The Law of Contact

Hotel Continental (March 7, 1932)

Jean Hersholt in Hearts of Humanity

Released on March 7, 1932: On the final night of the Hotel Continental before being torn down, an embezzler who was just released from prison checks in to recover a fortune in gold that he hid there 5 years ago.

Directed by Christy Cabanne

The Actors: Peggy Shannon (Ruth Carleton), Theodore von Eltz (Jim Bennett), J. Farrell MacDonald (Detective Martin), Henry B. Walthall (Winthrop), Alan Mowbray (Walter Underwood), Mary Carlisle (Alicia), Bert Roach (Charlie Layton), Ethel Clayton (Mrs. Underwood), Rockliffe Fellowes (Tierney), William Scott (Mills), Gino Corrado (waiter), Harry Edwards (hotel clerk), Julia Griffith (hotel guest), George Humbert (hotel barber), Charles King (party guest), Margaret Mann (hotel guest), Wedgwood Nowell (hotel guest), Spec O'Donnell (bellhop), Hal Price (hotel house detective), Ellinor Vanderveer (hotel guest).


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It is 1932 and the world is in the grips of the Great Depression. What people want to see at the movies when they are down and out is a tale of wealth and riches, so they can dream again that one day they will have wealth again. The hotel business isn't what it used to be, and the Hotel Continental, one of the finest hotels in New York City, is closing its doors tomorrow at noon. But today they are open for one last evening, and we are privileged to be able to watch the parade of people that are spending the final night in this grand hotel. We watch the parade of life pass by and see a little bit of why they are there, and our minds imagine what their lives must be like. But we will focus soon on one man, and all of the people that are watching him and interested in his every move.

Jim Bennett, a tall good looking man is checking in. He wanted to reserve room 705 but it was already taken, so he gets the room next to it instead. As he makes his way to the room, a pair of detectives are following him, and talking about the fortune in gold that he hid somewhere in the hotel. It seems that Jim is fresh out of prison after serving his time for embezzlement, and the gold that he stole was never recovered. While Jim is settling into his room, he spots a pretty blonde in the room across the hall who appears to be about to commit suicide. He stops her, and talks to her, and convinces her not to take her life. He is immediately taken with her, and he invites her to dinner and dancing in the ball room, but she doesn't have any evening wear, so he leaves and buys her an outfit for dinner and dancing. Looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship . . . . except that once Jim is out of her room to buy her new gown, she phones a couple of nasty looking men in the hotel and tells them that she has him hooked, and she will surely discover where he has hidden the gold so they can take it from him. Sheesh, can't trust pretty women any more, can we? Could we dumb guys ever trust a pretty girl? Anyway, on to the story.

There is a party in room 705, and they get invited to it. Jim and Ruth search for a way to get everyone out of the room so that Jim can reclaim his riches, but it doesn't look like it will be easy. But the chemistry between Jim and Ruth is great. Jim is totally taken with Ruth, and that is obvious. First Ruth is determined to con Jim out of the riches, then she falls for him and decides not to help the thugs. Then she misunderstands something that Jim does and hates him and will betray him again. Then, just as she is uncovered as one of the bad guys, she discovers that Jim really did love her, and wanted to marry her. But it is too late - the thugs rob Jim and inform him that Ruth is their partner, and knock him out cold and leave with Ruth and the money. The excitement is building as things start popping in the hotel, and just when I figure out how this one will end, there is a plot twist that knocks that idea out of my head. And I am almost out of white kernel popcorn, and you know how you get to the bottom of the bowl and there isn't any more melted butter to be found on any of those lucious kernels? This is getting serious! Usually I can figure out the ending long before it comes, and even have popcorn left, but this one is really a thriller, and I'm hooked . . . can't take my eyes off the screen.