8 September 2007 | gerrythree
Friends Of Mr. Sweeney Forgotten Charles Ruggles Star Vehicle
If not for TCM showing Warner Bros. 1934 movie Friends of Mr. Sweeney around 1997, I wouldn't even know it existed. The movie cannot be described as pre-Code because its release date is July 28, 1934, yet the TCM broadcast version does not have the MPPDA logo on it and there is no certificate number shown in the credits. Even stranger, when Warner Bros. premiered this movie in New York City on July 31, 1934, the venue was the Mayfair movie theater, not a Warner Bros. theater. Friends of Mr. Sweeney is a star vehicle for Charles Ruggles, who plays the role of Asaph Holliday, once a real go getter in college who has withered away working as an editorial writer for The Balance, a dull political magazine. Somehow, after meeting Rixey, an old college friend, he changes as he gets involved with a crooked politician, the operator of a gambling den and his secretary, Beulah Boyd, played by a great looking Ann Dvorak.
There is one scene where Ms. Boyd, told that her dress was inappropriate attire for the office, takes it off in the office, shows she is wearing a slip, and puts on a more reserved outfit. A woman in a slip was a scene that you saw in a movie like Night Nurse, but not one that usually passed the censorious Joseph Breen, the foaming at the mouth anti-Semitic Production Code Administrator who enforced the stringent Code put into effect on July 1, 1934.
In some ways, Friends of Mr. Sweeney reminds me of another 1934 Warner Bros. movie, Hi, Nellie! Both are set in locales in or near Greenwich Village, both deal with journalists on the outs who improve their lots by going against crooked political types. The cynicism and slanted view of life in Friends of Mr. Sweeney peg the movie as pre-Code. It is too bad for Charles Ruggles that one of his best roles was in a movie that was given the bum's rush on its release, to avoid problems with the Production Code. By being released in the middle of the summer, considered a dead time for first run movies until the 1970s, Warner Bros. guaranteed this movie would vanish from sight fast.
If I hadn't taped this movie from the TCM broadcast about 10 years ago, I would not have a copy now, since I have not seen it listed once on the TCM broadcast schedule since then.