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Jimmy the Gent is a 1934 comedy film directed by Michael Curtiz.

Apparently, there is an epidemic of rich people dying intestate, with no known heirs. Jimmy Corrigan (James Cagney) runs a pretty shady business that involves hooking up long-lost relatives with the money they're entitled to inherit from recently departed rich folks. Shady, because if Jimmy can't find a legitimate heir, he arranges for people to impersonate heirs, and then splits the money with the impostors.

His old girlfriend Joan (Bette Davis) has dumped Jimmy because of his sleazy ways, and taken up with Charles Wallingham, who runs a classier and (supposedly) far more ethical heir-hunting business. When a homeless old woman named Barton dies and is found to have $200,000 in jewels and securities on her person, Wallingham finds an heir named Sarah Barton. However, Jimmy discovers her uncle, Monty Barton, who would stand to inherit the whole fortune—except that he's wanted for murder. Will Jimmy be able to maneuver Monty Barton into inheriting the Barton fortune? Can he do that and win Joan's heart?

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One of only two films that Cagney and Davis made together despite both being contract players at Warner Brothers for many years; the other is 1942 film The Bride Came C.O.D.


Tropes:

  • Artistic License – Linguistics: When teaching one of his stooges how to impersonate a Georgia gentleman in order to claim an inheritance, Jimmy makes the classic Hollywood screenwriter error of using "y'all" to address a single person.
  • Batman Gambit: Jimmy's complicated scheme to get Monty Barton the money. He gets Gladys, the witness in Monty Barton's murder trial, to marry Barton so that she can't testify against him, in exchange for half of the $200K. But before that he married Lou's girlfriend Mabel to Barton, so Gladys isn't entitled to the money. But he married Mabel to Barton under a fake name so she also isn't entitled to the money. Barton gets the whole $200,000.
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  • Clue, Evidence, and a Smoking Gun: Jimmy's sidekick Lou has dug up a suitable fake heir, a woman who has the required identifying mark, a mole on her hip. Except that he got it wrong, as Jimmy explains.
    Jimmy: It wasn't a mole, it was a wart; it wasn't on her hip, it was on her shoulder; and and it wasn't a dame, it was a guy!
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: Done deliberately and as a ruse, as Jimmy gets two of his guys to stand outside of Monty Barton's apartment, wave papers around, and yell "Extra! Joe Rector caught!" This gets Barton, aka Joe Rector, to let his guard down, which allows Jimmy to sneak into his apartment.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The fake newspapers that are repeatedly used for exposition headlines. Some of the news stories beneath them are gibberish, but one has a story headlined "DIOGENES IN A SHEET IS RULED DISORDERLY", with a story beneath it about how a man named Diogenes wearing nothing but a sheet and carrying a candle was arrested. This is a joke about the Ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes.
  • Gratuitous French: The extremely pretentious Wallingham has a habit of dropping French phrases in conversation. Jimmy makes fun of him for it in one exchange.
    Wallingham: Au revoir, Jimmy.
    Jimmy: Filet mignon, Wallingham.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: Jimmy has an extremely sharp temper and he often expresses it by kicking his Bumbling Sidekick Loui in the butt.
  • Love Triangle: Between Jimmy, Joan who obviously loves Jimmy, and Wallingham who seems to Joan to be a less sleazy suitor.
  • Oops! I Forgot I Was Married: Gladys marries Barton so he gets off the hook for murder, but afterwards she's told that Barton was already married. So she doesn't get $100,000, she gets $100.
  • Revealing Hug: After finding out the depths of Jimmy's scheme to get the Barton money, Joan accepts Wallingham's proposal of marriage. But as she embraces him and says "You've got to make me love you," he rolls his eyes with boredom. It turns out he's just as big a liar and crook as Jimmy said he was, and his whole plan is to abscond with the $100,000 check that Jimmy turned over to him.
  • The Scrooge: The dead lady, Ms. Barton, was a homeless woman. When she died, she was found with bonds and jewels and safety deposit box keys that total up to $200K.
  • A Spot Of Tea: Part of the Wallingham company's pretentious to class and style involves everybody, absolutely everybody, drinking tea out of fancy china cups. When he's waiting in the anteroom to Joan's office Jimmy watches four guys in suits drink tea in unison. Later, after Jimmy starts trying to class up his operation in imitation of Wallingham, he makes everyone in his office drink tea too.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: The whole racket, as it seems there are a lot of unexpected inheritances out there and plenty of people willing to fake identities to claim them.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Where Mabel puts the $250 check that Jimmy gives her, because with a dress that tight there was nowhere else to put it.
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