The Racket

Alternate Title: Read My Lips
1927 Nominee

Captain McQuigg (Thomas Meighan) is just an honest cop trying to right by his district. Nick Scarsi (Louis Wolheim) is a Prohibition-era gangster who keeps getting away with murder. McQuigg is sick of the untouchable Scarsi’s antics. While the captain does his best in pursuit of justice, Scarsi and his brother, Joe (George Stone) can’t resist rubbing Captain McQuigg’s nose in the aftermath of each of their crimes. It’s not until Helen Hayes (Marie Prevost) saunters into the picture that the Scarsi brothers might have actually met their match.

The Racket is a silent movie. This works to the film’s detriment. A pioneer mobster flick, The Racket features everything you could want from the genre, up to and including slick slang spouted by smooth-talking bad guys. Of course, this means that there is an abundance of dialogue here, something that makes watching The Racket tricky. Whenever one of those cool lines is delivered, the picture is interrupted with a title card broadcasting the line. The product is a choppy, comical version of the modern day mob movie we all know and love.

What is fun is the casting; every one of the gangsters has a unique look and that aspect of the genre has definitely carried its tune into today. There’s an obvious parallel  between the film’s main character, Scarsi, and the infamous Al Capone, nicknamed Scarface. Due to its sad disconnect between fast-talking and please pause for the title card cadence, The Racket was too speedy for its time.

Now it’s Your Turn…
The Racket was nominated for Best Picture in 1927, but did The Academy get it right?

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