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
Although this rarely seen film is not available on video, and has not been shown on cable that I am aware of, it is a classic which deserves the light of day. Spencer Tracy, before his MGM years and major stardom, was teamed with Loretta Young, one of the major stars of the early 30's, and sparks were united. Tracy is a rough and tough shanty town character who takes in down on her luck Young. Slightly mistreating her, Tracy is on the verge of leaving her when she drops a bombshell that will change their lives. Also around are Marjorie Rambeau as a drunken neighbor with a heart of gold (and giving a very sensative performance), Glenda Farrell as a singer who turns Tracy's head, and Walter Connelly as another neighbor who becomes a father-like figure to the two. The camera work and settings are rough and gritty, almost like a Warner Brothers film. However, this was made at Columbia, then a second-rate "B" studio which was most known at the time for its string of films directed by Frank Capra (usually starring Barbara Stanwyck). It is short and sweet (66 minutes according to Leonard Maltin), and very moving. I agree with Maltin's comment that Tracy's character was a bit much to take at times, but it is evident that he hides many facets behind his hard exterior. Young, never one of my favorites, was at her best in the early 30's before she became too "lady-like". Even though her character is sweet and vulnerable, she is far more realistic than she got in her more esteemed years after winning the Oscar for "The Farmer's Daughter". Farrell is fine in her few scenes, but has little to do. It's a shame that this very talented lady never rose above the line of secondary roles or leads in "B" features. If "A Man's Castle" makes its way onto cable (or with some miracle, home video), I highly recommend it to film students and historians.
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