Man Betrayed, A (1941): John Wayne as City Lawyer Fighting Corruption

John Wayne was not always compelling when playing lawyers or other modern-contemporary roles, for which he had to wear a suit or sit behind a desk.

In A Man Betrayed, Wayne is cast as a backwoods lawyer, Lynn Hollister, who arrives in the big city to investigate a friend’s death, claimed to have been a suicide; his body was found outside the sleazy nightclub “Inferno,” in Temple City.

In the process, Lynn smashes the corrupt political underworld, headed by Tom Cameron (Edward Ellis), a decadent politico trying to shed his ruthless past by claim that his motive was to give his daughter Sabra (Frances Dee) the best life he could afford.

However, unaware of her father’s wicked ways, Sabra is in love with Lynn and plans to marry him.

When Lynn accepts Tom’s offer to work for him during the upcoming elections, he expects to unearth incriminating evidence against Tom.

Meanwhile, T. Amato (Alexander Granach), the Inferno’s owner and initially Tom’s ally, decides to dispose the politician, after his refusal to appoint him to a public office.

Soon, the whole organization is divided between an army of illegal voters, rallied by Amato, and Cameron’s band of racketeers, mobilized by him to stop swinging the election against him.

In the end, it turns out that it was Amato’s dim-witted brother, Floyd (Ward Bond), who murdered Lynn’s friend.

After righting the wrongs, sending Tom to prison and rounding up the drafted voters under an election law, Lynn takes Sabra to the peaceful life of a small town.

Based on a Jack Motiff’s story, the screenplay was unoriginal and Wayne unconvincing as the small town attorney fighting the big city graft ring, a role in which both Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart excelled.

The text is too verbose and cluttered with exposition about legal and illegal technicalities.

Director John Auer’s efforts to insert elements of screwball comedy into the tale are also not successful. But Wayne shows strong chemistry with the perky and upbeat Frances Dee.

Republic Pictures, cashing in on Wayne’s success in Stagecoach (1939) and Seven Sinners (1940), tried to broaden the range of roles assigned to Wayne, their biggest contract star.

A picture with too literal a title, A Man Betrayed was released under two alternative titles: Wheel of Fortune when shown on or American TV, and Citadel of Crime while playing in the UK.

Running time: 80 Minutes.
Directed by John H. Auer

Budget: $250,000


John Wayne as Lynn Hollister

Frances Dee as Sabra Cameron

Edward Ellis as Boss Thomas “Tom” Cameron

Wallace Ford as Casey (“Globe” newspaper reporter)

Ward Bond as Floyd, Amato’s goon

Harold Huber as Morris “Morrie” Slade

Alexander Granach as T. Amato, Club Inferno Manager

Barnett Parker as George, the Camerons’ Butler

Edwin Stanley as the Prosecutor

Harry Hayden as lawyer Don Langworthy

Tim Ryan as Mr. Wilson, insurance agent

Russell Hicks as District Attorney C. R. Pringle

Pierre Watkin as the Governor

Ferris Taylor as Mayor Al