Danny Reid's latest installment of The Pre-Code Companion, issue #5, is now available at Amazon.com. The issue opens with my article about Heroes for Sale (1933)—I've included an excerpt below, but since my article comes first in this issue, you can preview even more of it through Amazon's "Look Inside" button on the product page itself.
This fifth issue of the Companion includes articles about They Call It Sin (1932), Wild Boys of the Road (1933), Heroes for Sale (1933), plus entries about Una Merkel and Richard Barthelmess. Other contributing writers are names familiar within the world of classic movie bloggers: Le Magalhães, Lesley Gaspar, Jake Woehlke, and Molly Bugamelli.
The Pre-Code Companion, Issue #5 costs $2.99 to own and lends out free to Amazon Prime customers with Kindle Unlimited access. As per usual Danny is donating all profits from sales of this eBook to the ASPCA (yes, that's the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, not the Always Strapped Pockets of Cliff Aliperti as I had initially believed).
I realize this mailing has a bit of a salesy opening, so I hope to appease spam-sensitive subscribers with some relevant images of the stars of The Pre-Code Companion, #5. Just keep scrolling beyond the following excerpt to see the pics.
Heroes for Sale: The End of Us
By Cliff Aliperti
“Maudlin and tiresome,” The Hollywood Reporter said of Heroes for Sale. All of the other trade papers agreed. Harrison’s Reports was probably most hysterical of the bunch in citing the film as being “so morbid and depressing that the spectator will leave the theatre in an exceedingly unhappy frame of mind.” An Oxford, North Carolina, theater operator reported that he enjoyed the movie from start to finish, but was smart enough to know why it would flop in his theater: “This is a modern version of the depression and, of course, people do not like it. They go to the theatre to laugh and forget the depression.”
Heroes for Sale is no laugher.
From the Great War to the Great Depression, Heroes for Sale piles up the miseries until the current events of the day interrupt with a glimmer of hope and confidence sparked from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s ascension to the presidency and all of the potential of his inaugural address. Unlike the rousing party Warner Bros. threw a few months later when flashcards picturing the President and dancers forming the National Recovery Administration’s eagle logo wound down the last number in Footlight Parade, Heroes for Sale attacks the Great Depression with a very different tone that makes the optimism of the coming New Deal feel like America’s last possible hope—this had better work!
That wasn’t how Heroes for Sale was set to end back when Hoover was finishing out his term and the project was still called Breadline. Originally, the Richard Barthelmess character, Tom Holmes, was supposed to wind up a martyred corpse. But America—and Darryl F. Zanuck—brightened as of March 4, 1933 when FDR asserted his firm belief “that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” during his inaugural address. Zanuck left Warner Bros. before completion of Heroes for Sale, but the new, slightly up ending was his idea: “The reason I use the Inaugural speech at the finish is that everyone throughout the world is talking about FDR’s speech. It was a bombshell and is being compared to great speeches like Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address,” he wrote director William Wellman a few days after its delivery.
This optimism born of Roosevelt isn’t quite the final note of Heroes for Sale though. Wellman instead chooses to martyr his hero from afar, leaving us with Tom’s young son (Ronnie Cosby) and old friend Mary (Aline MacMahon) gazing at his profile on a plaque and idolizing him: “He lives for everyone but himself. He’s given everything and taken nothing,” says Mary. It’s a thick dose of syrup that feels like a scolding kick in the shins for an audience roused by Tom’s New Deal propaganda just a moment earlier. Instead of filing out of the theater buzzing about something they’ve all shared, the hope inspired by Roosevelt’s speech, they leave wondering just how much they must give of themselves to battle on with the determination of a character who did enough to be emblazoned on a wall. Tom’s unblinking idealism can be a bit hard to swallow.
Tom is played by former D.W. Griffith leading man Richard Barthelmess, an underrated pre-Code star thanks to titles such as this one as well as The Dawn Patrol (1930), The Last Flight (1931), The Cabin the Cotton (1932), and Massacre (1934). In Heroes for Sale we meet Tom in the Great War trenches ...
You can preview even more of my article by clicking the "Look Inside" button over on the Amazon sales page for The Pre-Code Companion, Issue #5. Buy the issue to read the entire 2,000-word essay, plus articles by other writers about They Call It Sin (1932), Wild Boys of the Road (1933), Una Merkel and Heroes for Sale star Richard Barthelmess.
Marie Dressler is Turner Classic Movie's Star of the Month for June 2016. A vintage Marie Dressler image is also included with the images that follow in today's email.
You have until July 15 to sign up for the "Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge" over at Out of the Past. A paperback copy of my Helen Twelvetrees, Perfect Ingenue is part of the Grand Prize!
Barring any unforeseen announcements, the next email you receive from me will be my post about Attorney for the Defense (1932). To set the mood, here's a link to an article I wrote about The Mouthpiece (1932) a couple years back, plus another related surprise can be found at the end of today's email package.
—Talk to you soon,