“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.