Bullets and Ballots: Keigley’s Crime Gangster, Starring

William Keighley directed Bullets and Ballots, gangster film starring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Blondell, Barton MacLane, and Humphrey Bogart.

Robinson plays a police detective who infiltrates a crime gang. His character, Johnny Blake, was based on Johnny Broderick, a New York City detective.

Detective Blake is a New York City cop with reputation for cracking down on racketeers. When Blake gets kicked off the force, a powerful crime boss, Al Kruger, hires him in order to gain ideas about sidestepping the law and expanding his criminal empire.

Masterminding the mob are three powerful bankers, who are only known by the crime boss. Blake soon gains Kruger’s trust and rises through the ranks, much to the distaste of Bugs Fenner, who believes Blake to be a police informer.

Blake suggests to Kruger to go into the numbers racket, run on small scale by Blake’s girlfriend, Lee Morgan. Kruger follows Blake’s proposal, and the mob’s money flow is great.

In reality, Blake is cooperating with Captain Dan McLaren to get the ring’s leaders. With Blake’s information, the police engage in raids on the crime syndicate’s operations.

Fenner, unhappy with the focus of rackets, kills Kruger in attempt to take over as the head of the mob. But Blake has already been granted the title, and he takes over control.

When Fenner’s racket gets raided by the police and Blake is seen by a spotter, Fenner attempts to kill Blake.

During a gun battle, Fenner is killed and Blake mortally wounded. However, he’s able to arrive at the bank, leading McLaren to arrest the criminals.


Bullets or Ballots was adapted as one-hour radio play on April 17, 1939 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater with Robinson, Mary Astor, and Humphrey Bogart.

Collaboration: Bogart and Robinson

Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart made 5 films together: Bullets or Ballots (1936), Kid Galahad (1937) with Bette Davis, The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938), Brother Orchid (1940) and Key Largo (1948) with Lauren Bacall, Claire Trevor and Lionel Barrymore.


Edward G. Robinson as Detective Johnny Blake
Joan Blondell as Lee Morgan
Barton MacLane as Al Kruger
Humphrey Bogart as Nick “Bugs” Fenner
Frank McHugh as Herman McCloskey
Joe King as Captain Dan “Mac” McLaren (as Joseph King)
Dick Purcell as Ed Driscoll (credited as Richard Purcell)
George E. Stone as Wires Kagel
Joseph Crehan as Grand Jury Spokesman
Henry O’Neill as Ward Bryant
Henry Kolker as Mr. Hollister
Gilbert Emery as Mr. Thorndyke
Herbert Rawlinson as Mr. Caldwell
Louise Beavers as Nellie LaFleur
Norman Willis as Louie Vinci

William Pawley as Crail
Ralph Remley as Kelly
Frank Faylen as Gatley – pinball racketeer
Garry Owen as The Spotter