Jack Pickford, Olive Borden
2 September 1928
Gang War (released as All Square in the UK) is a 1928 gangster film, best known for being the main feature attached to Steamboat Willie, the debut of Mickey Mouse in sound. The film starred Jack Pickford in his last major role, as "Clyde", a saxophone player whose love for a dancer named Flowers (Olive Borden) traps him in the middle of a gang war. Despite the all-star cast and advanced effects, including synchronised sound, the film is largely unknown in its own right, being overshadowed by its far more famous preceding short.
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The film follows the saxophone player Clyde, who busks on the San Francisco Bay waterfront. One night, he meets Flowers, and teaches her to dance, but finds that "Blackjack" (Eddie Gribbon), the leader of a ruthless gang, is also in love with her. Despite the intense turf war between "Blackjack" and a rival gangster named Mike Luego (Walter Long), "Blackjack" wins the heart of Flowers and marries her, but without consummating the marriage. Clyde is eventually able to win "Blackjack" over however, and "Blackjack" sacrifices himself to protect Clyde and Flowers from Luego. Gang War was produced in black and white on Academy ratio 35 mm film, and was originally to be a silent film. However, a spoken prologue was added, in which a group of reporters (including one played by Mabel Albertson) discuss the events that are to come.
Reception to the movie was rather muted; while The New York Times called it "better than the majority of its ilk", the paper still dismissed it as "More Gang Fights". In particular, the paper found the movie to be rather cliché -- it balked at the sentimentality of "Blackjack"'s death scene and claimed the writers "would confer a favor upon a patient public if they mutinied against the use of some words, especially that simple monosyllable, 'well' ". The Allmovie rated the film just 1.5 stars out of 5, calling the prologue "irrelevant", but praising Long's performance as being "brutish" but "right in his element".