~Underworld~
1927
Directed by:
Josef von Sternberg        
Arthur Rosson ... fired, replaced by J. Von Sternberg (uncredited)

Written by:

Charles Furthman ... (adaptation) (as Charles Furthmann)
Howard Hawks ... (scenario) (uncredited)
Robert N. Lee ... (adaptation)
George Marion Jr. ... (titles)
Josef von Sternberg ... (uncredited)

Based on a story by Ben Hecht.
~Cast~

George Bancroft ... 'Bull' Weed
Evelyn Brent ... 'Feathers' McCoy
Clive Brook ... Rolls Royce Wensel
Fred Kohler ... 'Buck' Mulligan
Helen Lynch ... Meg, Mulligan's Girl
Larry Semon ... 'Slippy' Lewis
Jerry Mandy ... Paloma
Alfred Allen ... Judge (uncredited)
Shep Houghton ... Street Kid (uncredited)
Andy MacLennan ... One of Laughing Faces at the Ball (uncredited)
Ida May ... Laughing Woman at the Ball (uncredited)
Karl Morse ... High Collar' Sam (uncredited)
Julian Rivero ... One of Buck's Henchmen (uncredited)
~Remaining Credits~

Production Company: Paramount Pictures (as Famous Players-Lasky
Corporation)

Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures

Associate Producer: B.P. Schulberg
Supervising Producer: Hector Turnbull
Cinematography by: Bert Glennon        
Film Editing by: E. Lloyd Sheldon       
Costume Design by: Travis Banton        
Second Unit Director: Henry Hathaway
Set Designer: Hans Dreier
Assistant Camera Operator: William H. Clothier
Assistant Costume Designer: Edith Head
Presenters: Jesse L. Lasky & Adolph Zukor

Length: 8 Reels
Runtime: 80 Minutes
Released: October 29, 1927
~Plot Synopsis~
Underworld opens with a series of title cards setting its mood, telling of "a great city in the dead of
night...streets lonely...moon clouded...buildings as empty as the cave dwellings of a forgotten age."
Suddenly an explosion shatters the façade of a bank building, and the title cards announce that crime
kingpin Bull Weed (George Bancroft) has "closed another account." Bull emerges from the wreckage
carrying his swag, but while making his getaway, he spots a derelict (Clive Brook) wandering past, a
potential witness, despite his apparent inebriated state.

Instead of killing him, Weed knocks him cold, throws him in his car, and takes off, intending to figure
out later what to do with his unexpected "guest." Weed turns out to be a man of many parts -- greedy
and a brute when it comes to getting or keeping what he wants, but with a soft spot for the underdog,
and also smart enough to recognize the importance of some knowledge that he doesn't possess. He
around as an elegant stooge, advisor, and sometime driver. The man is only too happy to be taken off
the streets and set up in an apartment with a full library of books at his disposal, and the two men's
relationship is harmonious and mutually beneficial -- the former derelict has a home, and the crime
boss gets smart advice.

Bull Weed and Rolls Royce's meeting is our introduction to the world of Weed, in which he runs much
of what he surveys, but not without challengers. His most notable rival is vicious hood "Buck"
Mulligan (Fred Kohler), who doesn't like Weed and also covets his girlfriend, "Feathers" McCoy
(Evelyn Brent). Rolls Royce is also drawn to Feathers, who is, in turn, attracted to the gentle, witty
man; however, out of decency to Bull, who has been a benefactor in his own way to both of them, they
agree to stay away from each other. This drives Rolls Royce back to the bottle part of the time. Weed
and Mulligan finally have it out during the underworld's annual drunken bacchanal, a wildly
expressionistic sequence that must have seemed all the more dazzling and compelling to audiences in
1927, in the middle of the Prohibition Era. Mulligan tries to take advantage of his rival's passing out in
a stupor by having his way with Feathers, but Bull awakens with help from Mulligan's jealous
girlfriend and Rolls Royce, and proceeds to rescue Feathers and finish Mulligan -- an act that gets him
charged with murder, convicted, and sentenced to die. Feathers and Rolls Royce, with the help of
Bull's gang, try to help him break out on the eve of his execution, but their plan fails. Bull manages to
escape on his own, though, and goes seeking revenge against Feathers and Rolls Royce, whom he
believes have betrayed him. Just as Bull is about to pull out his gun, however, he discovers that
Feathers and Rolls Royce had always played it straight with him, and even if they are attracted to each
other, they never did anything about it, out of respect for him. He lets them go and surrenders to the
police. Admonished by the head of the arresting squad that his break only gained him two hours, he
smiles, saying those two hours were worth it for what he found out.

A masterpiece of the silent era that still holds up as an exciting and engrossing movie over 70 years
later, and which is properly regarded as the first modern American gangster movie, Underworld has
elements that anticipate such sound classics as Little Caesar and The Public Enemy, and a final
shoot-out similar to those in Angels With Dirty Faces (co-starring Bancroft) and Each Dawn I Die.
Director Josef von Sternberg and cinematographer Bert Glennon actually manage to convey sound
with pure visuals in the suspenseful jailbreak scene, and, overall, they produced a beautifully stylized
film, visually expressionistic but sentimental in tone and story. The script, by Ben Hecht -- a veteran
Chicago reporter -- also crawls with allusions to real-life figures, Bull Weed being a highly sanitized
stand-in for Al Capone, and "Buck" Mulligan a composite of Capone's Northside mob rival Dion
O'Bannion and his eventual successor, O'Bannion gang member George "Bugs" Moran.

Plot Synopsis by Bruce Eder, AllMovie.com
~Evelyn Brent & Clive Brook~