Classic movie site with rare images, original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
grbrpix@aol.com
Search Index Here




Monday, November 22, 2021

Family Saga Gone Sour


Sweepings (1933) Teaches Tired Lesson That The Rich Don't Have It So Good



Lionel Barrymore builds a department store empire, but has nothing other than worthless kids to leave it to.  Depressioners understood that spawn of the rich was good for nothing, this a price the rich must pay for being rich. Robber barons losing out on life essentials was balm to have-nots. Wives, particularly second and trophy ones, were invariably faithless, steadfast mates from the climb up having been discarded once the tycoon made his pile. Precode could lay blame on the system, capitalism itself a breeder of decay within families. Spencer Tracy, Paul Muni, and Edward G. Robinson reaped bitter harvest of accumulating too much, while those who had excess fun at it, like a Warren William, got final reel death for a pay-off. All this was by way of telling viewers that they were better off with the little they had. Just enough dimes for movie tickets should be enough to fulfill most of life’s hope. To grab for more was to invite disaster, the American dream of wealth often as not a nightmare.



Sweepings was part of RKO’s 1932-33 season supervised by David Selznick. He’d been forthright in condemning RKO product since arrival there, most of it flung out in bulk and indiscriminate as to quality. These had been overseen by William LeBaron, his policies an escort to receivership for the company. Motion pictures were as much piece goods to LeBaron, whose greater responsibility as he saw it was to service RKO's many affiliated theatres. Selznick thought of film in terms of individual achievement and felt that fewer, and better, would rescue the company. He was right to extent of ones he personally oversaw: Little Women, What Price Hollywood?, Topaze. Then there was King Kong, which Selznick enabled and supported through internal challenges to its concept and budget. His most valued relationships with co-workers were born at RKO; George Cukor became an oft-associate after the two he directed under DOS auspices, and John Cromwell would report often to the later and independent Selznick shop thanks to work done on Sweepings. The film can be had on Warner Archive DVD.

5 Comments:

Blogger DBenson said...

Warren William was cheerfully unpunished and unrepentant at the end of the pre-code "Employee Entrance".

But yes, in the code days they were generally careful not to blame capitalism or indeed any established system. Unhappy rich brought it down on their own heads by unnecessary sin or crime; moviegoers could tell themselves they'd handle wealth better. Costume pictures were usually about restoring a rightful hereditary ruler. They gingerly avoided endorsing revolution or sedition, framing it as lawful to go up against a usurping Prince John, a caliph's evil cousin, or a corrupt agent of a distant monarch.

The American Revolution was, of course, absolutely approved and endorsed. The French Revolution, in American movies at least, was perhaps justified by evil aristocrats ruining it for everybody, but unnecessarily savage. The bullies calling everybody "Citizen" and their calculating leaders might have been a subtle commentary on the Soviet Union, which Yanks rated even worse than Czarist Russia. Note how Hollywood films of the French Revolution often have events taking place in England, where good manners and a general mellowness allowed a similar social order to endure.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

RKO remade SWEEPINGS in 1939 as THREE SONS, with almost no star names in the cast. Edward Ellis is terrific in the Lionel Barrymore role, and J. Edward Bromberg (who can do no wrong, as far as I'm concerned) is poignant as Ellis's immigrant hired hand. The film was a vehicle for radio's "Gateway to Hollywood" talent contest, which introduced young hopefuls to a national audience. The winners received movie contracts already made out with new "screen names." THREE SONS introduced "Virginia Vale" (formerly Dorothy Howe, of Paramount) and "Robert Stanton" (Kirby Grant).

10:35 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

It is hard to imagine Selznick had to score KING KONG out of his own pocket as RKO was ready to release it without music. Max Steiner's score is so perfect it is insane. The animation is great, yes, but the music sells the show.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Selznick also "discovered" Fred Astaire for the movies.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

But Selznick tried to give the bums rush to Wheeler & Woolsey, a crime I will never forgive.

12:38 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

grbrpix@aol.com
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017
  • May 2017
  • June 2017
  • July 2017
  • August 2017
  • September 2017
  • October 2017
  • November 2017
  • December 2017
  • January 2018
  • February 2018
  • March 2018
  • April 2018
  • May 2018
  • June 2018
  • July 2018
  • August 2018
  • September 2018
  • October 2018
  • November 2018
  • December 2018
  • January 2019
  • February 2019
  • March 2019
  • April 2019
  • May 2019
  • June 2019
  • July 2019
  • August 2019
  • September 2019
  • October 2019
  • November 2019
  • December 2019
  • January 2020
  • February 2020
  • March 2020
  • April 2020
  • May 2020
  • June 2020
  • July 2020
  • August 2020
  • September 2020
  • October 2020
  • November 2020
  • December 2020
  • January 2021
  • February 2021
  • March 2021
  • April 2021
  • May 2021
  • June 2021
  • July 2021
  • August 2021
  • September 2021
  • October 2021
  • November 2021