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Laura Hope Crews
A fire in a run-down tenement building injures young Joey Rogers. Wealthy passerby Peter Cortlant rushes the boy and his attractive older sister Mary to the hospital and pays the medical expenses for the poverty-stricken family. Only later does Peter learn that the firetrap tenement is one of his own vast real estate holdings. Faced with his own unwitting complicity in the deaths and injuries resultant from the fire and with his growing attachment to Mary, Peter decides to tear down his tenements and erect decent affordable housing. But his family is aghast at his plan and plots to wreck it. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
Using FDR's famous line about seeing one third of a nation ill housed, ill clad and ill fed, One Third Of A Nation deals with the first part of that statement. The film deals with slum tenements in New York City and was shot at Paramount's Astoria Studios using some players who were better known for their stage work mostly at the time the film was made.
For star Sylvia Sidney it was a return to the slums where she played one of her most famous parts in the film version of Sidney Kingsley's Dead End. She lives with mother Edmonia Nolley, father Charles Dingle, and little brother Sidney Lumet. Yes, that is the same Sidney Lumet who grew up and became a top rated director.
After a fire which leaves young Lumet a cripple the owner of the building, in fact the owner of a lot of tenement buildings Leif Erickson develops a social conscience and is determined to tear these slum tenements down and build some decent new housing. He's fought every turn of the way by his sister Muriel Hutchinson and their business manager Percy Waram. But Sylvia's encouragement and an awful tragedy they endure it all works out.
Myron McCormick who at this time concentrated on the stage has a role as the neighborhood radical and rival for Sidney. It was interesting to see Charles Dingle, somewhat unshaven and in a dirty undershirt as a tenement dweller. Normally he'd be cast as the hard hearted plutocrat owner.
One Third Of A Nation is sincere, but a bit too melodramatic. For one thing I can't believe that Erickson is both tied down by his sister and also just didn't go out and become an engineer as he said he would like to have become. His character made little sense to me.
Still Sylvia Sidney's fans will enjoy her performance in her return to the New York slums.
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