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Depression Era story set in London has department store owner (Lewis Stone) facing bankruptcy while his family fritters away money. A long-standing employee (Lionel Barrymore) gets fired but finds new life in a home-based bakery. The owner's wife (Benita Hume) can't face life without money, so she runs off with another man. The tables turn, however, when a last-minute reprieve saves the store and a new relationship is forged between the men. Written by
Understandably, but regrettably, this understated drama of sympathetic characters facing a lifetime of honest effort gone to waste is transformed into propaganda for facing the Depression (1930s) with courage and determination. That the filmmakers make a 180-degree turn toward optimism and a (hopefully) better future is commendable in regard to boosting public morale during economically bleak times, but in doing so they sacrifice the touching story that had been developed up to that point.
As a businessman trying to stoically face the demise an operation that has supported his family for generations in comfort and style, Lewis Stone is superb; no less so Lionel Barrymore as a dull, unimaginative clerk whose long-standing devotion to the company gives him a reason to look forward to each day - until he is laid off when the staff must be reduced. Their scenes together are especially moving: low-key, but charged with emotion. All of this, however, goes for naught when the film's "message" is thrust at us during the final twenty minutes. Lewis Stone's despair, along with his conviction that the business cannot possibly survive another six months, is transformed into a resolve that somehow a way will be found to carry on and prosper. Equally unconvincing is Lionel Barrymore's becoming something of an entrepreneur in order to support his family - he who was deemed expendable by the company for lacking ambition and imagination. The upbeat ending may have been exactly what the times called for, but a well-wrought drama was lost in the process.
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