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Success at Any Price (1934)

Passed | | Drama | 16 March 1934 (USA)
Joe comes from a rough neighborhood and when his brother Mike is gunned down in 1927, he decides to go into legitimate business. He wants to make a lot of money and fast so he is ambitious ... See full summary »



(from the play by), (screen play) | 1 more credit »


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Complete credited cast:
Allen Vincent ...
Geoffrey Halliburton


Joe comes from a rough neighborhood and when his brother Mike is gunned down in 1927, he decides to go into legitimate business. He wants to make a lot of money and fast so he is ambitious and rude. He wants what he cannot have and that includes Aggie who is the gal pal of Merritt, his boss. He works his way up the ladder and finds that all the money and all the crooked deals will not buy happiness. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

16 March 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Success Story  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The play, "Success Story," opened on Broadway in New York City, New York, USA on 26 September 1932 and closed in January 1933 after 121 performances. The opening night cast included Stella Adler as Sarah, Franchot Tone as Raymond, Luther Adler and Morris Carnovsky. See more »


Allen Vincent's character name was spelled "Geoffrey" in the credits but was "Jeffrey" on his office door. See more »


Agnes: You never trusted me. You never even really bothered to know me.
Joe Martin: I know you're made out of perfume and whipped cream. You haven't got any heart. You've got a little pile of broken glass where your heart ought to be.
Agnes: You make up things about me. You have every part of me in a card index, haven't you? The wax face, the jewels. But, that's not me. You're too selfish to see the real me.
See more »


Featured in Red Hollywood (1996) See more »


Little White Lies
(1930) (uncredited)
Written by Walter Donaldson
Played as background music in a bar
See more »

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User Reviews

Be careful what you wish for...
3 July 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

...seems to be the moral of this Depression era tale of young Joe Martin (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) which begins at the time of the gangland death of Joe's mobster brother. Joe wants to get money, to be somebody like his brother was, but to do it inside the system so he doesn't wind up prematurely dead in a solid gold coffin like his brother did.

So young Joe goes to work as a clerk in the office where his girlfriend Sarah (Colleen Moore) works as a secretary. At first he chafes at the grind of office work, even gets fired, but the boss (Frank Morgan) likes Joe's moxy and promises him a higher paying position if he can straighten out the mess of an ad campaign he has dumped on his desk by 8PM that night. Of course Joe succeeds.

Joe quickly climbs the ladder of success. It doesn't bother Joe that he has to climb over the backs of other employees and people close to him as he scales that ladder either. Soon Joe has his eye not only on the boss' job but the boss' mistress, Agnes (Genevieve Tobin). He ultimately gets both the job and the mistress, even marrying her although she clearly doesn't love Joe or even care that much about Joe's wealth. She cares more about fun than money, and she has plenty of that since Joe is working late every night. So, in the end, Joe finds himself at the very place he started out not wanting to be - buried - although alive - in a solid gold coffin of wealth. He lacks no possessions but has nobody he can trust with whom to share it. What will become of Joe? Watch and find out.

This film is very well paced and I was particularly impressed with Fairbanks' snappy and gritty performance in a film I'd heard nothing about until it showed up on TCM. And that cast - you'll never see this bunch together in another film. Frank Morgan before he went to MGM, Fairbanks Jr. after Warner Brothers, fine supporting performers Edward Everett Horton and Nydia Westman as an unlikely office romance that leads to matrimony, and finally Colleen Moore. Ms. Moore was a huge silent star who turned her movie money into a fortune in the stock market and didn't really need to continue working in the sound era even though she had a great voice. I think what surprised me here was that she looked so unglamorous compared to her silent film roles. She really looked way too old to be Fairbanks' girlfriend. Part of the problem was her actual age - she was 10 years older than he was. The other part was that she was very plainly and drably dressed and made up such that she almost seemed more like a maiden aunt than anything else.

At any rate, a highly recommended little precode.

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