(director: John G. Adolphi; screenwriters: Charles Kenyon/Maude T. Howell/story “Adopted Father” by Edgar Franklin; cinematographer: Sol Polito; editor: Owen Marks; music: Leo F. Forbstein; cast: George Arliss (John Reeves), Bette Davis (Jenny Hartland), Theodore Newton (Tommy Hartland), Hardie Albright (Benjamin Burnett), Gordon Westcott (Fred Pettison), J. Farrell MacDonald (Henry Davidson), Charles Evans (Mr. Haslitt), Fred Burton (Judge Larson), Edward Cooper (Butler); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Darryl F. Zanuck/Jack L. Warner; Warner Bros.; 1933-B/W)

An old-fashioned sentimental Depression-era dramedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An old-fashioned sentimental Depression-era dramedy that’s outdated but efficiently directed by John G. Adolphi (“The King’s Vacation”/”Voltaire”). Writers Charles Kenyon and Maude T. Howell adapt it to the screen from the novel “Adopted Father” by Edgar Franklin. The filmmakers keep it formulaic and pleasing to a fault. The wealthy, aging, bachelor shoe tycoon John Reeves (George Arliss) of the Reeves Shoe Company of Buffalo has been the friendly rival of Tom Hartland’s NYC Hartland Shoe Company ever since Tom married the woman John loved. The harried John has hired his capable but pompous young nephew, Benjamin Burnett (Hardie Albright), as his general manager to run the business. When the widower Tom Hartland dies, the stressed-out John relaxes when the Hartland Shoe Company goes into a severe downturn and he thereby goes fishing in Maine. There he reunites with his old pal Hank Davidson (J. Farrell MacDonald), a friendly country store owner. But John is upset after overhearing his nephew boast that uncle is too old and that only he can now run the business after beating the competition. In Maine, John runs into the goofy young adult fun-loving party children of Tom’s, Jenny (Bette Davis) and Tommy (Theodore Newton), the Hartland heirs. John goes under an alias and gets an invite from the siblings to stay with them in their Manhattan townhouse. Disturbed that the kids are letting the family business go under by their neglect and business ignorance, he looks into the business. He quickly discovers their business manager Fred Pettison (Gordon Westcott) is on purpose letting the business go down so he can work out a deal to sell it cheaply to a Wall Street firm that will reward him handsomely for his corruption. John then becomes a trustee and guardian to the kids, fires the crooked Pettison, straightens out the business so it now functions, connects his nephew romantically with Jenny, and gets the businesses to merge. The corny half-baked drama was hard to believe, even by Hollywood low standards for credibility. The only fun I had was seeing a young Bette Davis act peachy and tempting. As for Arliss, he’s an acquired taste I never acquired.

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