Thursday, September 8, 2011
The Toast of New York - 1937
“The Toast of New York” (1937) turns character actor Edward Arnold into a romantic lead. This alone makes this uneven movie a delight.
Based on the true life and financial skullduggery of 19th century entrepreneur James Fisk, Jr., Edward Arnold plays Fisk the Robber Baron with the aplomb of a swashbuckler. In tow are Cary Grant and Jack Oakie as his junior partners. They follow his lead from scheme to scheme like courtiers to a king.
Billy Gilbert has a minor role, too, as a frustrated photographer.
The movie begins at the outbreak of the Civil War, as Messrs. Arnold, Grant, and Oakie are playing a peddlar’s con game in the south. They are “outed” as Yankees, and make a mad dash for the Mason-Dixon line -- just over that bridge -- to escape certain death by vigilantes and the townspeople they cheated. Then Arnold decides smuggling cotton to the north, defying the Union blockade, would be a better racket. It is one of many speculative ventures that lead the trio from ruin to wealth, to ruin, to wealth.