27 January 2013 | wes-connors
Looking Back on Looking Forward
With the worldwide Depression threatening to bankrupt his business, London department store owner Lewis Stone (as Gabriel Service) reluctantly dismisses lowly, long-term clerk Lionel Barrymore (as Tim Benton). Although he "got the sack," Mr. Barrymore leaves his 40-year position with no hard feelings. Watch that "Liptons" tea truck Barrymore encounters - it drives around the block with lightning speed. At home, Barrymore's family begins to budget. Meanwhile, the family of Mr. Stone is also told to cut down on expenses. They must consider selling their mansion. While the less than ambitious Barrymore begins selling pasties, Stone considers selling his business to a less than worthy rival...
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's optimistic phrase "Looking Forward" becomes the title of this interesting drama, which retains evidence of its origin (as "Service") on the London stage. The story shows the Depression causing anguish for both business owner (Stone) and worker (Barrymore), but only hints at any real suffering. The latter is represented in a fine moment between financially strapped Doris Lloyd (as Lil Benton) and poverty-stricken seamstress Eily Malyon (as Mrs. Munsey). Their more wealthy counterpart, Benita Hume (as Isobel Service), simply runs away with one of her lovers...
MGM gives Barrymore over-the-top credit, but the more laid-back Stone steals the film; probably, Stone's character was the original's central figure. It's surprising MGM did not demand a romantic subplot between Stone's handsome son Phillips Holmes (as Michael) and Barrymore's pretty daughter Viva Tattersall (as Elsie). While predictable and overused, a connecting young romance would have balanced the main story lines, further involved the two families, and made the film more popular. Other grown-up children, attractive Elizabeth Allan (as Caroline) and sporty Douglas Walton (as Willie), get to show their stuff. Everyone gets something to do, but it all should have obviously been done better.
***** Looking Forward (4/28/33) Clarence Brown ~ Lewis Stone, Lionel Barrymore, Elizabeth Allan, Phillips Holmes