Howard Hughes legacy as a producer may not be as huge as some of the other movie moguls, but he certainly did some very interesting films. One such film, “The Racket,” made in 1928 and directed by Louis Milestone, contains many wonderful ingredients that make it a joy to watch from start to finish. The silent film features Thomas Meighan as James McQuigg, a police captain determined to bring down a bootlegger named Nick Scarsi (played by Louis Wolheim). Scarsi is a nasty villain with a pug nose and an intimidating stare, and he owns every politician and judge in town.
Helen, a trashy nightclub singer played by Marie Provost, puts the moves on Scarsi’s brother Joe, but Nick wants Joe to stay out of the rackets and go to college. Nick views women as trouble, but his mercurial personality causes him the most problems. McQuigg gets closer to pinning a murder on Nick, so Nick pulls strings to get McQuigg transferred to a remote precinct. However, McQuigg plays a psychological game against Nick to trap him into confessing.
Marie Provost, as Helen, puts a lot into her role as the nightclub singer. The actress never became a big star in the sound era and died destitute in Hollywood in 1937. Judging from her witty performance in this film, she could have developed into an engaging character actor. Milestone gives a lot of room to the secondary performers in this movie, and it seems quite flamboyant and a little slapstick. By 1928, Milestone, one of the most prolific directors in Hollywood history, began directing in 1918. His other notable movies include “All Quiet on the Western Front” from 1930, “Of Mice and Men” from 1939, and “Mutiny on the Bounty” from 1962.