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Sprawling story of Prohibition set against two families and how they are affected by booze. The stories come together when two young people (Robert Young, Dorothy Jordan) join in a common fight against liquor because it has destroyed their families. Both pros and cons are presented, but the screenplay definitely sides with the abstainers. The fathers destroyed by demon rum are played by Walter Huston and Lewis Stone, and look for Jimmy Durante as a bearded federal agent! Written by
If I had one piece of advice for people wanting to try out films of the 1930s, it would be to check out any movie with Walter Huston in it. From Gabriel Over the White House to Kongo to The Beast of the City and more, the man was in some of the weirdest and most interesting films of the period. Here we have a film about the dangers of alcohol, made a year before prohibition ended. The film seems to be both anti-alcohol and anti-prohibition, which makes for some fascinating think-work about what the movie is really trying to advocate.
The film starts with Lewis Stone's Colonel Sanders-looking Southern patriarch, whose daughter (Dorothy Jordan) is trying to get him to quit drinking. After a short while we move North to a fresh-faced Robert Young and his lush of a father Walter Huston. The two stories eventually intersect as Young falls in love with the daughter. Prohibition passes which leads to a tragedy for Young, who decides to become a treasury agent and is partnered with Jimmy Durante (!). From here the movie hits a bit of a lull as we get a fairly typical T-man story until the final minutes, which are exciting.
The film offers some great moments such as the haunting image of Lewis Stone's final fate or the powerful scene where Walter Huston's wife confronts him about his bootleg liquor. The cast is excellent. The performances are melodramatic but in the best way. In addition to the stars already mentioned, we also have Neil Hamilton, Myrna Loy, and Wallace Ford. Not a bad lineup.
As an entertainment piece, I think it's solid. But it has added value as a historical curio, allowing modern audiences to get perspective on the thoughts and feelings at the time regarding an important period in our history.
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