THE WHOLE TOWN’S TALKING. Columbia, 1935. Edward G. Robinson, Jean Arthur, Arthur Hohl, James Donlan, Arthur Byron, Wallace Ford, Donald Meek, Etienne Girardot. Director: John Ford.


   I waited a long time for The Whole Town’s Talking to come out on Video, and then it reminded me of my experiences with Spillane and James Hadley Chase: I wanted to like it a lot, but found myself disappointed,

   The Whole Town’s Talking (not to be confused with People Will Talk or The Talk of the Town) has some impressive credentials indeed: A Gangster/Comedy film with Edward G. Robinson and Jean Arthur, based on a story by W. R. Burnett and directed by none other than John Ford, not shown on television in years, so you can imagine how I looked forward to it.

   Turns out, though, to be an unimaginative little comedy, revolving around a meek clerk, played by Robinson, who resembles a Dillinger-like desperado, also played by Robinson, and the supposedly comic complications this has on his life. There’s a lot of Capra-esque business about poor little Edward G, abused by uncaring bosses and local politicos, and the presence of Jean Arthur pushes it even further into Capra territory.

   The film also features on performances by two supreme milquetoasts of the cinema, Etienne Girardot and Donald Meek, who actually share an all-too-short scene together. Unfortunately, the whole thing revolves around a character who never seems to do very much; the story just sort of moves — slowly — along without him… and without engendering too much interest.