Are We Civilized?


1h 10m 1934

Film Details

Release Date
Mar 15, 1934
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Raspin Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Raspin Productions, Inc.; State Rights
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 10m
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

American Paul Franklin, Jr. chats with European Dr. Leonard Gear while waiting to visit with his father, Paul Franklin, Sr., who is head of the World News Association, the world's most powerful news syndicate. The younger Franklin is managing the foreign correspondents office of the association in his father's native country, and his father is visiting his homeland for the first time since World War I. Dr. Gear, a staff officer with the local censorship bureau, had saved Franklin Sr.'s life during the war sixteen years earlier. Paul, Jr. and the doctor discuss the young man's engagement to Norma Bochner, daughter of General Felix Bochner. Although childhood friends, Bochner, now head of the censorship bureau, and Franklin, Sr. have grown apart as their views on personal freedoms and state-enforced censorship have diverged. At a state dinner in his honor, Franklin, Sr. reminisces about his prankish, carefree childhood and criticizes the new government's exaggerated sense of its own importance and its destruction of individual liberties. After Franklin, Sr. is removed to his home, state officials demand a public apology, while Colonel Joseph Salter, another staff officer, believes that Franklin, Sr. will not be such a great menace if he is dead. At Franklin, Jr.'s house, policemen ransack his library of recently banned books, and Franklin, Sr. pleads with Bochner to halt the library's destruction. After his family is ordered out of his homeland, Franklin, Sr. asks his former friend to insure that their children are married. Matters worsen when the offices of the World News Association are attacked by police. Franklin, Sr. appeals to Bochner, Salter and Gear, and delivers a lecture on the history of mankind, hoping to change their repressive attitudes. Franklin, Sr. discusses primitive man, Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Julius Caesar, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Columbus, Napoleon, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. He talks of man's great discoveries, and of the industrial revolution and other enlightenments. He cautions that these inventions were often turned into instruments of destruction, discussing the terrifying effects of war on civilization. He concludes by warning the three men that their actions are a breeding ground for the next great war and that they are sowing seeds "for a terrible harvest." Meanwhile, Franklin, Jr. and Norma arrive at Paul's office. He is pummelled by the crowd and is barely rescued by Norma. Back at the Franklin home, Salter is swayed by the businessman's words, but Bochner and Gear remain steadfast, confirming the expulsion order. His will spent, Franklin, Sr. stumbles into the street and urges the unruly crowd gathered at a book bonfire to stand up for their freedoms. An onlooker hurls a rock, striking Franklin, Sr. in the head and inflaming his old war wound. While Salter orders the perpetrator found and arrested, he tosses the "weapon" into the fire. After declaring that "mankind will never be truly civilized until all races become one in spirit, understanding brotherly love," Franklin, Jr. agrees to spread his father's message.

Film Details

Release Date
Mar 15, 1934
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Raspin Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Raspin Productions, Inc.; State Rights
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 10m
Film Length
8 reels

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Although Motion Picture Almanac gives the film's release date as March 15, 1934, all of the reviews are from June 1934, so it is possible the picture did not open until then. The onscreen cast list includes a credit for the "many thousands of soldiers, sailors and peasants" who participated in the production. The following foreword also appears onscreen: "Throughout the ages ignorance, superstition, greed, and intolerance have been the greatest enemies of Civilization. Today mankind is combating these destructive forces with freedom of speech and freedom of the press, ever seeking a great freedom of thought and expression." In the film, Germany is not referred to by name, but was identified by reviewers as the country in question. At the time of the film's release, Germany's Nazi party was making headlines with its book burning and other repressive activities. The flashback sequences included much silent newsreel and stock footage; although none of these sequences are identified on screen, the Variety review suggested that some of the footage was from old "[Cecil B.] DeMille specials."