The Hoodlum Saint is a drama laid in the period just after World War I up through the 1929 stock market crash and deals with the power of belief in St Dismus, the good thief, to reform all hoodlums. Film gives Esther Williams a chance in something other than a musical.
Cliff Reid has given it plenty of production dress, and Norman Taurog’s direction points up the characterizations, but unfoldment is never exciting. There’s no feeling of struggle in the development of the plot, everything coming too easily to the characters – love, riches, poverty and eventual belief in St Dismus’ power for good.
Plot concerns disillusionment of a returning army major (William Powell). He finds ideals rapidly pushing him towards the corner applestand, and determines to garner all the coin possible, no matter how.
Powell is his usual assured self as the opportunist, delivering a topnotch characterization. Williams thoroughly pleases as the girl who loves but spurns Powell until his morals improve. Angela Lansbury puts sex emphasis on her assignment as sideline romance for Powell and also sings several pop standards of the period. James Gleason wallops over his part as an old Powell sidekick who gets religion.