ARE THESE OUR CHILDREN (1932)


The Pre code era continues to delight when one finds hidden delights.  Sounds like a  tagline on a picture yet it is also what the  Wesley Ruggles Directed ARE THESE OUR CHILDREN (1932) is.  Its another drama  about  good  youth falling under the influence to turn against society however like most typical stories it is the way  it is handled.

This picture is a tough one to find yes was able to watch a  good print on TCM network.  These lead is played by very capable slightly young Cagney looking Eric Linden as Eddie Brand.     Brand is  hard working, cookies and milk eating kind of guy that in  in love with the pretty neighborhood gal  Mary (Rochelle Hudson) .

Brand is  studious and caring as he lives  with his Grandmother (Beryl Mercer)     Naturally that changes that changes as  times  are tough to get ahead plus falling under the  influence of  drinking, smoking partying all night friends  and of course a  girl named  Flo Carnes played by Arline Judge.  The  result is  tragedy, thrill seeking pursuit of  all that is lazy resulting  in   a death and disintegration of a family.

 

Eric Linden at times can be  to innocent for some people yet he does  fit the bill well as  he  struts around the  dance floors  and restaurants with his buddies and  Flo Carnes and her  friends on his arm.  In spite of everything  Brand  returns home to eat his cookies and milk provided by his Grandmother in spite of stinking of booze and perfume.

 

The love interest in the  form of  the  “Good  girl” Mary ( Christian religious influence in the name except if  you were MIDNIGHT MARY  made in 1933) with Loretta Young)  doesn’t get much screen time except to establish her sanctity of  soul.  Brands Grand mother and  her plus  Brand’s Little brother Bobby (Billy Butts) watch the gradual changes happen.  What makes this picture compelling is the totally plausible  relationships that evolve and in this case devolve toward the  conclusion.

You have the  Eddie Brand /Mary relationship that changes to the Brand/Flo couple plus her friends  Maybelle known as  Giggles ( Roberta Gale) and Agnes known as  Dumbell (Mary Kornman) add to that the male friends Nick Crosby ( Ben Alexander) and  Bennie Gray (Bobby Quirk) that  urge  each other on to all sorts  of bad  decisions.  Each works in this small film without large name actors or faces which in this case  tend to give it the ‘every person’ look  and feel. This could and  did happen on any street in any  city if you stray from the beaten path of solid work.

The stakes get more as  Brand forsakes staying in to prove  ‘he is not a baby anymore’ finally spending the most of one snowy  night 1930’s style effects included in the embrace of Flo only to return to cookies. Not to be  outdone the  thrill seekers search out more liquor from a neighborhood store of family Heine friend played by William Orlamond with tragic  results for all.

 

 

The prison moments hold together well  even on par  with the stunning ending moments from  ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938).   Tearful moments between younger  brothers  and  Grandmother played well together.  The best if  not slightly over dramatic moment is Eddie Brand walking towards his fate and  the slight dissolve technique used in the background.  You don’t get  the  big speech or needless preaching of what we all know is about to happen you just get the cold hard facts of the fate.

 

 

Disturbing moments  in the  courtroom scenes as all must testify to the events  that occurred. Wesley Ruggles and the  Writer Howard Estabrook chose to make the owner of  the  Drinking and dancing establishment that is the focal point of these  events  an  Asian named Sam Kong (James Wang). It is as  if no ‘White person’ would allow these  kids  to do their nocturnal activities but  the  nefarious foreigner.   One wonders in this age of non Asians playing Asians that they chose a  real  Asian actor to do this.    Kind of not  putting forth a positive image while staying true  to race.

ARE THESE OUR CHILDREN (1932)  is a  solid “B” picture  filled with good performances, lovely street scene work especially at night in the  snow.  The  cast works  well together forming  strong if  slightly cliche relationships all to tell a  story we have seen before.  Yet  watch the cast work together  is  the  treat in itself with sexual innuendos  like Flo remarking to Eddie that he doesn’t  wear and undershirt as  she  blows  down his chest after  dancing.      Good  picture, hard to  see  but well worth it.

 

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