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The Man Who Played God (1932)

TV-G | | Drama, Romance | 19 February 1932 (USA)
After losing his hearing, a musician uses lip-reading to help others.



(based on the play by), (from the short story by) (as Governeur Morris) | 2 more credits »

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Complete credited cast:
Montgomery Royle (as Mr. George Arliss)
Mildred Miller
Grace Blair
The King (as Andre Luguet)
Louise Closser Hale ...
Florence Royle
Harold Van Adam
Ivan F. Simpson ...
Battle (as Ivan Simpson)
Appleby - the Lip Reader
Charles E. Evans ...
The Doctor (as Charles Evans)
Mrs. Alice Chittendon
First Boy
Fred Howard ...
Man (scenes deleted)
Murray Kinnell ...
King's Aide


Montgomery Royle is a famed pianist whose student, the much younger Grace Blair, believes herself to be in love with him. When an explosion destroys Royle's hearing, he is bitter at the loss of his art and profession. His sister Florence persuades him to learn lip-reading as a way to break out of the isolation of deafness. Royle discovers a new meaning to his life when he uses his new lip-reading knowledge to help others. But the new skill has serious ramifications for his relationship with Grace. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


'A Modern Drama From Real Life'


Drama | Romance


TV-G | See all certifications »





Release Date:

19 February 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Covek koji se dopao Bogu  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


This was the first movie Bette Davis made under her contract to Warner Bros., the studio under which she did most of her best known work of the 1930s and '40s. Her earlier six films were made for Universal, who let her go after one year of lackluster performances. See more »


When Royle goes to his desk after observing the couple in the park, the shadow of the boom microphone dips onto the window curtain behind him. See more »


Grace Blair: You're my ideal!
Montgomery Royle: I shall always be... your friend.
See more »


Version of The Man Who Played God (1922) See more »


Onward Christian Soldiers
(1871) (uncredited)
Music from "St. Gertrude" by Arthur Sullivan
Lyrics by Sabine Baring-Gould (1865)
Played on an organ by George Arliss (probably dubbed) at the end
See more »

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User Reviews

The Sound of Silence
15 November 2005 | by (Kissimmee, Florida) – See all my reviews

THE MAN WHO PLAYED GOD (Warner Brothers, 1932), directed by John G. Adolfi, from a short story by Gouverneur Morris, stars Academy Award winning actor of 1929s DISRAELI, Mr. George Arliss, in a remake to his 1922 silent screen adaptation. Essentially a showcase for the prestigious Arliss in what might have been just another movie assignment to his credit, it's best known as the motion picture responsible for the advancement of Bette Davis in her first important screen role, following her start at Universal in 1931, thus the beginning of her long association at the Warner studio where she would become its major star attraction before the end of the decade.

Of the George Arliss films in circulation and video today, THE MAN WHO PLAYED GOD holds up remarkably well mainly due to its theme and timely message that never really grows out of date, overlooking the fact that such a story echoes passages from the Holy Bible ("A man who has never suffered has never lived," "If you kill yourself, you'll suffer ten thousand times more" or the age old question, "If God is so merciful, how could he allow this to happen to me?") preached during Sunday services. The title has nothing to do with a actor starring in a religious play, but in fact, about a man whose life becomes an "empty shell" only to change from being a troubled soul after losing his hearing to forgetting his bitterness by helping others. While much of the Arliss movies produced at Warners during the early 1930s were extremely popular, most consist of too much dialog and lack of motion to stir up interest. THE MAN WHO PLAYED GOD is one of those few that doesn't fall into that category thanks to its fine direction, screenplay and supporting players.

The story opens in Paris where 50-year-old Montgomery Royal (George Arliss), a concert pianist, engaged to his protégé, Grace Blaine (Bette Davis), a girl more than half his age, agrees to give a private backstage recital for a monarch. During a performance, an anarchist, intending to assassinate the King (Andre Luguet), explodes a bomb. While everyone has escaped injury, Monty becomes stone deaf. Monte returns to his New York City apartment where he finds it difficult to adjust to his world of silence. He becomes bitter, hating God to a point of canceling his order for an organ he was going to donate to a church in memory of his deaf and religious mother, Margaret Ruth Royal. Without the ability to hear what's precious to him, his music, and becomes an embittered recluse. Coming to the point of suicide by nearly jumping from the window, his loyal butler Battle (Ivan Simpson) saves him in time from eternal suffering by offering him something to occupy his time. Having been taught lip reading, he takes binoculars to spy on people across the street in Central Park, reads their lips, learning of their troubles, and becoming a sort of guardian angel in helping those in desperate need without revealing himself. Finding he now has a purpose in life, he must face another greater challenge involving the loyalty of young Grace.

The supporting cast consists Donald Cook as Harold Van Adam; Louise Closser Hale as Monty's sister, Florence; Oscar Apfel as the Lip Reading Teacher; Paul Porcasi as the Concert Manager; with Hedda Hopper, Murray Kinnell and the unbilled Ray Milland. Of the supporting players, second billed Violet Heming appears to be the least familiar, yet in a role that nearly surpasses the one given by Bette Davis. Her sophisticated mannerisms come close to that of the better known Verree Teasdale, as a widow who secretly loves Monty, in spite of his engagement to another. The Bette Davis trademark is not too much evident at this point, in fact, having the make-up department giving Davis the Constance Bennett manner. Davis would be paired with Arliss one more time in the rarely seen comedy, THE WORKING MAN (1933).

In the midst of horror melodramas, gangsters and pre-code sex dramas playing in theaters at the height of the great depression, THE MAN WHO PLAYED GOD comes as a sort of inspirational drama that offers hope to those who have given up on life, with the moral of the story being, "The Lord works in mysterious ways." Remade by Warners as SINCERELY YOURS (1955) with TV personality Liberace in the role originated by Arliss, whose piano playing served him better than his acting, the latest screen adaptation, that should have improved over the old, didn't, making this 1932 version the one worth viewing. THE MAN WHO PLAYED GOD, which has never been distributed to video cassette or DVD, can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. (***)

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