A Holy Terror – 1931

Holy Terror Poster2

My Review

—Perhaps the Most Undeserved Film Title of All Time—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

2 Bogie



out of 5 Bogies!

Director: Irving Cummings

The Lowdown

The son (George O’Brien) of a murdered millionaire (Robert Warwick) heads to Texas to confront the supposed murderer (James Kirkwood).

What I Thought

At fifty-three minutes, the review for this one was almost “Watchable.” Then I got to the twist ending which immediately calls into question everything that just happened in the previous fifty-two minutes and should potentially create an incredible legal nightmare for all the shooting, fighting, and death that the took place around the main protagonists. Instead, the twist is embraced by all the characters, laughed about, and taken as a neat and tidy wrap-up for a tragically violent story. I’m obviously tip toeing around spoilers here, but James Kirkwood’s Texas rancher is so negligent in his communication to other characters that he should spend the rest of his life in prison.

Based on a novel by renowned Western author Max Brand, there is some potential to be had by the story here. A wealthy playboy polo player heads out west and proves that he can be as tough as the cowboys while he solves his father’s murder – it’s a nice fish-out-of-water story, and other than the ludicrous way that O’Brien meets his love interest (Sally Eilers) at the beginning of the film, the romance isn’t half bad either despite the (clichéd) facet that she just happens to be dating the man (Bogart) who wants O’Brien dead.

Definitely not a must see for casual fans. There’s a good reason this one’s hard to find.

The Bogart Factor

It’s a stereotypical bad guy role for Bogart here as he plays Steve Nash, the head cowhand for James Kirkwood’s ranch. No backstory is given. He’s got a bunkhouse full of goons. He’s quick to use murder to solve all his problems. When the ending arrives, you will wonder Why in the heck did Kirkwood have this guy on the payroll?

All that said, Bogart’s the standout performance here by far. The role is essentially the same as any of his early gangster roles, complete with the East Coast accent, and no one could play stock tough guys better than Bogie. He whines, grouses, argues, sneers, and loses his temper throughout the film and it never gets old.

As one of only four Westerns in his filmography, there is enough here to make it a must see for Bogart completists as he does get a lot of screen time with all the other leads.

The Cast

George O’Brien plays Tony Bard, the wealthy playboy who goes to find his father’s killer. This was my first experience with O’Brien, but he seems to have had a decent career in Westerns. There’s not a lot to work with in the script for him, but he’s charming enough.

Sally Eilers plays Jerry Foster, Bogart’s apparent girlfriend, and the woman who O’Brien eventually woos by the end of the film. Eilers is probably the other standout alongside of Bogart as she’s pretty and seems comfortable onscreen. But again, with only fifty-three minutes to work with, there’s not much time to really see what she has to offer here.

James Kirkwood plays William Drew, the wealthy rancher suspected of killing O’Brien’s father. He’s briefly in the beginning and then reappears in the final act, so there’s not a lot of screen time for him, but he’s fine in the role despite the fact that his actions are criminal whether he’s guilty of the murder or not.

Robert Warwick appears briefly as O’Brien’s father, John Bard, before he’s murdered. Warwick was apparently a big encourager for Bogart early on, and their relationship was enough for Bogart to bring Warwick back for a small role in In a Lonely Place, so I’ll give him some props again here!

Stanley Fields plays Bogart’s right hand goon, Butch. Yup, that’s all you need to know to understand his character . . .

Rita La Roy shows up as Kitty, a counter girl who seems sweet on Bogart. Again, that’s about all you really need to know . . .

Classic Bogie Moment

He’s a cowboy, right? Right? But this sentence still comes out of his mouth as if he’s in full Bronx gangster mode:

“Fella doesn’t come into a town like this and ask questions for nuttin’!”

The Bottom Line

Harmless enough, painful in the finale.

13 thoughts on “A Holy Terror – 1931

  1. An early Bogie Western! This sounds worth seeing from your review, even though I take warning that it’s no masterpiece – what was the picture quality like? Director Irving Cummings seems to have mainly made musicals.

    George O’Brien was a good leading man in silents – he’s in the John Ford Western ‘The Iron Horse’ and one of the greatest romantic silent films, Murnau’s ‘Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans’. But it looks as if he mainly ended up in B Westerns after that.

    • No, definitely not a masterpiece. Quality was okay. I’ve had to resort to watching a few films on VHS, Betamax, and yes . . . even film. Unfortunately, the quality is never quite up to par with a nice DVD or Bluray, but it’s watchable. It’s so short, it’s not bad for a little dose of Bogart.

    • Repeated and nonstop Googling of the title on DVD, VHS, Betamax, Laser Disc, and film. A few pleas on Twitter, email, and blogs. And a couple really nice patrons of the blog who will occasionally reach out from their thrones in Tinseltown as long as I don’t rat them out 🙂

    • I’m curious to know which other two you haven’t seen, and if there’s any hope that Body and Soul, A Devil with Women, Broadway’s Like That, The Dancing Town, and Life are available ANYWHERE.

      • Haven’t seen Body and Soul or Devil With Women. Broadway’s Like That is partially lost, so I don’t count that — I think the same with Dancing Town.

        Life has never been confirmed as a Bogie appearance, so I don’t count that either…if anything it would be a quick cameo. At 94 years old, I’d bet it’s lost, but on the other hand the oldest movie in my collection dates to 1916, so there’s always hope!

      • I just need to track down a copy of Racket Busters! It seems to be the most elusive of all, other than a few end-of-career cameos that are sprinkled about and not available on DVD.

    • Legally – it’s not for release on any medium, so you have to just keep a close eye on the TCM schedule and hope it pops up. Illegally – I’ve heard there are sites out there that will burn you a copy of practically anything that’s been on TCM… but I can’t advocate that.

  2. I’m near the end of my Bogart life list; the interwebs have been very helpful. I just scored A Holy Terror and Women of All Nations (Bogart doesn’t actually appear) from a guy on eBay, and got hold of Report from the Front from TCM. Now all I need are The Dancing Town, Broadway’s Like That, A Devil with Women, Body and Soul, and the 1952 U.S. Savings Bonds trailer. I’d be delighted to have any leads!

    • You’re in the same place I am! I’ve got in my notes somewhere that at least one of those, Broadway’s Like That, is in a museum somewhere with no sound. I’ll try to find it. That’s as much help as I can be!

      • Thanks for your reply! Let’s continue to share any news of sightings. Have you ever attended the Bogart Festival in Key Largo?

  3. Pingback: The Westerns | The Bogie Film Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s