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  • Any parent who ever became disappointed with his children and any child who felt parental pressure will surely enjoy this drama. Lionel Barrymore is terrific as the father of four children, nicely played as adults by Eric Linden, William Gargan, George Meeker and Gloria Stuart, who cause him great embarrassment and grief and want little or nothing to do with the very successful department store he founded in Chicago after the great fire of 1871. The rest of the supporting cast all do well with Gregory Ratoff a standout as Barrymore's faithful manager, who feels he is not appreciated. Director John Cromwell gets the right feel of the period and handles the crowd scenes (with 300 extras used in the frenzied sale scenes) very well. This was an enjoyable movie.

    Interesting tidbits: Barrymore had the flu and a fever of 103°F through some of the production but kept filming despite the doctor's order to rest. Special makeup applied by uncredited Mel Berns and Ern Westmore made the 55-year-old Barrymore look 25 at the start of the film. William Gargan was also in the 1939 remake "Three Sons," but played the part that Alan Dinehart played in this film.
  • After the Great Chicago Fire, a fiercely determined man slowly builds his business into the city's mightiest department store. However, the dreams he has for his children's success become as worthless as the SWEEPINGS off the dirty floors, destroyed by the young people's willful & wanton lives.

    Lionel Barrymore dominates this fine, neglected character study which serves as a showcase for his talents. Less flamboyant than his celebrated younger brother John, Lionel was a marvelous actor, as well as a true eccentric (not long before this film was made he began living in a loft above one of MGM's sound stages and, according to the rumor which circulated around the studio, had completely stopped bathing). With his fascinating voice & stage-engendered mannerisms, Lionel was always worth watching. And so he proves here, playing a man who could be warmly loving & completely ruthless by turns.

    Kudos should also extend to Ninetta Sunderland as Barrymore's faithful, tragic wife; George Meeker as his cheery brother; and Gregory Ratoff as Barrymore's shrewd store manager. They each flesh out a small role and make it notable. Young Gloria Stuart, who would have a resurgence of fame more than 60 years later in TITANIC, plays Barrymore's daughter.

    Movie mavens will recognize Mary Gordon as Mrs. O'Leary (with cow) and Franklin Pangborn as a nervous photographer, both uncredited Look fast in the early train station scene for champion athlete Jim Thorpe, unbilled, playing a passing Indian; he was reduced to making appearances like this to pay the bills.

    RKO gave the film excellent production values; Slavko Vorkapich, a true master of what was termed `transitional effects,' supplied montages which are especially noteworthy.

    Max Steiner composed the full-bodied score.
  • xerses1329 April 2006
    In the early 1930's the Great Depression coming after the introduction of sound effected all studios severely even mighty MGM. The cost of conversion to sound had been largely absorbed and the early technical difficulties overcome. Films once more started to be made with the competence that was shown in the late silent period. This increased sophistication would culminate in the Class of 1939. Still in this early sound period economic difficulties had to be overcome and one (1) way to do this was keep running time short. All studios participated in this move. Most features ran between sixty (60) and ninety (90) minutes.

    SWEEPINGS (1933) is a typical example from RKO. Clocking in at brisk eighty (80) minutes it takes a sixty (60) year family story and cuts it to the essentials. This was well accomplished by Director John Cromwell with a team of acting professionals. The Family, Lionel Barrymore (on loan from MGM), William Gargan, Gloria Stuart, George Meeker, Eric Linden. Gregory Ratoff is Barrymores right hand man and in a brief but effective role Helen Mack. The story in a nutshell; Father builds business for unappreciative Children who just see him as a cash cow. Loses faith in them and at the end regains same through act of youngest son. Entertaining, you bet and the story is in no way obsolete and could be easily updated to 21st Century audiences.

    RKO remade this picture as THREE SONS (1939) with one (1) cast hold over William Gargan though this time playing Uncle Thane Pardway. The film ran shorter seventy-two (72) minutes and one (1) major plot change. Rather then die of a heart attack delivering Christmas presents Uncle Thane stops a bullet for his nephew. Remake rating Six (6)******.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Usually 'pre-Code' is itself code for 'saucy', but in the case of Sweepings, it merely describes a very mature, adult story that doesn't avoid some of the less pleasant aspects of human nature. The irascible Lionel Barrymore is predictably excellent as Daniel Pardway, a department store magnate whose life is filled with bitter disappointment thanks to his lazy, ungrateful, or otherwise unbusiness-oriented children. The emotional heart of the story beats within the breast of Pardway's under-appreciated Jewish colleague Abe (Gregory Ratoff), who witnesses his friend's descent into depression and can do nothing to halt it. Lester Cohen's sensitive screenplay belies its age and the film looks magnificent thanks to Edward Cronjager's immaculate and artistically framed cinematography. An extremely worthwhile early talkie that deserves much wider exposure.
  • MartinHafer11 September 2007
    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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Particularly considering it was only 1933, this was a good film, which missed out on being a great film by about 20 minutes. I know that sounds unusual, but the general rule at the time was that films were no longer than 90 minutes...and this one was only 80 minutes. Now, we've all sat through films that were too long and needed to be edited more tightly. But at 1:45-2:00, this could have been a great film.

    The story is of a entrepreneurial pioneer (Lionel Barrymore) who opens a simple department store right after the Chicago fire. He grows his store hoping it will someday be his legacy for his 4 children. A Jewish man (Gregory Ratoff, a very prolific actor and director most of us are unfamiliar with) becomes his top assistant, and he loves the store just as much as Barrymore. All is fine in the film through this part of the story.

    Now let's skip to the end. As Barrymore is dying, he fully realizes that his 4 children have been a great disappointment, and apparently cannot take over the store upon his death. This section of the film is very dramatic and done exceedingly well. There are some very touching scenes here.

    It's the middle of the film that's a problem. In the beginning we learn that he is building a legacy to his children. In the end we see they have let him down. But the way in which the director built the characterizations of the children...well, superficial to say the least. We don't really get to know them at all. And that's where an extra 20-30 minutes of character development would led to us understanding them each a bit more, and ultimately led to a great picture.

    Lionel Barrymore is interesting here. He was only 55 years old here, and his severe arthritis was not yet the handicap it would soon become. You almost have to look for it...and then you can see it in his hands. Ironically, in the story he winds up in a wheelchair, where he would be in real life in just a few years. But, in terms of acting, this is a fine performance by Barrymore.

    It's not worth spending a lot of time on the actors playing the children, since the director spent so little time developing their characters. But it is interesting to note that the daughter is played by Gloria Stuart, the old lady in "Titanic". And, as an aside, one son was played by William Gargan, who 25 years later would have his larynx removed due to throat cancer, and -- with an artificial voice box -- would be come an anti-smoking crusader with the American Cancer Society.

    This film is worth watching, but I think that you will probably agree that it was only a near-great film.
  • This film starts out with Mrs. O'Leary milking a cow in a barn who kicks over the pail into a lantern and burns the City of Chicago. Daniel Pardway, (Lionel Barrymore) arrives in this city and has a dream of starting a department store like Marshall Field's. However, Daniel has to start from nothing and his first bed room is shared by chickens and his wife is a very prim and proper lady and starts to cry, which makes Daniel bound and determined to make a success of his goal for a super department store. After five years, the store grows and grows and in the mean time Daniel has three sons and one daughter and at a rather early age he losses his wife and has to carry on with plans that all his children will eventually take over his business. This entire story deals with Daniel Pardway and his children with all of their ups and downs in life. Lionel Barrymore gave an excellent performance that makes this a great film classic from 1933.
  • Quite good film about a shop-owner who lives to see his little business flourish into a major department store; unfortunately, his angry, ungrateful children want no part of the business once dad passes over. Melodrama loses focus in the last half, but until then is excellently acted, surprisingly interesting. Best scene: the mental breakdown of the harried store clerk. **1/2 from ****
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I read somewhere that Gloria Stuart's performance in the excellent "Sweepings" proved she was capable of playing women of depth. I myself can't see that - she was extremely beautiful but unless her part wound up on the cutting room floor, she wasn't called on to show much characterization. In her very few scenes she did cry prettily and was able to show some emotion but the girl you will remember is Helen Mack as Mamie, the tough shop girl who meets young Freddie and ultimately comes off second best!! With names like Lionel Barrymore, Eric Linden and Helen Mack you just know you are going to get a very meaty drama packed with emotion and you'd be right.

    Barrymore plays hard headed businessman Daniel Pardway who, along with his tart tongued wife, Abby, comes to Chicago after the great fire with visions to build a great bazaar. His brother Thane (Alan Dinehart) thinks they are cheapening themselves, that they should have gone more upmarket but time tells that Daniel knows exactly what he is doing!! When Abby dies in childbirth, in addition to expanding his store, he also tries to become everything to his growing children and when Thane utters those immortal words "the way you're taking care of those kids, they'll never be able to take care of themselves" - you just know that Daniel is in for 80 minutes of heartache.

    Gene and Phoebe (William Gargan and Gloria Stuart) are the jet setters, gay, insouciant, feeling life is there to be lived - in other words shiftless!!! Studious Bert (George Meeker) is in college and Freddie (Linden) is at military school. When long time friend Abe(Gregory Ratoff) one day asks Daniel if he can have a share in the store in return for his years of service, Daniel turns him down flat, stating that everything will be left to his children. Apart from Mamie, Abe is definitely the most sympathetic person in the whole film - a man who has been with Daniel from the start, even utilizing some bright ideas of his own but who will never have job security because of Daniel's iron willed view that family come first. It all leads to a chilling scene where Daniel "jokes" with Abe that when his children take over his future will not be so secure - fortunately Abe is able to have the last laugh!!!

    First to fail is Gene - not only does he not want to come into the firm but he is involved in a shooting scandal when his mistress (Esther Muir) accidentally shoots his best friend (Chick Chandler). Daniel then pins his hopes on Bert who is keen if not dynamic. There is much sniggering and raised eyebrows when Bert turns down a big overseas appointment to continue work as a window dresser!!! Gloria Stuart doesn't even have a scene to show Phoebe's fall from grace - it is all done by newspaper headlines. Freddie turns out to be a rotter but as played by Eric Linden, one who hits some hard times as he does some soul searching. By the end of the movie he is the only one determined to make good for the honour of the family.

    This sort of family patriarch role was bread and butter to Lionel Barrymore, he could play them in his sleep. Eric Linden was also at the height of his popularity and Freddie was right up his alley.
  • Lionel Barrymore plays a man who builds a successful department store business and hopes to pass it on to his children. But they have grown up to want nothing to do with running the family business. Actually, they've grown up to be spoiled jerks! Barrymore is excellent in the kind of sympathetic fatherly role he was born to play. He's not playing a total hero here, though. His character mistreats a longtime employee played by Gregory Ratoff. It's actually a fascinating part of the film, particularly the scene where Barrymore belittles and subtly threatens the man solely out of spite because he feels hurt by his children.

    Alan Dinehart is good as Barrymore's brother. The sons are played by William Gargan, George Meeker, and Eric Linden. They're all fine. Gloria Stuart, on loan from Universal, is very pretty but does nothing to impress as the daughter. This is at least in part because she's the daughter and her importance is diminished because, given the era it was made, the idea of a girl running the business wasn't even considered. Her character seems too flighty to have interest in it, anyway, but because she's left out of this part of the plot she's really given little to do. Cutie Helen Mack has a smaller part that has more meat on it.

    A good drama from RKO, similar to many other dramas like this from the early to mid '30s. Usually about kids wanting something different than their parents and basically being disrespectful and unappreciative. A theme that resonates across generations I'm sure.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    1933-- times are tough, and so is the movie. Catch that cute little number Helen Mack as the beleaguered shop girl Mamie Donohue. We hate it when wastrel Freddie Pardway (Linden) exploits her exhaustion by seducing and abandoning her, just like some n'er-do- well rich man's son. But then, what about that follow-up scene with her and pop Pardway (Barrymore) in his office. It's surprising twists like this that avoid cliché and distinguish the pre-Code era. At the same time, Mack is simply terrific in a brief role and, in my little book, walks off with the movie.

    It looks to me like the screenplay is someone's blistering comment on the 1920's, the high-living decade preceding the Depression of the '30's. After all, that's the decade in which the three no-account Pardway offspring mature and cavort, leaving Dad to mind the store and worry about its future. On the other hand, Dad's a part of that heady industrial age between the Civil War and WWI, when the economy took off and fortunes were made. He's a real entrepreneur, with the vision and initiative to start up a booming enterprise from scratch. It's too bad Mom (Ninetta Sunderland in a fine performance) dies too soon to enjoy the success, leaving Dad with four unhelpful heirs to the department store business.

    I like planktonrules's (reviewer) observation that son Bert is likely coded in as a gay man. Note that Bert's not only in a traditionally feminine job as a window trimmer, but he's the only one of the four who's private life is left unglimpsed. Apparently, the bold pre-Code era was still in the closet about some things. Also, note the presence of the very Jewish Abe Ullman (Ratoff). He's certainly deserving of some shares in the family business, which caused me to wonder whether Dad's refusal was based on something more than filial devotion. But then, tellingly, Abe does get his revenge.

    All in all, this is definitely a movie to catch up with, though some talky scenes expose the stage play origins. Wisely, these are interspersed with clever action montages that summarize time passing and keep events moving. To me, Lionel Barrymore is a matter of taste. Here he's mostly restrained, doing a good job of moving dad Pardway through life's inevitable stages. The ending has the kind of uncertain ambiguity that would disappear from the screen for the next 25 years thanks to the insistently uplifting Production Code. Anyway, if you like this movie, be sure to catch up with another real gem of the same period, the oddly named Employee's Entrance (1933). It's also about a department store tycoon (Warren William), but told in even tougher fashion.
  • ... or at least that seems to be the case for Daniel Pardway (Lionel Barrymore) as he comes to Chicago with his new bride shortly after the great fire of 1871. Daniel sees in this fire opportunity, and he builds a great department store "The Bazaar" in its aftermath. In the meantime, on the personal front, he and his wife have four children. Daniel's wife dies due to complications of the birth of the fourth, Freddie. With his wife dead, Daniel pours all of his energy into both his store and his children, with the hope, rather the expectation, that the children will have as much enthusiasm for the store as he does.

    In the meantime, Daniel overlooks loyal employee Abe Ullman (Gregory Ratoff), who has been with him since his first sale, first as a customer arguing that the price is too high, and five seconds later as an employee telling the throngs of customers that this is a great deal. Ultimately he becomes the general manager of the store for decades.

    I'll stop describing the plot right here, because it would be too easy to give it away by saying anymore. Let me just say this is a great tribute to the acting of everyone involved. Lionel Barrymore was 55 years old when he made this film, and at the beginning he seems every inch an energetic 25 year old for which the sky is the limit. During the film he realistically ages from 25 to a decade past his actual age. Gregory Ratoff was really a revelation here. I'm accustomed to seeing him play hypertensive bosses with few brains, but here he shows a great deal of range and mystery. Is he just a hired man for an unappreciative boss who often makes him a verbal punching bag for life's frustrations, or is he perhaps actually looking out for himself? Watch and find out whether and how.

    Of the four Pardway children, I thought Eric Linden was the standout. Over at Warner Brothers he was usually given "Gee Whiz" Jimmy Olsen like parts. Here he gets to play a real rotten apple with no gratitude and seemingly no conscience.

    Good acting, good camera-work, good direction, and for a plot that seems to be going by the numbers, a couple of surprises at the end - I'd recommend it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Typical for an early RKO production, the screenplay and direction could've been tighter, but I found this to be a very entertaining film.

    There's more than a hint of anti-Semitism in that Gregory Ratoff's Abe Ullman character is basically in charge and more than partly responsible for the great success of the store. As Barrymore grows older and his children are less than interested in keeping the business alive, Barrymore is very harsh and unfair to Ullman's expectation that he might be able to receive the partial ownership of the store that his hard work and management has clearly earned. Their showdown scene is touching and very intense.
  • SWEEPINGS is an early sound film directed by John Cromwell and starring LIONEL BARRYMORE as a man who builds an empire for his children, only to see it crumble when they show no interest in inheriting or running the department store business.

    After a promising start, it begins to sag toward the last half-hour and shows its age with the primitive stage bound look of too many talky scenes. So much time is covered that all of the incidents had to be compressed in order to cover the wide span. An effective use of montages does show the director striving for more advanced techniques.

    Someone else has mentioned Max Steiner's "full bodied score" but there is no such thing. Whatever underscoring there is, is kept to a minimum and the film has a tone that is more somber than dramatic because of the mostly silent music soundtrack.

    As a character study of an ambitious man who becomes embittered by his situation, Barrymore is excellent and ERIC LINDEN is good as the son who admits he has no ambition. WILLIAM GARGAN, GEORGE MEEKER, GREGORY RATOFF and GLORIA STUART are just satisfactory in lesser roles.

    Summing up: Overall effect is not as striking as it should have been, given that the story is really a timeless one.
  • Lionel Barrymore is a widowed father in the RKO 1933 film, "Sweepings." When his wife dies, Daniel Pardway Barrymore) is left with four children to raise. He does so, all the time building his department store empire for his kids to inherit and take over. He is helped all the while by a worker who started with the store when it began, Abe Ullman (Gregory Ratoff).

    The problem is, Pardway Senior spoils his kids rotten. The daughter (Titanic's Anna Stuart) goes from husband to husband; his sons are basically playboy bums he has to bail out, particularly Freddie (Eric Linden) with the exception of the one who works alongside him. He later asks to be transferred to window trimmings. He's not interested in anything else.

    This film, at the time of this writing, is 82 years old. Kids are still letting their parents down and breaking parental hearts. These kids did love their father, but were spoiled and happy enjoying themselves. You could redo this film today - in fact, it was remade as Three Sons in 1939.

    Barrymore is the anchor of the film, with a big monologue at the end. The rest of the cast is marvelous. Besides Linden, the sons are played by William Gargam and George Meeker.

    The only other significant role is that of Abe (Gregory Ratoff), who feels ownership for the store as well and thinks he's under-appreciated. He is very good.

    Anna Stuart was in her twenties here, very pretty, but she doesn't have much to do. William Gargan, who later lost his larynx to cancer, plays Gene. I remember as a child how much publicity Gargan received from losing his larynx and speaking with the use of a voice box. He devoted himself to the American Cancer Society after that.

    Also appearing are Helen Mack and, as an uncredited extra, Jim Thorpe.

    The makeup to make Lionel Barrymore appear younger in the beginning is excellent. The first scene is apparently from a silent film - it shows Mrs. O'Leary and the cow starting the Chicago fire.

    "Sweepings" gives us a hopeful ending, which during the depression was all a lot of people had anyway.