Big Hearted Herbert (1934)

Approved  |   |  Comedy  |  6 October 1934 (USA)
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An ex-plumber finds major success as a manufacturer, but while he now has increased wealth with which to provide for his family, his new high-class social life provides him no time with them.



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Complete credited cast:
Aline MacMahon ...
Patricia Ellis ...
Helen Lowell ...
Phillip Reed ...
Robert Barrat ...
Henry O'Neill ...
Goodrich Sr.
Marjorie Gateson ...
Amy Goodrich
Mrs. Goodrich
Junior Durkin ...
Junior Kalness (as Trent Durkin)
Jay Ward ...
Robert Kalness
Hale Hamilton ...
Mr. Havens
Claudia Coleman ...
Mrs. Havens


An ex-plumber finds major success as a manufacturer, but while he now has increased wealth with which to provide for his family, his new high-class social life provides him no time with them.

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Release Date:

6 October 1934 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The play opened on Broadway in New York City, New York, USA on 1 January 1934 and closed in May 1934 after 154 performances. The opening night cast included J.C. Nugent as Herbert and Elisabeth Risdon as Elizabeth. See more »


Herbert Kalness: A fine example of college straining. Studied four years to become a moron.
Elizabeth: You don't have to study for that. You never went to college.
See more »


Version of Father Is a Prince (1940) See more »

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User Reviews

Just Plain Folks
14 November 2005 | by (Kissimmee, Florida) – See all my reviews

BIG HEARTED HERBERT (WB, 1934), directed by William Keighley, is a domestic comedy, one of many turned out by many film studios during the Depression era '30s. Clocked at an hour's length, the characters are fully developed during its opening minutes showing middle-aged Herbert (Guy Kibbee) constantly yelling, finding fault with everything from his family to his employees. A self-made man who is in charge of a plumbing factory, Herbert has two things he treasures most, a giant portrait of his father that hangs over the fireplace, and the cuspidor which gets in the way of everyone in the living room. His wife Elizabeth (Aline MacMahon) is a simple-minded and patient mother who accepts her husband for what he is. The family has three children, Alice (Patricia Ellis), an attractive 19-year-old blonde; Junior (Trent Durkin), who would rather go to college to become an engineer than carry on in his father's business; and Robert (Jay Eaton), the youngest with a round face and big smile, who not only enjoys eating bananas, but appears to be the only one of the siblings who worships his father, finding his mannerisms more amusing than threatening. Alice is engaged to Andrew Goodrich (Phillip Reed), a college graduate, and wants her fiancé and his parents (Henry O'Neill and Nella Walker) to meet the family. The dinner becomes a disaster, thanks to Herbert's constant roaring. When Herbert wants to bring one of his most important client and his wife (Hale Hamilton and Claudia Coleman) over to dinner so they could be in the company of "just plain folks," Elizabeth decides to turn the tables around by presenting the family to his Havens as "just plain folks," much to the dismay of Herbert.

Supporting players include Marjorie Gateson as MacMahon's sister; Robert Barrat as her husband; Joseph Crehan as the IRS man; and George Chandler.

Straight-forward story, amusing comedy that pre-dates many of those situation comedy shows produced for television told within 30 minutes. Guy Kibbee succeeds in making his unsympathetic character likable while Aline MacMahon, as always, brings sincerity to her role. Helen Lowell plays a once-a-week housekeeper who finds it difficult to remember her line, "Dinner is served," at the gathering of the future in-laws. She gives a performance that would have have been more suitable to the likings of Ruth Donnelly.

Not as laugh-filled as the domestic stars of that genre ranging from the comic supplements of WC Fields, the wholesomeness of Will Rogers, the sentimental knowhow by Marie Dressler or the wackiness of Charlie Ruggles and Mary Boland, but this production, based on the play by Sophie Kerr, combines a little of all, and thanks to the delightful team of the tall but sad-eyed Aline MacMahon and short, fat and bald Guy Kibbee, these two secondary scene stealers from the classic Depression musical, GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933), make this rarely seen production worth viewing.

A sort of domestic comedy that might have prospered into a film series, but as it stands, nothing developed. BIG HEARTED HERBERT was remade by Warners as FATHER IS A PRINCE (1940) with Grant Mitchell assuming the role as the self-centered, egotistical father. Both movies, along with other MacMahon-Kibbee domestic comedies, can be seen and compared whenever presented on Turner Classic Movies. (**1/2)

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