12 million Americans are out of work. Trina is homeless and hungry when Bill takes her under his wing, showing her a squatter's camp where she can live. She's soon in love with him, making a castle for him inside a shack; but he's bluff, gruff, and a "bindlestiff," a guy who can't stay put. When Trina tells Bill she's pregnant, he's ready to jump a freight train and move on, but first he wants to leave Trina with some money, so he partners up with Bragg, the camp's louse (who's been eyeing Trina), to rob a toy store. He's shot and the cops are closing in: does he have any options? Written by
Young and Spencer star in the finest film of the pre-code era
It's a shame this movie is so hard to get your hands on in the US. I found it through a rare video dealer, and it was certainly worth it. This is, without a doubt, the best film made during the pre-code era, and the finest film of the 1930s. Masterful director Frank Borzage made wonderful films about the Depression, and with MAN'S CASTLE he created a fairy tale amidst the hardships of the era.
Loretta Young and Spencer Tracy have a wonderful chemistry between them, and they help make this movie a wonderful romance. Young's Trina is sweet and hopeful, while Tracy's Bill is gruff and closed-off. The dynamic between the character creates one of the most difficult, but in the end rewarding relationships on film.
MAN'S CASTLE is the most soft-focus pre-code film I've seen. Borzage uses the hazy and dreamy technique to turn the squatter's village where Bill and Trina live into a palace. The hardships of the Depression are never ignored, in fact they're integral to the film. But as Borzage crafts the film as a soft focus fairy tale, the love between the characters makes the situation seem less harsh. It makes the film warm and affectionate.
MAN'S CASTLE is the crowning achievement of the pre-code era. If only more people could see it.
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