Heroes for Sale (1933)

 |  Drama, War  |  17 June 1933 (USA)
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The saga of Tom Holmes - a man of principles - from the Great War to the Great Depression. Will he ever get a break? His war heroics earn fame and a medal for someone else, and his wounds ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Aline MacMahon ...
Gordon Westcott ...
Robert Barrat ...
Max (as Robert Barratt)
Mr. Winston
George Gibson
Pa Dennis (as Charles Grapewin)
Robert McWade ...
Dr. Briggs
Leader of Agitators (as George Pat Collins)
Blind Soldier
Laundry Company President
Margaret Seddon ...
Jeanette Holmes
Arthur Vinton ...
Captain Joyce
Robert Elliott ...
'Red' Squad Policeman #1


The saga of Tom Holmes - a man of principles - from the Great War to the Great Depression. Will he ever get a break? His war heroics earn fame and a medal for someone else, and his wounds result in a morphine addiction that costs him a job, his reputation in his home town, and months in a clinic. He goes to Chicago, where he's enterprising and dedicated to his work and his fellow workers, but an invention he champions results in the opposite of his intentions, leading to loss of life and an unjust imprisonment. After release, during the Depression, he must face local "red squads" and vigilante groups jousting out jobless men. Will anyone see his true heroic character? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | War






Release Date:

17 June 1933 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Breadline  »

Box Office


$290,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(copyright length) | (Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Director William A. Wellman used real hoboes for the fight scene and real laundry workers for the laundry scenes. See more »


A newspaper photograph showing the new equipment at the laundry mistakenly identifies Max Brinker as Hans Brinker. See more »


Roger Winston: There I was, everybody making a hero of me. I accepted it because I didn't have guts enough to refuse it... It went on, and on - the honors piled up. And every one I got made it more impossible to tell the truth. I couldn't let go. I know that all my promotions and decorations belong to you. I know that I've stolen the credit from a real hero.
See more »


aka "My Country 'Tis of Thee" (1832)
Music from "God Save the King" (1744)
Played by the band welcoming home Major Winston
See more »

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User Reviews

He gave everything....
30 June 2008 | by See all my reviews

...and took nothing for himself....

This Aline McMahon's last line will haunt you long after watching this extremely moving work by William Wellman who was ,along Frank Borzage,America's finest director of the early talkies.Both were fighting for the dignity of men,both made movies which -it's all over nowadays,with the possible exception of perhaps Clint Eastwood's work- can help us become better men and women.

THere are similarities between "Heroes for sale" and "I'm a fugitive from a chain gang" .In the latter,Paul Muni tries to sell his medals but in the shop,they already got too many of them,so he 's got to steal.In "heroes for sale" ,Tom ,who lost all the honors to a coward who shamelessly walked away with the glory,has to cope with everyday's life in the years of depression.

Wellman ,although his films were heartfelt pleas for the human being ,was not optimistic.Happy ends were not for him: Tom (Heroes) ,Gilda ("Safe in hell") and Lilly Turner in the eponymous film are victims of the war,of fate or of men.They want to keep their promise (it's obvious in Gilda's and Tom's case) ,even if it costs them their life or their happiness.And let's not forget "the oxbow incident",the saddest of all westerns ,a scene of which shows Dana Andrews writing a letter to his wife he knew he was not to see again.

When I watch these Wellman oldies ,I'm amazed by this:the really happy moments are so few and far between I wonder how a man or a woman at the end of a hard earned day find some reason to believe.But they are here: the restaurant where Aline McMahon takes in the last lonely and wretched and gives to the poor for free ;Loretta Young's smile which lightens up the seediest of the rooms;the boy saying :"when I grow up,I want to be like him".

A masterpiece that should not missed.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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