Cast & Crew
After the great fire of 1871, young, ambitious Daniel Pardway arrives in Chicago with his wife Abigail, eager to start a new business in the heart of the planned renovation. Spurred on by impending fatherhood, Daniel soon converts his vacant storefront into a dry goods store called The Bazaar. To advertise the store's opening, Daniel stages a vast sale, which includes a sock giveaway, and is mobbed by a sea of anxious shoppers. One of the shoppers, Abe Ullman, convinces Daniel to hire him as a salesman, having proven his mettle during the hectic sale. As the store prospers, Daniel makes Abe his general manager and adds a new department to the store every time Abigail has a baby. After Abigail gives birth to their fourth child, however, she dies, and the children--Gene, Phoebe, Bert and Freddie--are reared by a pampering Daniel. Many years later, Daniel brings his now grown children together to discuss the future of The Bazaar. He tells his sons that he expects them to take over the store when he dies and assigns Gene, the eldest, first responsibility. Gene, however, prefers to drink and keep a mistress, and later becomes involved in a fatal shooting at a brothel. After Daniel pays to have the scandal covered up, he asks his next eldest son, Bert, to be assistant general manager. Daniel soon discovers that the quiet Bert prefers window trimming to managing and finally asks young Freddie to do the job. When Daniel hears that the hard-drinking Freddie has seduced a talkative Bazaar salesgirl, he bribes the girl to keep silent and confronts Freddie with his deed. An indifferent Freddie leaves his father and becomes a hobo. Deserted by his children, Daniel receives a final blow when he is told by Abe, who had begged Daniel over the years for a share of the store, that Gene, Phoebe and Freddie sold their Bazaar stock shares to him in secret because they needed money. Shocked by the news, Daniel suffers a devastating collapse, but lives long enough to see his children together one last time. Ashamed and repentant, the children listen as Daniel expresses his disappointment in them and announces that unless they prove thmselves worthy in six months time, he is leaving the store to Abe. Then, while staring at The Bazaar's neon sign from his mansion window, Daniel dies.
Pandro S. Berman
H. W. Hanemann
George Nicholls Jr.
Van Nest Polglase
David O. Selznick
The story follows the trials and tribulations of Daniel Pardway who, starting with almost nothing in 1871 Chicago, just after the great fire, eventually establishes the biggest department store in town. His wife Abigail dies giving birth to their fourth child, and Daniel is left to raise the children and run his growing business alone. Daniel harbors great hopes for his offspring and plans to turn the business over to them, but almost all of them grow into disappointing adults who break his heart.
The screenplay was adapted by Lester Cohen (with uncredited help from other studio writers) from his own 1926 novel.
RKO borrowed Lionel Barrymore from M-G-M to play patriarch Daniel Pardway. An unlikely star in his day, Barrymore was already in his mid-50s and neither handsome nor dashing when he made this picture. Yet, by 1933, he was a very well-respected stage and screen actor (the brother of John and Ethel Barrymore), and an Academy Award winner for his role as another sacrificing father in A Free Soul (1931). His work in Sweepings was well-regarded by reviewers, although many of them focused more on his effective aging process over the story's course. In an interview in the New York Times, makeup artist Mel Berns detailed how he made Barrymore look only 25 by applying fishskin adhesive tape to the actor's sagging facial skin and then painting the tape brown and squeezing makeup into the wrinkles around Barrymore's eyes. Barrymore was then aged forward some 35 years beyond his real age.
Barrymore had recently completed a demanding string of movies - in 1932 alone, he made five in a row including Grand Hotel and the historical drama Rasputin and the Empress with his famous siblings. His doctor ordered him to rest, but he took this part anyway, exhausting himself and working many days with a fever of 103 degrees, with the physician in constant attendance.
The crew was in awe of Barrymore and on their toes about his swiftly changing moods. Eventually, it became apparent to them that he took great delight in grousing over trivial details and then fuming that he was being treated like a baby when anyone tried to soothe his ruffled feathers.
Barrymore's children are played here by Eric Linden, who would play his son again in Ah, Wilderness! (1935), Gloria Stuart, an Academy Award nominee late in life for Titanic (1997), George Meeker, and William Gargan, who played a different role in RKO's 1939 remake of Sweepings, retitled Three Sons.
Some 300 extras were employed for the big fire sale scene near the beginning of the movie, which involved a mad rush for socks. At the end of the shoot, the crew found that the extras, most of them scrambling for a day's wages during the worst times of the Depression, had exchanged their old socks for the 132 pairs of prop socks.
Watch for an uncredited bit by the "Indian," played by Jim Thorpe, the famed Native American athlete who won two gold medals at the 1912 Olympics and gained prominence as a football star of the teens and twenties. In 1913, the Olympic Committee discovered that Thorpe had made money (as little as $2 per game) playing baseball in 1909 and 1910 and stripped him of his medals for having earned pay as a professional athlete against their rules. By the time he appeared in Sweepings, Thorpe had fallen on hard times, taking a number of menial jobs, including movie extra, to support his family. Burt Lancaster played the athlete in Jim Thorpe - All-American (1951), the year after Thorpe sought treatment for cancer as a charity case. Thorpe's medals were restored to him in 1982, nearly 30 years after his death at the age of 64.
Although he would actually release one more film without credit at RKO, this is the last picture on which David O. Selznick received producer credit at the studio before moving on to bigger and better things at MGM. Working at the studio run by his future father-in-law Louis B. Mayer, Selznick made his mark with the star-studded ensemble piece Dinner at Eight (1933), the Gable-Crawford vehicle Dancing Lady (1933), and Manhattan Melodrama (1934) before moving on to other studios and his own company, prompting the famous quote "the son-in-law also rises." His greatest triumph, of course, was Gone with the Wind (1939).
The producer and director of Sweepings worked together again at Selznick International when Selznick hired Cromwell for the James Stewart-Carole Lombard picture Made for Each Other (1939) and Since You Went Away (1944), one of the most effective stories of homefront life during World War II.
Director: John Cromwell
Producer: David O. Selznick
Screenplay: Lester Cohen, based on his novel; Howard Estabrook and H.W. Hanemann (uncredited)
Cinematography: Edward Cronjager
Editing: George Nicholls, Jr.
Original Music: Max Steiner
Cast: Lionel Barrymore (Daniel Pardway), Eric Linden (Freddie Pardway), William Gargan (Gene Pardway), Gloria Stuart (Phoebe), Alan Dinehart (Thane Pardway).
by Rob Nixon
Sweepings was the first film that John Cromwell directed for RKO, and the last RKO film on which David Selznick received a producer credit. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, Wesley Ruggles was originally slated to direct the project. A news item in Film Daily announced that child actors Sunny Campbell, Shirley Tibser, May Campbell, Donna Davis, Bonnie Lampman and Carol Mercer would be making their screen debuts in this production, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. RKO borrowed Lionel Barrymore from M-G-M for this production. Many reviewers commented on Barrymore's effective "aging" in the film. In an interview in New York Times, makeup artist Mel Berns explained how he made Barrymore look twenty-five by applying fishskin adhesive tape to the actor's "sagging" facial skin and then painting the tape brown. He also squeezed makeup into the wrinkles around Barrymore's eyes. Modern sources also credit Ern Westmore with the film's makeup. According to modern sources, the exhausted Barrymore agreed to act in Sweepings against his doctor's orders and, during many of the scenes, endured a flu fever of 103 degrees. Modern sources also state that RKO employed 300 extras for the opening sale scene and bought 132 pairs of cotton socks, all of which the extras had exchanged for their own socks by the end of filming. RKO remade Lester Cohen's story in 1939 as Three Sons . William Gargan, who played "Gene" in 1933 version, played "Thane" in the later production.