Wealthy young man takes a job as a WPA ditch digger and falls for an immigrant girl and divorces his wife and tries to help the poor.Wealthy young man takes a job as a WPA ditch digger and falls for an immigrant girl and divorces his wife and tries to help the poor.Wealthy young man takes a job as a WPA ditch digger and falls for an immigrant girl and divorces his wife and tries to help the poor.
George Montgomery plays a disaffected vice-president of a corporation. He's married to the boss' daughter and should be happy. However, he isn't and wants more from life...though he's not sure what. One day, he's walking down the street and sees a group of men who work for the WPA (a New Deal program to get men to work doing public works projects). On a lark, he tries to join them but is rejected--after all, he's rich and doesn't need the work. But, after showing up to work and being willing to do it without pay, he's taken on in the ditch-digging crew.
The boss of this crew is played a J. Carroll Naish. Naish plays the most ridiculously stereotypical sort of character--a guy who regularly writes to the President, preaches about democracy and the common man and a dyed in the wool lover of the New Deal. Frankly, he came off as completely silly and unbelievable--sort of like a non-funny version of Chico Marx.
One of Naish's family friends is a pretty young lady, Osa Massen. It's obvious that she and Montgomery will soon fall in love. This is odd, as he already is married and a married man carrying on with another woman is something generally frowned upon by the Production Code governing what is and is not acceptable in movies. This also severely hampers the romance written into the film--after all, a guy cheating on his wife isn't exactly a romantic theme!!
So what's to like about this film? Well, Thurston Hall is wonderful as a blustering plutocrat. However, aside from that the script is 100% contrived and ridiculous and as a result, not a minute of this film is believable. It is an odd little window into the era and is like a textbook example of the New Deal ideals---but textbooks are NOT real life and this film is as far removed from reality as you can get. Contrived and stupid despite a few decent performances.
By the way, do NOT assume I am completely averse to social cause movies or films espousing 1940s populism--I just think they need to be good!! In fact, one of the very best films of the decade is the wonderful "Devil and Miss Jones". It tackles the same material but does it exceptionally well due to COMPETENT writing. It's amazing how two films with the same theme can be so different.
- Feb 26, 2011