BROTHER ORCHID tells the story of a hood that wanted to go straight and get “class.” He finds it’s not that easy and then learns the true meaning of class and how to get it.

Edward G. Robinson is “Little John” Sarto, boss in one of New York’s biggest mobs. He announces one day that he’s retiring from the mob and going to Europe to get some class. He turns the mob over to his pal and lieutenant Jack Buck(Humphrey Bogart). This was just before Bogart’s star began it’s rise and he only got third billing behind Ann Sothern who plays Flo Addams, Johnny’s girl.

Flo is disappointed when John Sarto, businessman and sportsman, tells her she’s not going. There will be a big wedding when he gets back. To appease her, he tells her he will get her in at a big night club. Some “in.” She’s the new hatcheck girl.

Though a big deal in gangland circles in New York, John Sarto in Europe is seen as a sucker and we get a montage of him buying expensive toys that turn out to be fakes: the biggest diamond in the world that’s really a glass doorknob, a race horse that he ends up selling for a hundredth what he paid.

After five years, the money is gone and he decides to come home and take his old job back.

Not that easy.

Jack Buck laughs in his face and tosses him out. He finds that Flo has moved up in the world. She now owns the club he got her the hatcheck job, courtesy of a loan from a rich Montana rancher named Clarence Fletcher(Ralph Bellamy).

Deciding to fight back, Little John gathers a new mob with tha aid of the only man still loyal to him, Willie The Knife(Allen Jenkins).

So begins the war between the two mobs ans Flo wants to help Johnny, arranging a meeting with Buck to iron out their differences. She’s a bit naive and takes Buck at his owrd when he says not to tell Johnny theat he will be there,

The story takes a turn and we see John taken out into the country to be killed. Escaping, but still shot, he falls

out near a monastery and is taken in. The group nurse him back to health and he joins them, figuring to use them for a hideout. But he’s gradually won over by the brothers simple life. They raise flowers, sell them in the city, and any profits go to the poor. They care nothing about a man’s past, don’t need to know a name. Little John Sarto becomes Brother Orchid.

John has never seen people like them. After several months and a few screw-ups, “a guy can’t change all at once, see”,  he decides to leave when he sees Flo is marrying her rich rancher.

One final confrontation with Buck and the mob makes Brother Orchid realize where his heart really is these days.

A bit of an unusual film.

For more overlooked movies and other related stuff, Todd Mason gathers them on Tuesdays over at SWEET FREEDOM.

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