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Film / The Public Pays

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The Public Pays is a 1936 short film (19 minutes) directed by Errol Taggart.

It is an installment of MGM's "Crime Does Not Pay" series of shorts, which dealt with various aspects of gangsters and organized crime. This short focuses on the protection racket. A bunch of organized crime dirtbags led by a guy named Moran come to a town pretending to be the "Creamery Betterment Association". What they are really doing is operating a shakedown racket in which they demand each dairy in town raise the price of milk three cents a bottle, and pay the racket a penny for every bottle of milk sold. Most of the local dairies cave, but Charlie Paige of Paige Creamery fights back. When Paige goes to the cops, Chief Carney comes up with a plan.



  • Driving a Desk: Very noticeable in a scene where Creamery Betterment mooks ram a Paige Creamery truck.
  • Framing Device: In each short in this series an actor playing "the MGM Reporter" interviewed another actor playing a cop, or some sort of expert, who explained why crime doesn't pay. In this one the Reporter inteviews "Chief Carney" who tells the story of the protection racket.
  • Gangland Drive-By: Sort of. One of the Creamery Betterment goons does this in classic style, shooting out the window as the gang car races by—but he isn't shooting a person, he's shooting holes in the milk tanker truck.
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: The gangsters get an office with "Creamery Betterment Association, Inc." painted on the door.
  • Officer O'Hara: Officer Donovan the cheery Irish beat cop greets his fellow Irishman, Riley the detective. Riley has two Creamery Betterment goons tied to the top of his truck.
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  • Protection Racket: The Creamery Betterment Association runs a protection racket where they demand payoffs from local dairies and resort to violence if they don't get their payoffs.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Some dairy men agree to pay right away, but the members of Creamery Betterment use this on anyone who balks. When one businessman refuses to ante up, the goon in his office hands over his card and says "by tomorrow, you'll need it." After thugs from Creamery Betterment attack his delivery men and smash his trucks, the businessman caves. Paige, the last creamery owner in the city who hasn't knuckled under, nearly does after the Creamery Betterment guy sees a picture of his wife and kids and says "Nice family you got."
  • Shoe Phone: Moran's head enforcer has a tommy gun cleverly disguised to look like an umbrella. He freaks out another gangster by opening the umbrella at him.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: One dairy business caves to the Creamery Betterment gang after a gangster does their milk bottles with kerosene.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: MILK PRICES UP THREE CENTS probably didn't need to be the top headline on page 1.

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