DANGEROUS TO KNOW (Paramount, 1938),directed by Robert Florey, stars Anna May Wong in another minor crime melodrama for the studio, following her initial program production of DAUGHTER OF SHANGHAI (1937),by which she was the sole figure. For DANGEROUS TO KNOW, Wong heads the cast, but plays the secondary character to Akim Tamiroff, who's the main focus here. Wong is also supported by a fine assortment of Paramount contract players normally leading characters, namely Gail Patrick and Lloyd Nolan. Anthony Quinn, who appeared but had no scenes opposite Wong in DAUGHTER OF SHANGHAI, would have a couple minor ones this time around. Based on the play, "On the Spot" by Edgar Wallace, by which Anna May Wong appeared and reprises her stage role for this screen adaptation.
The story opens with Nicholai Kusnoff (Anthony Quinn) "secretary" to the rich and powerful mobster, Stephen Recka (Akim Tamiroff),at City Hall visiting with Mayor Bradley (Porter Hall) where they both overhear a conversation in the next office between Councilman Murkil (Robert Brister) and Johnny Rance (Edward Pawley) plotting against Recka. He reports the news to Recka while hosting his birthday party at his luxurious apartment, with Madam Lan Ying (Anna May Wong) his Oriental mistress greeting the guests. Among party attendees are Senator Carson (Pierre Watkin),his wife, Emily (Hedda Hopper),and Margaret Van Kase (Gail Patrick),their friend and socialite, who crashed the party to meet the notorious Recka. Her dark beauty interests Recka, much to the dismay of the jealous Lan Ying, who secretly loves him. Rhapsodizing at his huge theater organ for relaxation, Recka intends to force his advances on Margaret, regardless of her engagement to Philip Easton (Harvey Stephens),an ex-football star now working as a bonds salesman. Because of his shady deals and eight unsolved murders, including the recent one of Johnny Rance, Victor Brandon (Lloyd Nolan),inspector of the bureau of detectives in the homicide department, assisted by Duncan (Roscoe Karns),knows he's responsible but needs enough evidence to put him under arrest. Brandon and Recka happen to be on friendly terms mainly because their birthday falls on the same day. To get Easton out of the way and gain Margaret as his wife, Recka arranges to have this young man abducted so the suspicion on the missing $218 in bonds will fall on him. What further plans Recka has will be dangerous to know. Co-starring Hugh Sothern (Harvey Greggson); Donald Brian (Judge Parker) and Harvey Clark (Mr. Barnett).
Aside from Anna May Wong assuming an almost similar name of Lan Ying Lin from DAUGHTER OF SHANGHAI to just Lan Ying, the plot revolving Steve Recka is somewhat reminiscent to Peter Lorre's character from MAD LOVE (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1935),from his crazed obsession to a woman (Frances Drake) who does not love him, and organ playing. For DANGEROUS TO KNOW, it is now Tamiroff who is having his mad love and relaxes himself by rhapsodizing classical music on his huge theater organ. Recka shows his vicious qualities by having one of his victims plunging to his death from his 11th story window. Anna May Wong's jealous instincts outshines the Recka character by playing a record of Shirley Ross vocalizing "Thanks for the Memory" before doing something drastic.
Portions of DANGEROUS TO KNOW is leisurely paced but well conceived through much of its 70 minutes. Unseen on New York City television since 1972 where it was last broadcast on WPIX, Channel 11, DANGEROUS TO KNOW remains a forgotten curiosity that has never been distributed on video cassette nor shown on cable television. Availability on DVD can be purchased from a private collector of this and other long obscure programmers from the Paramount film library such as this. (**1/2)