanity, capping it off with Bogie saving O’Brien’s life via a blood transfusion. Maybe all O’Brien needed all along was some Bogie blood in his veins.