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Gentlemen Are Born (1934)

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A well-cloistered and protected-against-reality group of college students get their diplomas in the heart of the Great Depression, and quickly learn that the piece of paper the diploma is ... See full summary »



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Title: Gentlemen Are Born (1934)

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Complete credited cast:
Jean Muir ...
Trudy Talbot
Joan Harper
Susan Merrill
Dick Foran ...
Smudge Casey (as Nick Foran)
Charles Starrett ...
Russell Hicks ...
Newspaper Editor
Robert Light ...
Fred Harper
Addison Richards ...
Henry O'Neill ...
Mr. Harper
Arthur Aylesworth ...
Mr. Gillespie
Marjorie Gateson ...
Mrs. Harper
Bradley Page ...
Al Ludlow


A well-cloistered and protected-against-reality group of college students get their diplomas in the heart of the Great Depression, and quickly learn that the piece of paper the diploma is written on is worth about eighteen-dollars-a-week in the job-market...for the lucky ones. Some of them fare even worse. Written by Les Adams <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Just out of college and just out of luck...yet they'll found a family on a home on bravery...battle the world with a diploma...and defy the world on $18-a-week! (original ad) See more »


Drama | Music | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

17 November 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

1929 - Manhattan N.Y.  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Somewhere in Your Heart
Written by Guy Wood, Bert Van Cleve and Rudy Vallee
Played in the apartment when Fred and Joan arrive
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The Graduates
21 August 2011 | by (Kissimmee, Florida) – See all my reviews

GENTLEMEN ARE BORN (First National Pictures for Warner Brothers, 1934), directed by Alfred E. Green, is not so much about one dealing with the birth of babies growing up to become gentlemen, but one about four classmates and what becomes of them after receiving their diplomas. An offspring to CHANGE OF HEART (Fox, 1934), starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, and forerunner, perhaps to THE GROUP (United Artists, 1966), GENTLEMEN ARE BORN, using similar patterns of both, depicts realistically on the joys and hardships of graduates going out into the real world. With this one set fittingly during the Depression, the situations depicted are relevant in any generation.

The narrative begins with a college graduation where "the gang," consisting of Bob Bailey (Franchot Tone), Tom Martin (Ross Alexander), "Smudge" Johnson (Nick Foran) and Fred Harper (Robert Light), along with other classmates, receiving diplomas from members of the faculty. After moving to New York where they share both apartment and expenses, Bob lands a job working for a newspaper while Tim, hoping to become an architect, intends on marrying his sweetheart, Trudy Talbot (Jean Muir) who, to become closer to Tim, also moves to New York where she finds and shares an apartment with Susan Merrill (Ann Dvorak), a librarian. While Smudge fails to obtain employment in his field of high school coach, he struggles endlessly finding work of any kind or at least holding on to them. As for Fred, he has it easy with his $25 a week desk job working in a brokerage firm under his father's (Henry O'Neill) business, Harper & Son. As the story progresses, Bob becomes romantically involved with Fred's sister, Joan (Margaret Lindsay), who loves him but falls victim of her snobbish society-minded mother (Marjorie Gateson) who very much prefers she'd marry Stephen Hornblow (Charles Starrett), a man more of "her social class." After a reunion with the "gang," Smudge, through Bob, meets, falls in love and marries Susan; Tom and Trudy's marriage later produces a son; while Fred faces financial troubles with his father's firm. The fate of these graduates unfolds with differing results, for as gentlemen are born, life goes on.

GENTLEMEN ARE BORN may not be fast-paced excitement but something that seems to rely on character byplay, with characters viewers can easily relate to on an individual level. Franchot Tone (on loan-out assignment from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), the leading member of the gentlemen graduates, is ambitious and knows exactly what he wants; Ross Alexander (in Warners debut) is the happy-go-lucky individual who looks at things on the positive side; Robert Light plays the spoiled son with everything given to him, only to learn life is not as easy as it seems; while Dick, billed "Nick Foran" (also in Warners debut, then on loan from Fox Studios), stands out among the others as the athletic type who becomes the tragic figure, making more mistakes than accomplishments with his goal in life. While the female co-stars are equally balanced in their portrayals, only Ann Dvorak is given a sort of thankless role that's phased out early in the story. Her disappearance is easily mentioned through a letter explaining of her return to Des Moines, Iowa. A fine blend of melodrama and "soap opera" that should hold one's interest for its 74 minutes, though are a couple of scenes left unresolved. Scoring to "Alma Malta" sets the tone during the college segments while "Romance Must Be Loved" a nice tune introduced by Dick Powell in HAPPINESS AHEAD, becomes the underscoring theme song during the romantic interludes.

With likable principal leads, only Jane Darwell as the unruly landlady and Virginia Howell as the head librarian are two of the most unsympathetic characters. Bradley Page as Al Ludlow assumes his usual persona of a company thief, while stock players as Russell Hicks (The Newspaper Editor); Henry Armetta and Addison Richards take precedence in smaller roles.

With Turner Classic Movies the leading cable channel for classic films since 1994, with many from the Warner Brothers library, GENTLEMEN ARE BORN is one that isn't shown as often as the others but worthy of rediscovery from the bygone era of the 1930s. (***)

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