Employee's Entrance (1933)

Film Review

EMPLOYEE'S ENTRANCE

Release Date: 11 February, 1933

Studio: Warner Bros.

Director: Roy Del Ruth

Starring: Warren William, Loretta Young, Wallace Ford, Alice White, Hale Hamilton

Screenplay: Robert Presnell, Sr., from a play by David Boehm

Cinematographer: Barney McGill

Special Notes: TCM Classic Film Festival, 2014

Employee's Entrance was shown as part of the Special Presentations theme at the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival. The guest speaker was Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming for Film Forum theater in New York City.

Synopsis

Department store manager Kurt Anderson (William) runs his store his own way. He expects to control everybody associated with the operation, including the members of the board of directors. In his personal relationships, he is equally controlling. To get a job, poor girl Madeline (Young) has to sleep with him. Martin West (Ford), Kurt's assistant and protégé, is devoted to Kurt and the job, as Kurt expects. However, after Martin meets Madeline, he falls in love and secretly marries her.

Due to the Great Depression, the store has lost business, and the board wants to use the decline as an excuse to get rid of Kurt. Kurt recruits Polly (White), a sexy employee, to entice Monroe (Hamilton), the board member most determined to remove him, into a scandalous affair. At a party, Madeline gets intoxicated and ends up spending another night with Kurt. The next day, remorseful, she takes poison. Martin rushes to her and forgives her. They plan to move away and start over. Kurt, disappointed in Martin's weakness, dismisses him from his thoughts and, overcoming Monroe and the board, retains control of the store.

Discussion

A highly effective precode film presents ruthlessness in business and personal relationships as an acceptable and successful lifestyle. William engages in sexual promiscuity for his pleasure and in sexual blackmail to retain his position at the store; he is effective and unrepentant at both. Young sleeps with William before and after her marriage. She is remorseful, but he rejects weakness. Always in control, William gets what wants; his unscrupulousness does not make him a "good" man but achieves positive results. In contrast, Ford chooses love and home rather than continue as William's coldblooded protégé. William, uncompromising and forceful, regards Ford as weak and foolish. At the conclusion, William retains his power and position, unabashed and unpunished.

The movie showcases the risqué plot lines, amoral characters, and fast paced, snappy dialogue typical of Warner Bros. films in the pre-code era.

Warren William had an authoritative screen presence, not handsome, but suave, skillful, and self-confident. William had been a leading actor on Broadway for ten years before he went to Hollywood and began his film career in 1931. Nearing forty, he had a few years as a leading man, equally effective in drama and comedy. Enforcement of the code diminished the forcefulness of his screen characters, and, an older star, he moved into roles as detectives or district attorneys that made the most of his urbane demeanor and self-assurance.

Wallace Ford, born in England, spent his childhood in orphan asylums in London and Toronto and in a succession of foster homes in Winnipeg, Canada. At age 13, he fled the last foster home and joined a vaudeville company, the Winnipeg Kiddies, in 1911. He toured in stock and in 1919 scored a hit in a Chicago production of Booth Tarkington's Seventeen. Ford continued his success after transferring to New York where he had leading roles in several Broadway plays between 1921 and 1929). He played Abie in the highly successful production of Abie's Irish Rose (1922) for 56 straight weeks until he tired of the repetition. Ford moved to Hollywood in 1930 and received leading and character roles from major studios. After a period in England during the mid-thirties, he returned to Hollywood playing mostly character parts for the remainder of his career.

Guest Introduction

According to Goldstein, in the early thirties, producers ignored the production code. They hoped to lure audiences with salacious stories. These films are "lean and mean", no wasted scenes, soaked in the depths of the depression, the times are mirrored in the films. The films are characterized by slangy, racy, machine gun dialogue spoken by a new crop of stars.

Further Reading

Our discussion topic The Motion Picture Production Code examines the differences between the pre-code and the post-code enforcement eras.

Our article on the film She Had to Say Yes (1933), and our discussion topic She Had to Say Yes Before and After the Hays Code, examine the sexy roles played by Loretta Young in the early thirties.

References

Wallace Ford. Obituary. Variety. 6/15/66

Wallace Ford Is Dead at 68, Acted in More Than 200 Films. New York Times. 6/12/66

Warren William. Obituary. Variety. 9/29/1948

Warren William, Movie Star, Dead. New York Times. 9/25/1948

Who's Who In Cast, Playbill: Stepdaughters of War. Opening night, 10/6/1930

Who's Who In Cast, Playbill: Of Mice and Men. Opening night, 11/23/1937