Watching 1939: Double Deal (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film: 
Double Deal (1939)

Release date: 
April 2, 1939

Cast: 
Monte Hawley, Jeni Le Gon, Edward Thompson, Florence O’Brien, Freddie Jackson, Buck Woods, Maceo Bruce Sheffield, Juanita Moore (uncredited)
Shelton Brooks as himself

Studio: 
George Randol Productions, released by Sack Amusement Enterprises and Astor Pictures Corp.

Director: 
Arthur Dreifuss

Plot:
Gangster Dude Markey (Thompson) and gambler Jim McCoy (Hawley) are both in love with nightclub performer Nita (Gon). McCoy’s naive younger brother Tommy (Jackson) gets involved in a jewel robbery and someone is killed. Dude ends up with an alibi and tries to pin the crime on Tommy.

1939 Notes:
• First film of actress Juanita Moore. She is in an uncredited role as a nightclub patron.
• Actor Monte Hawley was in three films released in 1939.

Other trivia: 
• The class included a retired Los Angeles police officer.
• Edward Thompson is billed as Eddie Thompson.
• Cameo by Shelton Brooks who plays his song “Hole in the Wall.”

Jeni Le Gon performing in “Double Deal” (1939)

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
Race films were produced for segregated audiences and followed popular genres that were popular with major Hollywood studio films – from musicals to westerns.

“Double Deal” is a crime or gangster film, with a plot similar that you may have seen in a low budget Warner Bros. film. A naive younger boy gets conned into participating with a robbery and is left holding the bag. His older brother and girlfriend work to clear his name, while the true criminals try to stop the young man from being cleared.

Though this is a crime film, the elements of crime and gambling could also perpetuate stereotypes.

The best part are the musical numbers that take place at the night club where the leading lady Nita, played by Jeni Le Gon performs.

Gon went on to play Minnie in the Cab Calloway musical, Hi De Ho (1947), and later appeared on Amos n’ Andy television episodes.

The real highlight is composer and singer Shelton Brooks in the film as himself. Brooks wrote songs like “Some of These Days” and “At the Darktown Strutters’ Ball.” In the film, he sings “Hole in the Wall.”

Compared to many other low budget films of 1939, “Double Deal” is enjoyable. It’s a brisk 58 minutes, and the music is the highlight of the film.

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