Even when the story falls apart, Del Ruth’s direction still keeps Taxi! somewhat afloat. It only runs seventy minutes and the first half is pretty good stuff. When it starts, the film’s about one cab company trying to muscle out its competitors–Guy Kibbee and James Cagney being some of those competitors. But Taxi! soon becomes a romance between Cagney and Kibbee’s daughter, played by Loretta Young. In fact, after the opening confrontations and Cagney’s profession, the title has nothing to do with the rest of the film.
Instead, it’s an urban romance between Cagney and Young. He’s a hot-head, always getting into fistfights, and she’s trying to cool him off. During their courtship, Taxi! works its best. Leila Bennett plays Young’s friend and she’s excellent. While the film definitely seems listless, it’s well-made and well-acted.
But then the plot takes over around the forty minute mark and everything starts to fall apart. It doesn’t help Dorothy Burgess turns up and she’s awful. Kubec Glasmon and John Bright’s dialogue, at least for the first half, is quite good. They bring a personality to the New York setting and there’s some great banter between Cagney and Young. Burgress butchers the dialogue, but then it too gets worse so no one’s able to do anything with it.
Except Bennett. She, director Del Ruth and cinematographer James Van Trees are Taxi!’s constants.
If it were just a dumb ending, Taxi! might overcome it, but the whole third act is lame.
Directed by Roy Del Ruth; screenplay by Kubec Glasmon and John Bright, based on the play by Kenyon Nicholson; director of photography, James Van Trees; edited by James Gibbon; produced by Robert Lord; released by Warner Bros.
Starring James Cagney (Matt Nolan), Loretta Young (Sue Riley Nolan), George E. Stone (Skeets), Guy Kibbee (Pop Riley), Leila Bennett (Ruby), Dorothy Burgess (Marie Costa), David Landau (Buck Gerard), Ray Cooke (Danny Nolan), George MacFarlane (Father Nulty), Nat Pendleton (Bull Martin) and Berton Churchill (Judge West).