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Corruption (June 19, 1933)

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Released June 19, 1933: Tim Butler is elected Mayor of the big city and vows to end political corruption, but finds most of it resides with the machine that got him elected.

Directed by Charles E. Roberts

The Actors: Evalyn Knapp (Ellen Manning), Preston Foster (Tim Butler), Charles Delaney (Charlie Jasper), Tully Marshall (Gorman), Warner Richmond (Regan), Huntley Gordon (District Attorney Blake), Lane Chandler (Assistant District Attorney King), Natalie Moorhead (Sylvia Gorman), Mischa Auer (Volkov), Jason Robards Sr. (Police Commissioner), Gwen Lee (Mae), Sidney Bracey (Dr. Robbins), Kit Guard (Pat), Frank Kohler Jr. (Bud), Nick Thompson (Tony), Horace B. Carpenter (committe man), Jack Cheatham (Jackson the cop), Otto Fries (policeman), Frank Meredith (plainclothesman), Ed Schaefer (photographer), Roger Williams (the Judge).


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Okay, I'm more used to old movies made under the watchful eye of the Hays Office censors than the 'anything goes' movies of today. So I was totally shocked when I saw the obscene gesture at the end of this movie. I wasn't terribly offended, mind you, but shocked to see it in a 1933 movie. It is the earliest example I have found so far of an obvious and deliberate flipping of the bird. Political Corruption - it was rampant in 1930's America, but of course today we are more civilized and advanced, and genteel, and all politics is fair and balanced, right? And all of our politicians today are as honest as the day is long. If there is anyone that you can trust and will always tell you the honest truth, it is an elected official, right? Right.

Our movie opened in 1933, a year after the 1932 national elections that swept Herbert Hoover out of the Presidency, and F.D.R. in. The Great Depression had begun with a vengance, and I think people were blaming public officials for the bad economy. With all of the anger at politicians, this movie was sure to be a hit at the box office in 1933. It is election night in the big city, and the polictical machine has selected lawyer Tim Butler as their candidate for mayor. There is only one problem. Tim Butler is an honest man, who sees the graft and corruption that the city leaders are accustomed to. Every time the citizens are asked to pay for anything, the politicians double the price and take half of the money for themselves. Tim vows to clean the city of corruption, but the political machine that put him in office believes that they will be able to tame him and get him to ignore the corruption that is a daily part of life in the city. But Tim is committed to getting rid of the corrupt officials, and he isn't afraid of the political machine that put him in office. Too bad . . .

When Regan, the strong man of the party decides to rough him up a bit, Tim is ready for them, and Regan and his henchman are put in jail. Ah, but the party doesn't give up that easily. They entrap Tim into a room with a blonde hussy, and take a compromising photo of them that results in Tim being tossed out of office and back to a private law practice that no one will hire, because of his apparent morality problem. You may have noticed that top billing for this flick went to Evalyn Knapp, who plays the part of Ellen, his secretary and friend since college. It is her wits and loyalty to Tim that proves to be the stabalizing force that keeps him going. Anyway, being painted as an immoral man wasn't enough for the machine, so they also frame him for the murder of tough man Regan, and Tim is sentenced to life in prison. It looks like the end for Tim and his crusading ways, but just like in the thrilling stories of today, truth and virtue find a way to conquer the evil ways of the corrupt. Munch your hot buttered white kernel popcorn and swig on your icy soda pop, and enjoy a tale that is as old as civilization, and as timely as tomorrows headlines.