Torrid Zone is a 1940 tropical adventure picture filled with comedy. It was written by Richard Macaulay and Jerry Wald, and directed by William Keighley, who worked with James Cagney (one of the movie’s stars), many times in his career. Paired with Cagney is Pat O’Brien who plays his rival; he’s the kind of rival who belongs only in old Hollywood pictures (he plays tricks and cheats you, you steal his woman, he steals yours, but in the end you’re friends). And at the center of Torrid Zone there is a woman, a beautiful woman: Ann Sheridan. She’s a singer and a card cheat. She gets kicked out of town and put on a boat by O’Brien but not before Cagney sees her and falls for her looks as well as her card-dealing skills.
It’s a great Hollywood picture, meaning that it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. All the acting is sharp, the dialogue is the kind long gone extinct from the movies (clever and witty without being self-conscious). It was all shot on Studio sets and the entire scenario a big sham and thank god.
Here is some dialogue from the movie I liked very much. This happens the day after Cagney gets cheated by Sheridan, as he is walking through his banana plantation with high-voiced Andy Devine. Sheridan comes out of nowhere.
Devine: You sure cover a lot of ground.
Cagney: Come on, hand over that dough.
Sheridan: What are you talking about?
Cagney: The three hundred books you clipped me for last night.
Sheridan: Well I never tagged you for a bad loser.
Cagney: And I never tagged you for a phony shuffle either.
Sheridan: Now wait a minute mister, you got yours all off the top. I just had a run of luck.
Cagney: I know that kind of house luck. Alright, hand it over.
Sheridan: I haven’t got it.
Cagney: Haven’t got it, huh? Want me to turn you upside down and shake it out of you?
Devine: Can I stand here and watch?
He shakes her upside down. She gives in and hands him the money.
Sheridan: You needn’t strain your mathematics, it’s all there.
Cagney: If you think you’re going to use this plantation for a hideout, you’re daffy. You’re going right back to town on the next train
Devine: That’s tomorrow.
Cagney: Well then it’s your job to pack her with the bananas and unload her.
Devine: You got any more jobs like that?