Cast & Crew
C. Henry Gordon
As Rufus J. Klutz of the Sunshine Society of Southern California testifies over the radio to the joys of living in Los Angeles, an earthquake shakes the city and awakens reporter Toby Prentiss from a drunken slumber. Angry that Toby did not get the story, managing editor Edward J. Gaskell assigns him to replace the retiring "Miss Lonelyhearts" of the "Advice to the Lovelorn" column. Toby would like to quit, but he is bound by his contract to remain, so to get Gaskell to fire him, he writes frank, tongue-in-cheek advice intended to offend those respectful of conventional morality. The "broadmindedness" of his columns, however, attracts new subscribers and advertisers seeking the youth market, and Gaskell forces Toby to stay. Because Toby's fiancée Louise expects him to leave the paper and work at her father's garage, he tells her that he must remain and write the columns of his best friend "Gaskell," who, he says, is dying and has six motherless children. In the next few months, Toby's column is syndicated throughout the country, and manufacturers of perfume and brassieres pay for the Miss Lonelyhearts endorsement for their products. When Toby tells Louise that he must remain at the paper because "Gaskell's" children are now all sick, Louise, who has grown fond of her father's new helper Adolph, reveals that Gaskell's limousine is in her father's garage and returns Toby's engagement ring. After Kranz, the owner of the discount chain, "Kranz's Half-Price Druggee-Shoppee," makes a deal to pay Toby $1,100 a week for running beauty hints in his column so that people will buy Kranz's products, Toby buys Louise an expensive ring, but then returns from the garage with a black eye he received from Adolph. Louise, however, writes to Miss Lonelyhearts asking whom she should choose: the handsome, reliable, sober man who works in her father's garage, or the other one who drinks. Toby's reply, in print, that the one who drinks is drunk with love for her, affects a reconciliation, but when they celebrate with Toby's mother, she has a heart attack. After his mother's doctor tells Toby over the telephone to get a five-grain powder of caffeine citrate manufactured by Briggs Chemical Company, Toby purchases the medicine from one of Kranz's Druggee-Shoppees. After Toby gives his mother the medicine, Rose, a girl who allowed herself to be seduced by Kranz because of Toby's advice in the column, arrives brandishing a pistol. Louise then comes from the bedroom and tells Toby that his mother has died, and Rose reveals that Kranz counterfeits labels and trademarks and uses inferior quality medicine. After the district attorney says that he is powerless to do anything against Kranz unless Briggs initiates a civil suit, Toby, in his column, exposes Kranz and calls for a boycott of his products. The response to the column convinces Gaskell to have Toby write a new column under his own by-line to attack the various rackets that have begun since bootlegging ended. Toby, who plans to marry Louise that afternoon, goes to her apartment, where Kranz and two men with guns hide behind curtains. After federal authorities arrive and arrest Kranz for income tax evasion, Toby, with a completely bandaged head due to injuries he has sustained from a mistaken scuffle with police, finally weds Louise.
C. Henry Gordon
William H. Turner
Joseph M. Schenck
James Van Trees Sr.
Darryl F. Zanuck
The working title of this film was Miss Lonelyhearts. The news that 20th Century Pictures was planning to produce a film based on the Nathanael West novel, which had achieved some notoriety, caused considerable concern to the Hays Office and to some members of the press. In a letter dated June 13, 1933, in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, James Wingate, Director of the Studio Relations Department of the AMPP, called the novel "about the vilest thing that I have read." Wingate went on to "wonder if it would not be well for the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America to go on record as opposed to the picturization of the story Miss Lonelyhearts." In the August 26, 1933 issue of Harrrison's Reports, publisher P. S. Harrison wrote that the novel "is so obscene that I am surprised that its publication should have been permitted, particularly because of its implications of degeneracy. It cannot be defended on the grounds of art; it has none: it is just low and vulgar, put out undoubtedly to appeal to moronic natures." Harrison warned of the harm that might come to the motion picture industry should the film be made because of the reaction of newspapers to the "defamation of newspaper folk" and reminded his readers that the producers in the past had promised to "refrain from presenting the newspaper profession in a bad light." Harrison then instigated a campaign "to cause the production of this picture to be abandoned" by mailing to every daily newspaper in the country and to more than fifty newspaper associations a synopsis of the book and urging them to protest to Darryl Zanuck and Joseph Schenck and to write to the administrators of the National Recovery Act and recommend that a provision against block-booking and blind-selling be put into the motion picture industry's code of fair competition, which was then being written. Two days after the Harrrison's Reports editorial, the Hartford Times in Hartford, CT announced that theaters would not be allowed to use the newspaper to advertise a film based on the novel. In a letter to Harrison, dated August 29, 1933, which is published in the September 9, 1933 issue of Harrrison's Reports, Zanuck stated, "The film version of Miss Lonelyhearts is in no way neurotic, nor has it any psychopathic implication. All that remains of the book is the title and the basic situation of a reporter who unwillingly writes an Advice-to-the-Lovelorn column. The scenario, wholly conceived in the mind of Leonard Praskins, is bright, sparkling and harmless, full of humor rather than pornographic, and is typical of the kind of stories in which Lee Tracy has been appearing." Schenck, in a letter to Sol A. Rosenblatt, Deputy Administrator of the NRA, dated September 1, 1933, used nearly identical language as Zanuck in trying to convey the intent of the picture and added that "it in no way antagonizes newspapers." Later in Sep, Zanuck sent a telegram to Harrison stating that he decided to change the title of the film "so that the public will not be misled into believing that our original story has anything to do with the 'Lonelyhearts' novel."
Before the film was exhibited publicly, 20th Century officials, who noted that the screenwriter was an "ex-drug store man," previewed it for members of the Southern California Retail Druggists Association, Ltd. and the National Association of Retail Druggists. A representative of these associations stated that the film "will without question aid in correcting some of the evils that exist in the retail drug business." According to New York Times, the film was criticized by cut-rate drug stores and by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce because of the earthquake sequence. According to Zanuck's letter to Harrison Lee Tracy was loaned by M-G-M. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Frankie Darro was originally cast as "Benny."
In 1958, United Artists released a Schary Production entitled Lonelyhearts, based on the same source, which was directed by Vincent J. Donehue and starred Montgomery Clift, Robert Ryan and Myrna Loy; in 1983, American Playhouse broadcasted a film based on the same source, entitled Miss Lonelyhearts, which was produced by H. Jay Holman Productions, in association with the American Film Institute, directed by Michael Dinner and starred Eric Roberts.