While vacationing on the East Coast, a disillusioned shoe manufacturer, John Reeves (George Arliss, Disraeli and The House of Rothschild), comes across an old rival’s children. Reeves pretends to be unemployed and convinces the two youngsters to allow him to run their company. Reeves goes head to head with his own shoe company and teaches everybody a much-needed lesson about life.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“You’ve been fighting your own nephew. You are wicker than I thought!”
Directed by John G. Adolfi (The Man Who Played God) from a screenplay by Charles Kenyon and Maude T. Howell and based on Edgar Franklin’s book The Adopted Father, The Working Man is an entertaining, Capraesque Depression-era fable, with British actor George Arliss enthusiastically dominating the narrative.
The Working Man is a lovable dramedy tailor-made for 1930s audiences. The film spoke directly to a society struggling to survive amid tough economic times. The Working Man praises good work ethics and the common man, and looks down on the snobish, lazy and greedy. And it makes its points charmingly and entertainingly.
I could quip about a thing or two, but Arliss alone makes the movie watchable. Granted, the actor is an acquired taste — he is probably a little too theatrical for modern viewers — so how you feel about The Working Man will undoubtedly depend on how much you like/dislike Arliss. I happen to love him so I thoroughly enjoyed the film.
It’s also fun to see Arliss and Bette Davis together again. Arliss’s 1932 hit The Man Who Played God had been a game-changer for Davis (the film won her a long-term contract with Warner Bros.). After a string of unimpressive roles in mostly forgettable low-budget movies, Arliss came to Davis’s rescue again — the seasoned veteran personally requested Davis for the role of the naive socialite.
The Working Man is the better of the two films they made together. Davis looks more confident in front of the camera the second time around. Arliss himself noticed the improvement and told Davis so, and she was happy that he was pleased with her work — it’s pretty obvious that they enjoyed their company.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
The Working Man is a delightfully small film, a must-see for fans of Arliss and/or Davis. With Hardie Albright (Angel on My Shoulder), Edward Van Sloan (Dracula), Gordon Westcott (Fashions of 1934) and J. Farrell MacDonald (My Darling Clementine). Darryl F. Zanuck was in charge of the production. B&W, 78 minutes, Not Rated.