22 July 2000 | Ron Oliver
High-Rise Drama In Neglected Film
Utterly ruthless & immoral, the owner of New York's tallest building plots & schemes to keep control of his creation, trampling upon anyone who gets in his way. Others working in the great colossus also live lives of drama & everyday excitement. All these SKYSCRAPER SOULS will soon find themselves bound together by greed, lust, betrayal, suicide & murder.
Practically screaming its pre-Production Code status, this neglected film is rather fascinating in the risqué development of its plot. Sex, both leering & suggested, plays an important role in the story. By making its hero a man both charming & completely treacherous, open to any underhand suggestion, it makes a lie out of Louis B. Mayer's assertion that all of MGM's product was family friendly. Even today, this is potent, powerful material. And absolutely engaging.
Warren William is almost distressingly good as the unscrupulous building owner, around whom much of the action revolves. His blunt dishonesty almost makes chicanery respectable.
The rest of the cast is equally proficient:
Maureen O'Sullivan as a naive young secretary lusted over by William & loved by brash bank clerk Norman Foster.
Gregory Ratoff, hilarious as a harried dressmaker.
Anita Page as a brash prostitute/model beloved by noble jeweler Jean Hersholt.
Verree Teasdale, William's mistress for 12 years, finally pushed to the breaking point.
Wallace Ford as a radio announcer, tragically driven to desperation by his love of unhappily married Helen Coburn.
George Barbier as a jolly fat debauchee, one of William's eventual financial victims.
And Hedda Hopper, William's absent, knowing wife - very content with his money, but not his company.
Movie mavens will also recognize Billy Gilbert as a lobby cigarette stand owner, Edward Brophy & Doris Lloyd as the man & woman in the elevator.