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The Pay-Off (1930 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Pay-Off
DVD cover
Directed byLowell Sherman
Written byJane Murfin
John B. Hymer
Samuel Shipman
Based onCrime
by Samuel Shipman and John B. Hymer
Produced byWilliam LeBaron
Henry Hobart
StarringLowell Sherman
Marian Nixon
Hugh Trevor
CinematographyJ. Roy Hunt
Edited byRose Smith
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • October 15, 1930 (1930-10-15) (US)[1]
Running time
65 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Pay-Off is a 1930 American pre-Code crime drama film directed by Lowell Sherman, who also starred in the film along with Marian Nixon and Hugh Trevor. The screenplay was adapted by Jane Murfin, along with Samuel Shipman and John B. Hymer, based on Shipman and Hymer's 1927 play, Crime.


Gene Fenmore is a suave gentleman, safely ensconced in the upper crust of society. Unbeknownst to his society acquaintances, he is also the leader of the largest mob in the city. But it is a mob with scruples, thanks to Fenmore, and they only prey on dishonest businessmen, and never shoot or kill anyone. However, there is a power struggle developing between Fenmore and his number two man, Rocky, who disagrees with the moral constraints put on the gang by Fenmore. The tension between the two men is exacerbated by the fact Rocky has taken Fenmore's girlfriend, Dot away from him.

As he starts to exert his influence on the other gang members, Rocky holds up a young engaged couple, Nancy and Tommy, of their last few dollars for the fun of it. When Fenmore hears of the robbery, he gives them back their money and takes them under his wing, offering the both of them jobs on the legitimate side of his business. When Rocky sees that Fenmore has taken a liking to the couple, he develops a plan to use them in order to take over Fenmore's gang. Even though Fenmore has given explicit orders not to involve the couple in the illicit activities of the gang, Rocky takes them along when he goes to hold up a jewelry store. When the robbery goes wrong, Rocky ends up shooting and killing the owner of the store, after which he frames Tommy and Annabelle for the crime.

In order to set things right, Fenmore orchestrates a confrontation with the police, wherein he confesses to the jewelry store robbery, and in the ensuing melee, Rocky is killed. As he is led off in handcuffs, Fenmore turns to the police officer and says, "If it wasn't for men like me, they wouldn't need men like you."


(Cast list as per AFI database)[1]


The film is based on the play Crime by Shipman and Hymer, which was performed at the Eltinge 42nd Street Theatre (currently the Empire Theatre) in New York City from February to August 1927. In 1938, RKO would remake the film, under the title, Law of the Underworld.[2]

In 1958, the film entered the public domain in the United States because the claimants did not renew its copyright registration in the 28th year after publication.[3]


  1. ^ a b "The Pay Off: Detail View". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on April 2, 2014. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  2. ^ Jewell, Richard B.; Harbin, Vernon (1982). The RKO Story. New York: Arlington House. p. 30. ISBN 0-517-546566.
  3. ^ Pierce, David (June 2007). "Forgotten Faces: Why Some of Our Cinema Heritage Is Part of the Public Domain". Film History: An International Journal. 19 (2): 125–43. doi:10.2979/FIL.2007.19.2.125. ISSN 0892-2160. JSTOR 25165419. OCLC 15122313. S2CID 191633078. See Note #60, pg. 143

External links

This page was last edited on 5 December 2023, at 03:55
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