We’re Only Human (1935)
Directed by James Flood and based on the Thomas Walsh story Husk with a screenplay by Rian James this below average crime drama features one dimensional characters and a lead acting performance by Preston Foster that’s so overdone that he must have been thinking this was a silent film. Foster plays a pigheaded lone wolf detective who’s so emotionally unstable that it’s a credibility stretch to believe that he’d have been elevated to the position of authority he holds. After countless irresponsible acts two of which cause his partners (James Donlan uncredited and then James Gleason) to be killed his character finally gets injured. This causes him to undergo an unbelievable transformation into a (police) “department man” only to have his ex-“girlfriend” (played by Jane Wyatt) a newspaper reporter coax him into another “one man against impossible odds” situation so that he might save the day and become a hero at the end of the movie. Jane Darwell and Moroni Olsen (among others) also appear as does Mischa Auer (uncredited).
New York Detective Sergeant Pete ‘Mac’ McCaffrey (Foster) is introduced to a newly hired reporter from Kansas City Sally Rogers (Wyatt) by newspaper photographer Johnny O’Brien (John Arledge). Sally then witnesses an incredibly brave act by the detective as dashes across the street through traffic and singlehandedly arrests mob leader Lefty Berger (Auer) who’d been hiding in a coffin-like basket after temporarily disabling two other gang members. Just inside the building Berger’s lawyer John Martin (Arthur Hohl) talks Tony Ricci (Harold Huber uncredited) out of taking a shot at McCaffrey. Sally talks the detective into an exclusive interview and they agree to meet for dinner later. However back at police headquarters Inspector Curran (Olsen) is none too pleased with McCaffrey who’d thought he was going to be promoted but instead gets reprimanded for his “go it alone” tactic that cost the department a chance to round up the entire gang. While Sally begins her newspaper story praising McCaffrey’s work her city editor (Charles Wilson uncredited) tells her to write that the detective actually botched things up. Despite this and then claims by each to the contrary both McCaffrey and Sally meet for chop suey dinner that evening and subsequent begin dating.
While transporting Berger to Sing Sing prison McCaffrey allows his half asleep partner Detective Casey (Donlan) to take the mob leader alone into the train’s restroom for a smoke. One of Berger’s gang had planted a weapon for his escape in there so the gang leader kills Casey and then escapes. After receiving another dressing down and a 5 day suspension from the Inspector instead of being humble McCaffrey boldly proclaims that he’ll have Berger back in custody within 30 days to the press. Naturally this claims comes to haunt the detective as 30 days comes and goes many times; McCaffrey is reminded of this by calendars from Berger which are regularly delivered by one of his gang’s members. Later without his gun or badge while on another date with Sally McCaffrey hears of a bank robbery in progress to which his partner Detective Danny Walsh (Gleason) has been assigned. Walsh has been on the force much longer than his younger partner perhaps because of his more cautious approach to such situations but McCaffrey is so sure of himself that he’s constantly lecturing his elder that the way to go about things is to charge forth without thought. Naturally this leads to Walsh doing just that in this instance such that the older detective is killed (for his part Gleason underplays it) while McCaffrey who’d gone in without a weapon or a coordinated plan captures one of the perpetrators (Ward Bond uncredited). He then exhibits an appalling lack of tack telling Walsh’s widow (Darwell) about it affecting blaming the victim for his own death. This causes a rift between McCaffrey and Sally who’d witnessed his irrational outburst.
Berger’s lawyer (whose maid is played by an uncredited Hattie McDaniel) who had requested McCaffrey’s protection from the mob leader but didn’t receive is gunned down; the witness to this crime William Anderson (Christian Rub) is also threatened. He then has second thoughts about testifying identifying who he’d seen such that McCaffrey tries to force his son Tommy (Delmar Watson uncredited) also a witness to describe what he’d seen. There’s also a strange lie-detector test mugshot identification and bullet match scene in addition to an obscure reference to the possibility that Berger may have had his face altered. While McCaffrey is with Anderson and his family (including Anderson’s wife played by Rafaela Ottiano uncredited) who’s also then terrorized by Berger’s gang the detective is shot by Ricci. Ironically this is the only time McCaffrey gets shot and it’s in the back vs. during one of his “bull in a china closet” one man raids. McCaffrey is temporarily blinded and while he’s being cared for by Mrs. Walsh and then his ex-girlfriend is so overwrought and afraid of being left alone that he shoots up his apartment nearly hitting Sally upon her return.
When McCaffrey can see again miraculously he’s had a change of heart – the Inspector’s words have finally taken root such that the detective is reluctant to go with Sally Johnny and Anderson to Berger’s hideout without backup. Sally knows the location because she’d been able to convince a delirious and dying Ricci shot at a warehouse robbery that he’d double-crossed by Berger such that he had told the newspaperwoman his boss’s location with his dying breaths. Of course McCaffrey’s insistence on involving the department is short-lived and Sally who only months earlier was a newbie to the city is incredulously able to give him driving directions to the hideout. Once they’re there and because his mom (Effie Ellsler uncredited) was kidnapped and is likely inside Anderson makes a suicidal dash towards the remote house. After he is shot Berger calls out to egg on McCaffrey who’s buttons are so easily pushed such that he charges forth and of course is able to shoot and kill both gang members one by faking that he’d been shot and then Berger by pretending his pistol was out of bullets. Grandma is rescued and it turns out Anderson was only injured. McCaffrey and Sally are reunited.