Cast & Crew
After seeing his gangster father gunned down by police, Matthew J. Burns, who is known as Matty, grows up and goes to law school. Matty is determined to learn how to operate criminal organizations within the law in order to take revenge for his father's death. He gives ideas about a legal protective society to gangster Jim Ramsey, who promises the embittered youth a job when he graduates. Matty becomes friends with his roommate, Bill Whitaker, who invites him to come home with him over the summer to study with his father, the benevolent Judge Whitaker, and to work on their farm. As the years pass, Matty becomes part of the Whitaker family, falls in love with Bill's sister June and excels at his studies, thanks to Bill's help. Matty and Bill graduate, and while Bill returns home to enter local politics, Matty enters Ramsey's organization. Two years pass as Matty transforms the gang into a huge operation that takes in enormous sums of money, all by barely legal maneuvers. Local police, led by FBI agent Evans, are stymied in their efforts to halt Matty's actions until Evans finds out about Matty and Bill's college friendship. Evans travels to the Whitaker home and asks Bill to help obtain evidence on Matty. Bill refuses to spy on his friend, until the judge points out that it is Bill's duty to do so if it will prove Matty's innocence. Still disbelieving Evans, Bill contacts Matty, who is delighted to see him. Matty offers Bill a job, much to the dismay of Ramsey and Virginia Brandt, Matty's colleague. Virginia and Ramsey are suspicious of Bill and set a trap for him while they are out at a nightclub with Matty. They send their henchman Rabbit to tell Bill that Matty's record book is in his empty apartment. Bill goes to Matty's place to steal the book, and just as Matty, who has learned of the trap, bursts through the door, Bill is shot by another gang member, Pinky. Confirmed in their belief that Bill is a spy, Virginia and Ramsey want to leave him to die, but Matty calls an ambulance to save his friend. Matty is arrested, and when he refuses to talk, Evans leaks a story to the newspapers that Matty has turned state's evidence. Matty is released, and even though he has bitterly denounced Bill for betraying him, Bill rushes to Matty's apartment when he hears that Ramsey and his men are out to kill Matty. Bill convinces Matty to hide at the Whitaker farm until the "heat is off." The Whitakers are delighted to see Matty, although they are worried about Bill's injury. While the parents are tending to Bill, June reminds Matty that she has been waiting for him. Their conversation is interrupted when Ramsey and his men arrive, and Matty bravely tries to deflect their attention from the family onto himself. He is wounded by Ramsey in the struggle, but succeeds in shooting Pinky and capturing the others. Later, Matty recuperates in the hospital and confesses all he knows to Evans. Evans promises to do what he can for Matty, but Bill reminds him that he will probably receive a life sentence. Matty laughs it off, content that he has done the right thing at last.
According to a Daily Variety news item, Sam Fuller was signed by Republic to write an "original screenplay around the title 'Gangs of Chicago.'" His contribution to the final film, if any, has not been confirmed. A Hollywood Reporter news item, published just before filming began, stated that Bernard Vorhaus was slated to direct and Frederick Burton was added to the cast. While Burton's participation in the film has not been confirmed, it is likely that Hollywood Reporter was mistaken in connecting Vorhaus with the film, as Arthur Lubin had earlier been announced as the director. Although contemporary sources state that Addison Richards' character is named "Blake," in the film he is called "Evans." A Daily Variety news item noted that the film would play in Chicago under the title Gangs of the City, "as a result of a ban by the city fathers."