Saturday, August 5, 2017

#2,401. Employees' Entrance (1933)

Directed By: Roy Del Ruth

Starring: Warren William, Loretta Young, Wallace Ford

Line from the film: "There's no room for sympathy or softness - my code is smash or be smashed!"

Trivia: Last film for silent picture star Robert Gran, who died in an auto accident before the film was finished and released

Wow! And I thought Warren William played a prick in The Match King. The hard-nosed executive he portrays in 1933’s Employees’ Entrance makes his character in The Match King look like a saint!

Kurt Anderson (William), the general manager of New York’s Franklin Monroe Department store, knows how to turn a profit; since he’s taken control, the store has gone from $20 million in annual sales all the way up to $100 million. But he didn’t get there by being a nice guy. In fact, Mr. Anderson’s motto is “smash or be smashed”, and if an employee isn’t pulling his or her weight, they’re on the street before they know what hit them.

When the depression takes a bite out of their sales, Anderson becomes more ruthless than ever, and begins grooming young Martin West (Wallace Ford), an employee he feels is every bit as tough as he is, to be his assistant. One of the things Anderson likes most about Martin is that he’s a single man. Anderson believes that women have their place; he himself has had a few dalliances with a pretty employee named Madeline (Loretta Young). But when it comes to marriage, the tyrannical executive feels it’s a distraction, and if Martin wants to follow in his footsteps he can’t allow anyone, especially a woman, to take his mind off of his work.

Martin agrees, and tells his new boss that he has no intention of getting hitched anytime soon. But secretly, Martin is engaged to the woman of his dreams, who just so happens to be Madeline! Martin goes to great lengths to hide his engagement, and eventual marriage, to Madeline, a decision he regrets when Anderson makes a play for his new bride one evening at an employee dinner party.

Warren William is unbelievably brutal as Kurt Anderson; upon learning that a large shipment of coats will be 3 days late, Anderson tells the manufacturer, Garfinkle (Frank Reicher), that he’s canceling the order, a move that is sure to put the poor guy out of business (to add insult to injury, Anderson then threatens to sue Garfinkle to recoup what the store spent on advertising the coats).

Anderson is even tougher on his own employees. When Higgins (Charles Sellon) fails to come up with a new idea to improve sales, Anderson fires him in the middle of a manager’s meeting. Higgens, who had been with Franklin Monroe for 30 years, shows up several times to try and get his job back, but Anderson refuses to see him, and isn’t the least bit remorseful when Higgens eventually commits suicide by leaping from one of the store’s 9th-floor windows. ”When a man outlives his usefulness”, Anderson says to Martin mere seconds after hearing the news, “he ought to jump out a window.” Yes, Kurt Anderson is a cold-hearted bastard, and Warren William plays him to perfection.

Employees’ Entrance does have its lighter moments, most of which are provided by Wallace Ford and Loretta Young, who are extremely likable as the lovers forced to hide their feelings for one another. But it’s when Warren William is on-screen, shouting orders or laying down the law, that the movie comes alive. Thanks to the actor’s fierce portrayal, Kurt Anderson now ranks right up there with Alec Baldwin’s Blake (from Glengarry Glen Ross) as the cinematic executive I would least like to call “boss”.

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