They All Come Out (1939)

US / 69 minutes / bw / Loew’s, MGM Dir: Jacques Tourneur Pr: Jack Chertok Scr: John C. Higgins Cine: Clyde DeVinna, Paul C. Vogel Cast: Rita Johnson, Tom Neal, Bernard Nedell, Edward Gargan, John Gallaudet, Addison Richards, Frank M. Thomas, George Tobias, Ann Shoemaker, Charles Lane, Fay Helm, Paul Fix.

As the opening credits say, They All Come Out is

Dedicated to
THE UNITED STATES
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
whose coöperation made this picture possible.

That’s not necessarily a good thing.

Thanks to an encounter with lovely Kitty Carson (Johnson), hobo Joe Cameron (Neal) gets himself a job at last . . . as getaway driver for a gang of bank robbers: gang leader Clyde “Reno” Madigan (Nedell) plus George “Bugs” Jacklin (Gargan), the mentally unstable gunman Albert “Groper” Crane (Gallaudet) and, of course, Kitty.

Kitty and Joe get sweet on each other. When the cops close in on the gang and Kitty is wounded in the shootout, it’s Joe who goes back to rescue her despite Reno’s disparagement of his taking a risk for “just a dame.”

Rita Johnson as Kitty.

In due course the gang members are arrested and jailed. Kitty and Joe respond well to the federal prison authorities’ rehabilitation programs, qualify for parole and are relatively soon released to get jobs according to the training they’ve received while inside. Bugs, after initial recalcitrance, responds well too, the promise of reconciliation with wife Mamie (Helm) being a major carrot. Groper gets successful treatment from the prison psychiatrist (Lane) for his persecution complex.

Edward Gargan as Bugs (left) and John Gallaudet as Groper.

Only Reno is incorrigible. He believes Joe is going to steal the money they hid together, and swears revenge. He persuades his cellmate, Vonnie (Fix), to “look up” Joe on his release. Once Reno is shipped out to Alcatraz, Vonnie realizes the money could be all his . . .

Tom Neal as Joe.

The movie’s bookended by spiels from former Attorney-General Homer S. Cummings, paired in the opening segment with James V. Bennett, then Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, in which we’re told the personnel of the federal prison system are real swell people who’re doing great things for the criminals who come into their care, turning them from misfits and outcasts into valuable members of society.

Bernard Nedell as Reno.

In other words, They All Come Out is a propaganda movie—which means it’s a bit dull and, according to all accounts, a bit unrealistic, no matter how much some idealists might wish otherwise. I spotted exactly one African American prisoner and no one of any of the other ethnicities among the countless whites in the prison scenes. The various prison staffers we see, from guards to governors, are unfailingly kindly to those in their charge, whose interests they have at heart. Even when Joe refuses to tell the authorities where he and Reno stowed the proceeds of the gang’s final heist, on the grounds that he’s frightened for the consequences should he rat on Reno, he’s assured this won’t affect his parole chances.

Yeah. Right.

Paul Fix as Vonnie.

Still, Rita Johnson is pretty wonderful, at least according to this elderly lecher, and, even if Tom Neal has a certain sliminess your correspondent never much enjoys, the movie’s worth watching also for Bernard Nedell’s performance as the overintelligent and correspondingly overconfident gangster Reno. Some of the dialogue, too, ameliorates—or at least dilutes—much of the plot’s dullness:

Bugs: “Take beer, for instance. Beer never hurt nobody. Besides, it’s good for your kidneys.”
Kitty: “I notice you take good care of yours.”

Essentially, if you’d gone to the cinema and saw this as your B-movie, back in the day when there were such things as B-movies, you wouldn’t have felt cheated. I’m not so sure it’s worth watching today, though, except as an intriguing period piece.

And Rita Johnson. Oh yes.

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