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Edwin L. Marin
Kurt Anderson is the tyrannical manager of a New York department store in financial straits. He thinks nothing of firing an employee of more than 20 years or of toying with the affections of every woman he meets. One such victim is Madeline, a beautiful young woman in need of a job. Anderson hires her as a salesgirl, but not before the two spend the night together. Madeline is ashamed, especially after she falls for Martin West, a rising young star at the store. Her biggest fear is that Martin finds out the truth about her "career move." Written by
I have never been a fan of William Warren's, but this is the perfect role for him. I usually find him thoroughly unlikable and obnoxious; imagine my surprise when he is cast in just such a role and pulls it off so perfectly I find I must now respect his prowess as an actor. Well done, WW! In Employees' Entrance, we find Warren playing Kurt Anderson, an unapologetic cad who rules the Franklin & Munroe Store like a dictator. He is so flawless at playing someone so reprehensible, I loved hating him, I hoped he'd win. I especially loved him telling off the rich fops who run the store in the opening board room scene, "Do you think YOU did it?!" he demands in reference to the store's unprecedented success. I worked for a man like that once, I was crazy about him. No one ever got more work out of me. And the viewer actually doesn't feel too terribly sympathetic to the people Anderson fires throughout the movie, so much as they wonder why they were ever stupid enough to make such silly suggestions or resist Anderson when they had no ideas of their own.
As the great department store enters the great depression, things get even tougher, and Anderson must drive his staff even more ruthlessly than before; but he does this to protect their jobs. And what an eye-opening time-capsule! The Franklin & Munroe store is said to employ 12,000 people...you'd be lucky to find 12 in a department store today! Imagine a store that actually provides SERVICE.
Note the pre-code relationships between the characters: Anderson sleeps with Madeline twice and neither character seems to feel it is the end of the world as would have been required of them in films just a couple of years later. Further, Anderson literally pimps Polly out to divert the attention of a troublesome board member. She doesn't mind; not because she's easy but because she's figured out how to work the system.
Lots of faces familiar to the Depression-era movie fan. Alice White is perfect as Polly Dale, perhaps the most amusing character in the film. Loretta Young plays Madeline with more depth than was probably written into it. Ruth Donnelly is her usual self as Miss Hall, and Allen Jenkins has an unbilled but significant role as the security chief, Sweeney. Wallace Ford is surprisingly good as Martin West; the scene where he flirts across the store with Madeline by holding up sheet music with titles like "I want to call you Sweetheart" and "You're Beautiful" is adorable.
I highly recommend this entertaining film.
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