11 September 2007 | MartinHafer
I liked this one....
Although I am sure that many did not like this movie because the main character, Lionel Barrymore, turned out to be so flawed as did his completely irresponsible children. Although there is a small glimmer of hope at the end, I appreciate how this film was much less sentimental and a bit brutal when it came to story telling.
The film begins just after the Great Chicago Fire--which, by the way, was NOT caused by Mrs. O'Leary's cow--despite the film's intro as well as popular opinion. Lionel Barrymore arrives in town with his new bride and he and his brother open a store. Soon, the store begins to prosper and as the years pass, it's now one of the larger department stores--and the family is stinking rich. However, like some hard working but foolish fathers, Barrymore keeps a loose rein on his kids and three of the four grown up to be selfish jerks. The fourth does work for the family business but lacks ambition to do anything more than design sales windows (was this, perhaps, a 1930s hint that he was gay?).
At the same time, Barrymore has a very hard working employee who gives his life for the company but inexplicably, Barrymore refuses to give the man stock--instead, wasting much of it on his punk kids. By the end, it's obvious the old man is dying and unfortunately he must go realizing that the company will soon die with him.
It's really a very sad and difficult movie to watch at times, but because the acting is good (especially by Barrymore), the film is quite engaging. It's sure NOT a "feel good" film, but is a nice morality tale about parenting and the power of money to corrupt.
By the way, Barrymore also made another film in 1933 with very similar themes that is worth seeking. "Looking Forward" is a dandy film as well. Also, tiny Chesterfield Studio made "Forgotten" which is very similar to "Sweepings" but with a much happier ending.