Pre-Code on YouTube: Part 2

Usually, in this spot, I offer my half of Pre-Code Crazy, where I share my recommended TCM pre-Code feature for the coming month. My partner in this venture, Kristina over at Speakeasy, is working on other projects for a while, so I’m doing a bit of retooling; starting in March, I will be serving up both a pre-Code and a film noir TCM pick of the month – just like in the early days of my blog. So stay tuned for that!

Meanwhile, I’m continuing with a series that I started early last year – pre-Code features that I’ve found on YouTube; today, I’m shining the spotlight on two: The Sins of the Children (1930) and My Woman (1932).

THE SINS OF THE CHILDREN

Also known as The Richest Man in the World, this film stars an actor I’d never heard of before – Louis Mann. Born in New York City in 1865, Mann started his career as a child actor in German-language theatrical productions and, as an adult, performed primarily on the stage. He was only in a handful of films; the last was The Sins of the Children, where he played German immigrant Adolf Wagenkampf, a devoted father of five children – three boys and two girls. As the film begins, Adolf, a barber, is on the brink of finalizing a business deal with a friend to open a savings and loan company. The children are still youngsters, and we quickly see that Adolf is devoted to them. He lovingly awakens each child every morning, and shares his own experiences to impart valuable life lessons to them. When a doctor tells him that his oldest son, Ludwig, is suffering from an illness that can only be cured through a two-year stay in a drier climate, Adolf sacrifices the $3,000 he’d saved to invest in the building and loan. (His former partner winds up a wealthy man, and Adolf remains a barber for the rest of his life.) Years later, when his son Johann (Elliott Nugent) steals money from his job for a “sure thing” horse race, Adolf sells a valuable piece of land to keep him out of jail. He tamps down his hurt feelings when Ludwig (Francis X. Bushman, Jr.) returns home from medical school with an Americanized name, and defends his son when the rest of the family disapproves. He even mortgages his barber shop so that Ludwig – er, Lawrence – can open his own practice. There’s no end to what Adolf would do for his children.

Robert Montgomery has a small part as the boyfriend of Leila Hyams’s character.

But while Adolf’s paternal adoration and support never waver over the years, the viewer sees that, as adults, his children aren’t always the loving, thoughtful offspring that Adolf deserves. We cringe when he finds himself in financial straits and goes begging to Lawrence for help, and when his younger daughter (Leila Hyams) speaks to him with disrespect. We’re about ready to throttle the lot of them when the picture gifts us with an ending that left me in tears – and for me, that’s always a sign of a winning film!

Other stuff:

The matriarch of the Wagenkampf family was played by Clara Blandick – nine years before her performance as Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz. After years of ailing health, Blandick committed suicide in April 1962 at the age of 85.

The film was based on a short story written by Elliott Nugent, who played Johann, and his father, actor J.C. Nugent. The dialogue was penned by the younger Nugent and Clara Lipman, Louis Mann’s real-life wife.

Louis Mann died the year after Sins of the Children was released. He was 65 years old.

Lobby card featuring Louis Mann, Mary Doran, and Elliott Nugent.

A featured role as a manicurist in Adolf’s barber shop (and Johann’s love interest) is played by Mary Doran. Born Frieda Applebaum in 1910, Doran’s career lasted less than 10 years. I’m always glad to see her in a film; she first piqued my interest as the homewrecker in The Divorcee (1930), and I’ve also seen her in small parts in such films as Their Own Desire (1929), Our Blushing Brides (1930), and Beauty and the Boss (1932).

Most Internet reviews of this film state that Adolf had four children, but there were actually five. The three boys are seen early in the film, as children, but in a scene after the children are grown, Adolf reveals that one of his sons, Rudolf, was killed in World War I.

MY WOMAN

I’ve been a Helen Twelvetrees fan for several years, ever since I saw her in Millie (1931) – so anytime I come across one of her movies, you can bet I’m going to check it out. So far, I’ve never been disappointed, and My Woman was no exception. In it, Twelvetrees stars as singer/dancer Connie Rollins who, along with her comedian husband, Chick (Wallace Ford), performs in her father’s nightclub in Panama. One night, Connie charms a visitor to the club, John Bradley (Victor Jory), president of the world’s largest broadcasting system, who winds up promising her an audition if she’s ever in New York. What Bradley doesn’t know is that Connie is actually interested in promoting her husband, and she and Chick waste no time in hightailing it to the Big Apple. It doesn’t take long for us to see that Chick is a bit of a loafer – charismatic, but lacking in class and character. When they arrive in New York, Connie finds that he’s gambled away most of their meager savings, and he finds a job for her in a “honky tonk,” but refuses to work himself, insisting that he’s “big time from now on.” Still, Connie is devoted to Chick and works tirelessly until she snags an audition for him with Bradley, writes all of Chick’s comedy bits for the radio, and watches with pride as he becomes an overnight sensation.

Chick isn’t exactly a shining example of the ideal husband.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long Chick’s inner asshat to emerge. He throws lavish parties – as many as three in one week. He grows overly fond of the cocktail hour (if you know what I mean), and sometimes shows up drunk to his radio performances. And he falls prey to the attentions of a snooty society dame (Claire Dodd, who’s always so perfect in these roles). I’m not exactly sure what I expected to happen at the film’s end, but I can tell you that I was thrown for a loop – and I loved it!

Other stuff:

Watch for a brief appearance by a young Walter Brennan who plays a stuttering animal impressionist who unsuccessfully (and hilariously) auditions for a radio spot.

Victor Jory had a long and successful career.

Another familiar face belongs to Charles Lane – if you don’t know the name, you’ll surely recognize him when you see him. Here, he adds some comic relief as a fast-talking, uber-supportive entertainment agent with a series of clients who don’t quite make the grade.

Victor Jory enjoyed a prolific career that encompassed film and television as well as the stage, and spanned five decades. Among his best-known roles were the overseer Jonas Wilkerson in Gone With the Wind (1939) and Helen Keller’s father in The Miracle Worker (1962).

The film was directed by Victor Schertzinger, who would later helm the first two of the popular Bing Crosby-Bob Hope “road” pictures: Road to Singapore (1940) and Road to Zanzibar (1941). He died of a heart attack in 1941 at the age of 53.

Tune into YouTube and check out these pre-Code goodies. And let me know what you think!

~ by shadowsandsatin on February 6, 2022.

6 Responses to “Pre-Code on YouTube: Part 2”

  1. Thank you! I haven’t seen any of these movies! So excited to have your recommendations.

  2. I hope YouTube is paying you commission, because you’ve sold me on Everything here.

  3. This is such a great idea and you just gave me 2 new to me movies I’m eager to check out! I love that poster art for My Woman.

  4. Thanks, Kristina! As always, let me know what you think when you see them! 🙂

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