Racket, The (1928): Oscar-Nominated Gangster Film, Directed by Lewis Milestone

the_racket_5One of the few silent films to be nominated for Best Picture, and also one of the few crime-gangster flicks to be singled out by the Academy. Crime movies have not fared well with Oscar voters until The Godfather movies.

Produced by Howard Hughes, and directed by Lewis Milestone, the yarn concerns a police officer named Captain McQuigg (Thomas Meighan), who’s determined to bring down the mob, led by Lewis Wolheim but hamstrung by municipal corruption.

the_racket_4The prohibition syndicate tries to elect a corrupt mayor who will do its bidding.

Based on Bartlett Cormack’s 1927 Broadway play, the screenplay was written by Harry Behn, Del Andrews, and Cormack.

It was one of four movies made by Paramount, which dominated the Oscar contest that year.

The film was banned in some cities (Chicago) due to the controversial portrayal of a corrupt police force and city administrators.

the_racket_3The film was long thought to be lost lost before being located in Howard Hughes’ film collection after his death.  A print was restored by Jeffret Masino, along with another Hughes film, Two Arabian Knights.
I am grateful to TCM for airing these pictures for the first time in 2004.
History Alert or Recycling:

Howard Hughes remade the picture in 1951.

Oscar Alert








The Racket is one of the few films in Oscar’s history to be nominated for just one award: Best Picture.

Four of the five Best Picture nominees in 1929 were produced by Paramount. The Racket competed for Best Picture with The Last Command, Seventh Heaven, The Way of All Flesh, and Wings (which won).



Running time: 84 minutes

Howard Hughes production

Directed by Lewis Milestone

Title cards by Eddie Adams, Del Andrews, Harry Behn

Adapted by Bartlett Cormack from his play

Camera: Tony Gaudio

Editing: Tom Miranda










Thomas Meighan as Captain James McQuigg
Louis Wolheim as Nick Scarsi
Marie Prevost as Helen Hayes
Pat Collins as Patrolman Johnson
Henry Sedley as Spike
George Stone as Joe Scarsi
Sam DeGrasse as District Attorney Welch
Richard ‘Skeets’ Gallagher as Miller
Lee Moran as Pratt
John Darrow as Dave Ames – Cub Reporter