The Turner Classic Network showed this film this evening, and it is well acted if a bit pat. Lionel Barrymore plays a company director who has been co-signing a series of checks that Edwin Maxwell (one of his partners) has been pushing on him as part of a scheme to save the firm during the depression. But he announces that the scheme is not working, and that it is a matter of time that the auditors (who are coming in a day) will uncover the defalcation that has occurred. Barrymore goes home worrying about the future. His home-life is usually a happy one, but he is aware of changes threatening his family's unity. His son (Tom Brown)is going to college, and trying to get into a prestigious fraternity. His younger daughter is also beginning a college career, but has fallen for one of the son's friends. His older daughter has two competing boyfriends, a reporter (Onslow Stevens) and an accountant (Edward Nugent), and has just announced the engagement to the accountant. And his wife (Fay Bainter) has written a novel that a Hollywood studio has optioned.
Barrymore decides to commit suicide, after making certain that everything is set up for his family to continue. The defalcation is discovered by his potential son-in-law, who warns him and "gives him a chance" to flee before it is revealed (Maxwell has fled). In the meantime his younger daughter has almost gotten married, but stopped when she finds a cryptic note from Barrymore, and the son suffers a social disappointment and an automobile accident. But Barrymore returns home to commit suicide. Will he succeed or will he pull himself together to save his family.
In some ways his performance here as Martin Turner, the businessman facing ruin and disgrace, is similar to his shipping tycoon in DINNER AT EIGHT, also facing business reverses. But Oliver, the shipping tycoon, never planned to kill himself (he had a serious heart condition that the pressures of his situation was worsening). His family is smaller (just the socially pretentious Billie Burke and his daughter). Martin Turner has a larger family with more individual problems that pull them apart. But in both films, when his physical situation and his social position are threatened, his family does reunite to save him. But while circumstances in DINNER AT EIGHT help force Oliver's wife and daughter to come back to their senses, it is the seriousness of Martin's problems that cause the Turners to circle their wagons around their family head.
Barrymore was a fine actor, but he frequently had a tendency to hamminess (as did his brother John), but here he shows great restraint due to the circumstances of the story. As a result his performance here is pretty solid - one of his best. As for Bainter and the others they give good support. A soap opera tale, but it is a first rate production well worth watching.
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