Year: 1932

Director: Alfred E. Green

Cast: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. , Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee, Alan Hale, George Rosener

Chick (Fairbanks) and Scraps (Kibbee) are two hobos just released from the hoosegow for vagrancy. They need money to eat and make their way to Union Depot where Chick manages to get some clean clothes and money off a drunk who leaves his luggage in the men’s room. While at the station he also sees Ruth (Joan Blondell), an out of work chorus girl who’s broke and needs $64 to get to Salt Lake City for her next job and to get away from a sexual predator. Hungry and broke she accepts Chick’s invitation to go to a hotel room next to the station where he buys her a meal. Thinking she is a prostitute he is looking for repayment with some female companionship. When he thinks she’s refusing to put Chick smacks Ruth (a 1932 review in Time magazine points out that this may have been prompted by recent screen activities of James Cagney and Clark Gable). He soon realizes that Ruth is not really a prostitute, just broke and desperate. Underneath, Chick is really a good guy and agrees to help her get to Salt Lake City.

In a series of incidents involving pickpockets, counterfeiters and just plain fate Chick finds himself in the possession of a violin case full of counterfeit money, though he does not know it is counterfeit at the time. He buys Ruth a couple of dresses and the ticket to Salt Lake City with the funny money. The store clerk where Ruth purchased her dresses realizes the money is phony and calls the police who quickly arrest Ruth and Chick. Chick tells the police how he came by the money finding a check stub in a discarded wallet. The wallet had been tossed by a pickpocket after stealing it from one of the counterfeiters. Eventually after a shooting, a chase through the train yards and more misunderstandings by the law, Chick and Ruth are both cleared and the counterfeiters caught. Ruth boards the train for Salt Lake City as Chick, broke again, waves to her goodbye.

The ending is a nice touch. In most movies the couple would have fell in love and lived happily ever after. Here, they meet and depart with no artificial happy ending. All this plays out in real time.

The film is entertaining and is helped by good performances, especially by Fairbanks, Blondell and Frank McHugh. Joan Blondell is always a pleasure to watch and is as sexy as she has ever been on screen.

Union Depot benefits from it pre-code openness and it is amazing what got past the censors, prostitution, sexual perversion, and attempted rape. Articles discussing Warner Brothers pre-code films hardly, if ever, mention Union Depot which is a shame. Director Alfred Green keeps the film moving at a nice pace and at approximately 75 minutes is a nice trip.

Oh, did I mention that Joan Blondell is in this picture?

By John Greco

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