Employees’ Entrance (1933) Roy Del Ruth

“Employees’ Entrance” is a classic! Not because of any artistic merit which there is little of but like most pre-code films for what is shown, said or at least insinuated. Themes that one year later after this film was released would be banned from the screen. With the enforcement of the production code, by Will Hays and company, the movie screen would be cleansed of nudity, loose women, drugs, cursing, homosexuals, sympathy for the poor and other so called vices and undesirable characters. American movies would be scrubbed clean of this kind of “filth” and homogenized into a world of celluloid unreality. And if and when they did appear, whores, murderers and their ilk would now be punished for their sins before the closing credits appeared on the screen. Even so called decent people, say for example married couples, could no longer sleep in the same bed. The baring of a female shoulder or a bit of leg was about as much nudity as you were going to get.

Of all the studios, Warner Brothers was the king of pre-code. The best, and again we are not talking artistic quality here, came from Warner Brothers/First National. Films like “Baby Face,” “Night Nurse,” “Blessed Event,” “The Public Enemy,” “Gold Diggers of 1933″ are just a few of the Warner Brothers/First National films incorporating soon to be forbidden topics. While some of these films may seem dated, even quaint today, a few still pack a punch and even remain relevant in our current society. “Five Star Final” deals with the lack of integrity and exploitation in the newspaper world and “Employees’ Entrance” gives us a bird’s eye view of big business, corporate greed, profits at any cost mentality which certainly still exist today. From the exploited topless photos of Kate Middleton to greed on Wall Street these films, made more than eighty years ago, still resonates with us in our present day.

“Employee Entrance” is a terrific pre-code with Warren William at his slimmest, a ruthless corporate manager of a large department store. He callously fires people for the slightest infractions without an emotion being shed. Devoid of the slightest regard for people’s lives Kurt Anderson (William) demands overtime, all the time, assistants must be on twenty-four hour call and that damn bathroom on the fourth floor better work! This last bit is a running joke throughout the film.

William dominates the picture as the tyrannical boss who ruthlessly ruins lives; one employee is coldly and publicly fired after thirty years of dedicated service with the company. When, a bit later in the film, the man jumps out a window from nine floors up, all William has to say is the man outlived his usefulness.

The company’s owner and board members are portrayed as a bunch of useless fat cats more interested in yachts than in the company business. Through a series of dates, flashing onto the screen, we watch the years go by as the company’s  profits continue to grow and grow until it was making over one hundred million dollars a year, all thanks to Anderson’s ruthless tactics. Then comes the depression, profits drop, Anderson demands innovative thinking on how to get people to purchase merchandise. Despite his nasty demeanor he has twelve thousand people working in the store and he doesn’t want to fire any but profits have to rebound.

In the middle of all this come enters Madeline (Loretta Young), a young girl who gets a job as a model at the department store and soon catches the eye of Anderson. He quickly seduces the young beauty. One of the department stores up and coming employees is Martin West (Wallace Ford) who quickly rises to become Anderson’s right hand man.  Unknown to Anderson, Martin and Madeline begin to date and soon fall in love. They want to marry but the demands on Martin’s job make him reluctant to commit, still they soon marry keeping it a secret from Anderson who views marriage as a distraction and a weakness. This doesn’t mean Anderson is not interested in women, like others, he uses them. Polly Dale (Alice White) another model in the store has obviously been having a loose sexual relationship with Anderson and is easily used by the boss man in many ways. For an increase in pay, she is willing to seduce other men for various objectives that will benefit Anderson.

Despite his claims of caring for his employees, Anderson is more a lowlife than anything else. Later in the film, at a corporate party, Madeline is upset Martin has been spending too much time working. She has had too much to drink, thanks to the slime ball Anderson who keeps feeding her drinks. He then sends her off to his private room to ‘sleep’ it off. Soon after, Anderson slips into the room and takes
advantage of the inebriated woman.

“Employee’s Entrance” is fill with sex, nasty low down behavior and a lead character who wins the day, yep all the kinds of stuff we like in pre-code films. At twenty years old, Loretta Young is a fabulously delectable beauty. Alice White is cute and has what is probably the showiest role in the film. However, that all said, this is Warren William’s film. He’s a debonair devil, tall, sharply dressed and with venom coming out of his mouth at almost every turn.

Released by Warner Brothers/First National, the hardcore home of pre-code films, in early 1933 and directed by Roy Del Ruth who may have been the hardest working director on the lot; he made five more films in 1933 and nineteen in total between 1930 and 1933. Del Ruth’s best work was during this four year period. His filmography during this time includes pre-code gems like “Blonde Crazy,” “Taxi,” “Blessed Event,” “Lady Killer” and “The Maltese Falcon” (1931).

One other thing to note is the advertising. The ads screamed in bold print how “Employee’s Entrance” is “The first picure (check the misspelling of picture in the ad) to reveal the ‘inside’ of department store life – what happens when girls need a job – ‘Love Bargains’ shoppers never see!” and “”Girls you couldn’t touch with 100 ft. yacht ready to barter their kisses for a $10 job!” The ads were as risqué and enticing as were the films.

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15 comments on “Employees’ Entrance (1933) Roy Del Ruth

  1. Pre-Code movie advertising is a phenomenon unto itself. Copy writers tried to find a sex angle in virtually every picture released before Code Enforcement, including many that are pretty innocuous by Pre-Code standards. Del Ruth was in definitely in prime form here and worked well with William in The Mind Reader and Upper World later. Hard to say whether William counts as heel or antihero here, but the vibe I got was that his drive, including the ruthlessness and exploitation, was what we needed to make it through hard times, though we didn’t all need to have it.

    • John Greco says:

      I see William more as a ruthless heel than an anti-hero, at least in its purest form. I’m sure his ruthless behavior was beneficial to the company’s success but he used people, men and women, and tossed them away when they were no longer needed. He had no moral code other than the almighty dollar. That’s no anti-hero. I have not seen the two films you mention but will have to keep an eye out for them

    • John Greco says:

      I meant to add that I agree with you on the pre-code advertising. It was an art in and unto itself.

  2. John says:

    
    I recently watched a 1930 film The Devil To Pay starring Loretta Young, Myrna Loy, and Ronald Colman. Every time I see Loretta Young she becomes more and more beautiful to me. This film is charming as all three are involved in a love triangle. Colman who plays a happy go lucky playboy type wins the love of Dorothy (played by Loretta Young) in just one day. It is a really simple story that makes you laugh and leave with a good feeling.

    I also caught Loretta in Employees Entrance in another nice 1933 pre code film. Having recently discovered the great talent of Warren William this made the film even better for me. Loretta models some lovely gowns in this one and William plays a ruthless manger of a department store who will step on anybody and anything for his success. This short 75 min., flick is a good film to watch when you don’t have alotta time. I am really finding some good early 30 pre code films to watch recently. Loretta Young is beautiful but even more beautiful in these early 30’s films. She was a phenomenal actress.

    You know the more I watch old films the more I appreciate the background music as well as the witty dialogue that always seems to have some great wisdom to it. Great writers and great composers back in the 30s, 40s and 50s. I really wished I could have lived during those times. What an incredible time it was. I would trade this time for the past any day.

    • John Greco says:

      John,

      Glad you’re enjoying these films. Many were quite good. Young was a gorgeous woman though I admit I only find her a decent actress. BTW another pre-code you should look out for with Young is BIG BUSINESS GIRL.

  3. Have never seen this one, but am a huge Warren William fan. I can just imagine him as you described. I also agree with you about the witty dialogue. They wrote such great lines in that era!

    • John Greco says:

      William is excellent in this, rotten to the core. He’s perfect. Andy yes, one thing that is missing in today’s films is witty dialogue.

  4. The films from the early 1930’s offered more realistic, yet sordid tales. I love Cagney, who teamed up with Joan Blondell in several films from the early ’30s. Sinner’s Holiday is pretty good. I love BLONDE CRAZY, from 1931. It features Cagney, Blondell, Louis Calhern (as a con man, Noel Francis (as Calhern’s partner in crime and decoy),Guy Kibbee (as a horny old coot), and a VERY YOUNG Ray Milland (as a two faced scumb-bag). Blondell and Cagney teamed up again in, He Was Her Man. Blondell played an almost bride who sold herself in Frisco. Cagney helps her find the guy in a fishing village. Naturally she wanted Cagney, who was on the lamb, staying with Blondell and her in-laws to be. There are more, but I’ll stop. I wonder, though; how did Bette Davis’ film w/ Leslie Howard, Of Human Bondage, get past the code? Bette played the biggest whore, so wonderfully! Even if it was filmed elsewhere, I don’t know how that film from 1935 passed the code. I’ll end by praising the great Max Steiner, who composed awesome scores, Bravo, Max!! Scarface is a great one. One of my VERY favorite films is, Dead End. Great opening music by Steiner. The Dead End kids are funny as hell. Bogie, and Alan Jenkins are killer thugs, returning to Bogie’s dive in NYC. He sees his “Ma” ( played by Marjorie Main; worn out and worn down). His old girlfriend (played by the great, Claire Trevor) who became a tragic prostitute. Then there’s Sylvia Sydney, who plays Billy Hallop’s big sis. Finally, Joel McCrea had a lead role as a good guy who grew up with Sydney’s charcter. She loves him but he’s stuck on the rich “girl” (played by Wendy Barrie), who lives with a guy she doesn’t love, for money’s sake. Nice, huh? Dead End, from 1937 is one of my very fav’s. Wyler directed and the stellar cinematography was by Greg Toland… love him! The screenplay was written by Lillian Hellman, who wrote the original stage play. She was also a great artist from the ’30s. Now I’ll stop, for real!

  5. The Lady Eve says:

    John, I saw “Employee’s Entrance” for the first time during Warren William’s recent “Summer Under the Stars” day. What a lesson in why he was known as a “Pre-code cad”…

    I’m no authority on all the reasons the Code began began to be enforced exactly when it was, but it is interesting that it occurred not only as it became clear that the Depression was, indeed, ‘great,’ but also at just about the same moment Prohibition was repealed.

    • John Greco says:

      Eve,

      Yeah, I am not sure if the depression had anything to do with enforcement of the code or not. Fear o gov’t intervention, scandals (Chaplin, Arbuckle, Taylor) certainly did. This film has actually, along with BABY FACE AND NIGHT NURSE, become one of my favorite pre-codes. Williams’ is a perfect as a cad.

  6. Sam Juliano says:

    I did see this for the first time John at the Film Forum’s Pre-Code Festival last year and was very pleased with him. William was a heel, whose seemed to be the right tonic during difficult times, but yeah he’s money driven and despicable. Yes, Young and White are wonderful, but the venemous William is the real showcase here. Brilliant piece John!

  7. Judy says:

    I haven’t seen this one but hope to do so in future – I have seen a few pre-Codes with Warren William, though, and he was great in this type of role, as in ‘Skyscraper Souls’. Enjoyed your review as always, John.

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