Here is the life of Jim Fisk, Wall Street operator of the 1880’s, told in ragtime. It’s absurd biography but good entertainment despite its inanities, extravagances and exaggerations.
With such material from which to weave a screenplay, drawing also from recent bestsellers, Robber Barons [by Matthew Josephson] and Book of Daniel Drew [by Bouck White], the writers have fashioned a broad burlesque. Edward Arnold takes the principal role of Fisk, and other leaders in the cast are Frances Farmer, as his actress-protegee Josie Mansfield; Cary Grant and Jack Oakie, as his business partners; Donald Meek, as Daniel Drew; and Clarence Kolb, as the senior Cornelius Vanderbilt, who is portrayed as the friend of the oppressed and Fisk’s nemesis.
Fisk and his stooges, Boyd and Luke, are introduced as medicine show fakers in the South just before the start of the Civil War. When hostilities commence, the trio engage in unlawful smuggling of raw cotton across the frontier for New England mills. They make a fortune, which is soon lost and won again in the purchase and sale of steamships. Thereafter, on the floor of the New York stock exchange, Fisk devises various schemes which culminate in a struggle with Vanderbilt for control of the Erie railroad.
Arnold plays Fisk in an expansive, light-hearted sort of way. Jack Oakie is in there strictly for laughs and gets plenty. Farmer conveys innocence as the love interest, having very little to do.