(director: Alfred E. Green; screenwriters: Carl Erickson, Harvey Thew/based on the book by David Karsner; cinematographer: James Van Trees; editor: George Marks; music: Milan Roder; cast: Edward G. Robinson (Yates Martin), Aline McMahon (Sarah Martin), Robert Warwick (Colonel Stanton), Bebe Daniels (Lily Owens), Harry Holman (Adams), Russell Simpson (Hamlin), DeWitt Jennings (Mine foreman), Jobyna Howland (Poker Annie), Emmett Corrigan (President [Chester A.] Arthur), Lee Kohlmar (Hook), Christian Rub (Rische), Niles Welch (William Jennings Bryan); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: ; First National Pictures (Warner Bros,); 1932-b/w)
“It should have been a juicy historical biopic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The pre-Code film tells of an adulterer who finds happiness with his mistress. It’s a true rags-to-riches tale about a colorful Colorado 19th century owner of silver mines who strikes it rich on the backs of others and learns the hard way that having money doesn’t ensure happiness. It should have been a juicy historical biopic but is drily directed by filmmaker Alfred E. Green (“The Eddie Cantor Story”/”The Jackie Robinson Story”). Writers Carl Erickson and Harvey Thew base it on the book by David Krasner. They keep things popping but in an unimaginative way. So what we get that’s pretty good is the usual solid performance by Edward G. Robinson, a surprisingly engaging sympathetic performance by Aline McMahon and a pleasing one by Bebe Daniels as the blonde hussy .
It tells the story of the lucky and egotistical store keeper, mine owner and politician H.A.W. Tabor (known as Haw), whose name is changed in the film to Yates Martin (Edward G. Robinson). The Kansas farmer settled in Colorado in the 1870s with his wife Sarah (Aline McMahon), and got lucky when his mine hits silver. Sarah wanted him to be a store-owner, so he opened a grocery store. From some customers he took as grocery payment shares in their mines. When they struck silver he became wealthy as their partners. Living a fast and generous life with his new found wealth-even donating an opera house to Denver. But his marriage went sour because Sarah wanted to live a quiet life and wouldn’t go along with his big spending and partying. Rejected by Sarah, the man-about-town turns to the much younger and more lively Lily Owens (Bebe Daniels) for companionship. Their affair becomes public knowledge, and Yates eventually gets up enough nerve to dump his wife to marry Lily in Washington, with President Chester A. Arthur (Emmett Corrigan) in attendance. But a divorced man at that time wasn’t acceptable in politics, something he had ambitions in after elected as the state Lieutenant Governor. The best Yates could do because of his adultery black mark was to buy an appointment for a temporary seat as a senator.
When President Cleveland sets a gold standard, Yates becomes a big loser as the silver market hits bottom and he loses his wealth. He dies just when he gets a political appointment to be the Denver Postmaster, a job that would have given him status again in society. Both his women mourn his loss, and he gets his death wish to be buried in a silver casket.
REVIEWED ON 6/5/2020 GRADE: B-