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Film / High Pressure

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High Pressure is a 1932 film directed by Mervyn LeRoy.

Gar Evans (William Powell) is a Wall Street "promoter", a sort of hype man who promotes stocks. A guy named Ginsburg comes to him and tells him that he knows an inventor who has a process of making artificial rubber from sewage. (In Real Life, the first successful artificial rubber, neoprene, was invented around the time this movie was made.). Gar swings into action, creating a corporation out of nowhere, recruiting an army of salesmen, getting a hobo named Clifford Gray (Guy Kibbee) to pretend to be president of the company, and making the "Golden Gate Artificial Rubber Company" the hot new thing on Wall Street—all before they've actually made any artificial rubber.

Gar attracts the unfavorable attention of natural rubber companies, who in turn inform law enforcement. In fact, the only thing separating Gar from a pump and dump con artist is that he believes that at some point his company will produce artificial rubber and the stockholders actually will make money. So when he finds out that the inventor who was supposed to make rubber out of sewage is both a fraud and a lunatic, he realizes that he's in a lot of trouble.



  • And the Adventure Continues: At the end Gar pleads with Francine that he'll quit the financial speculation game: they'll get married, he'll go straight, he'll get a regular job. He has barely gotten the words out of his mouth when Mike approaches him with a new client, some dude from Alaska who wants to market spruce wood. The film ends with Gar huckstering again, much to Francine's disgust.
  • Anti-Hero: Gar clearly skirts the edge of being a full-on con artist, going through the whole pump-and-dump playbook of basically faking a successful business. The only difference is that while a pump-and-dump perpetrator knows the stock is worthless, Gar thinks that they actually will make rubber. Later, it's revealed that Gar used to run a diploma mill in the 1920s.
  • Deus ex Machina: Just when it seems Gar is facing disaster—financial ruin for his investors, prison for himself—the representative from the consortium of natural rubber companies buys out the shares of Golden Gate Artificial Rubber, because it's a "nuisance" hurting natural rubber stock prices. His investors wind up making a profit and Gar actually gets a handsome dividend.
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  • Establishing Character Moment: The opening montage has Gar's friend/sidekick Mike trying to find him. Mike calls a nightclub, a brothel, and a speakeasy, before calling Gar's girlfriend Francine, who says he's been missing for five days. Finally he finds Gar, passed out drunk in still a different speakeasy.
  • Fanservice Extra: A brief shot showing a bunch of scantily-clad hookers in a brothel. The Miss Kitty tells Mike that Gar is not there.
  • Gratuitous Laboratory Flasks: Dr. Pfeiffer, the inventor who is making artificial rubber from sewage, has a lab filled with exotic flasks and beakers, including some very oversized ones. Unlike most examples of this trope, this is sort of justified when Pfeiffer is revealed as a deranged nutcase.
  • I Have This Friend: Helen doesn't want to reveal that she's getting married, so she says she has this friend who is getting married and wants to invest $300 with Golden Gate Artificial Rubber. Unlike most examples of this trope, Gar is fooled.
  • MacGuffin: Ginsburg's (or rather, his inventor's) process for making artificial rubber out of sewage. Gar is horrified when he finds out that it's a fraud.
  • Named Like My Name: A delivery boy happens to be named Augustus Vanderbilt. He's no relation to the famous Old Money Vanderbilt family, but Gar puts him on the board of directors.
  • Race for Your Love: The climax has Gar and company racing to the dock to catch Francine before she sails to South America. In this case it's not just a race for Francine's love, it's a race to retrieve the stock certificate that he signed over to Francine, the one that he has to give the natural rubber guy in order to complete the sale and save himself from prison.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Gar's girlfriend Francine (Evelyn Brent), who is tired of his shenanigans, is wearing one of these when she goes out with a more appropriate boyfriend.
  • Sexy Secretary: Gar hires a sexy secretary named Helen. There's nothing happening between them (Helen has a fiancé), but her presence is another source of tension between Helen and Francine. One shot has the camera trace up Helen's body from feet to head, as Francine evaluates her.

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